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Simpson inducted into Grocer's Hall of Fame

Dean Simpson was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the 2018 Minnesota Grocer's Association (MGA) annual conference in July. Flanking Simpson were Mark Collier, Minnesota Grocer's Association Chair and Jamie Pfuhl, Minnesota Grocer's Association President. Simpson was a grocery store owner in Perham and in New York Mills for 45 years. Courtesy photo

Dean Simpson got into the grocery business early in his life, and his 45 years of service has now been recognized.

The man who built Dean's Country Market on the south side of Perham in 2007 was recently inducted into the Minnesota Grocer's Hall of Fame.

Simpson, 68, retired last summer and has been spending most of his time at his lake home on Big Pine.

The man who once employed around 100 people at his Perham and New York Mills grocery businesses has reduced his "staff" to his wife, Kathy, his four children and his eight grandchildren. Since his three daughters all live in Denver and his son lives in upstate New York, Grandma and Grandpa Simpson treasured a visit from some of the grandchildren this summer.

"This summer we had a lot of the grandchildren here for six weeks," Simpson said."It's been a nice summer."

Simpson wets a fishing line from time to time and sits on two boards. Retirement has been just fine.

"I haven't failed yet," he quipped.

Having spent most of his working life trying to anticipate and tickle his customer's taste buds, Simpson was witness to many changes in the grocery business.

"I think the biggest thing was the changes in the technology and the way we operated, ordered and received goods, " Simpson said. "The change in people's eating habits from the days of buying 50 pound bags of flour to today buying two-pound bags of flour. Quick serve convenience foods today compared to back in the early days when people baked and cooked. I think the changes and habits of the way people eat today compared to the way they did 30-40 years ago has changed a lot."

Simpson had no trouble deciding what he wanted to do when his career began.

"I liked being around the public and working with people, and I just felt it was a great industry," Simpson said. "One thing we always know is that people are always going to need food. I was kind of drawn to it, and I liked it."

Simpson got his start in the grocery business in a little store in Wadena in the late 1960s. He then went to work for the Red Owl Corporation in Fargo. He bought his first grocery store, Dean's Market, in New York Mills in 1972. The name was changed to Dean's Country Market when the business moved out to Highway 10 in 1977. One year later, Simpson saw an opportunity to expand into Perham.

"I could see there was a niche there that needed to be filled, and knowing it was a good community and a growing community at that time....two stores work better than one."

Simpson compares the decision-making a business owner has to make to swinging a bat.

"When you're in business you always have a few swings and misses, but hopefully you have more hits than misses," he joked.