Brad and Greg Kolb announced this week that the supermarket, which has been in Kolb family hands for the last 68 years, will be sold to owners from another longtime Wyoming grocery-store family.
The incoming owners are Joe and Bonnie Motherway of Lander and their son, Joe Motherway Jr., and daughter, Michelle Motherway. They are second- and third-generation grocers. Bonnie Motherway is the daughter of Frank Dusl, who started Mr. D’s Super Store in Lander in the early 1960s and at one time had a chain of supermarkets in the state. His first store was in Thermopolis.
“Now we’re a chain of two — Lander and Powell,” Bonnie laughed.
The Food Basket name is changing to Mr. D’s Food Center, Powell. The effective date of the sale is Jan. 16.
“We’re local community supporters,” Bonnie emphasized. “We’re super excited to become part of the community in Powell and to continue the family tradition of the Kolbs and to serve the community with integrity.
“We believe Powell has a lot going for it.”
The new owners will offer continued employment to the Food Basket employee force.
“It’s our intention to retain the Food Basket employees if they choose to work for us,” Bonnie said.
The sale will include the Food Basket building and property and the store’s fixtures and inventory. The Flower Basket, an in-store business owned by the Kolbs, also will be included.
Food Basket was granted a city liquor license in the last year, and though Food Basket has not yet incorporated liquor sales in the store, the new owners are interested in moving in that direction. They will seek city approval for a transfer of the liquor license.
Bonnie Motherway said Mr. D’s is looking to do some expansion/remodeling, mentioning the flower shop, the possibility of a coffee shop and the liquor store.
“We will use local contractors,” said Joe Motherway, who also owns a construction company in Lander. “We totally believe in supporting the community where we do business.”
The manager for Mr. D’s in Powell will be Scott Wallerich, a member of the management team from the Lander Mr. D’s, who will be moving to Powell and buying a house here.
Mr. D’s Food Center will continue supplying IGA brand products.
“We both are currently buying from the same supplier, Affiliated Foods Midwest, so it will be an easy transition,” said Joe Motherway. “Both stores carry Sure Fine and IGA labels.”
Bonnie Motherway said Mr. D’s is “very passionate” about offering healthy food choices.
“We try to buy from local growers — sweet corn, for instance — and we even buy excess produce from local gardeners,” she said. “We’d like to get suggestions from the public.”
Brad Kolb, 57, said of the pending sale, “It’s just time. We sincerely want to thank the people of the area who supported us all these years.”
Brad and his brother, Greg, 62, are the third generation to own the business that was started by their grandparents, Harold and Madge Kolb, as Eastside Grocery in 1946. Their father, Bob Kolb, was the Food Basket owner until his death in 2010.
“The family part hurts,” Brad said. “The store has been in the family for 68 years. You think the business is just going to continue, but it’s not a given. It’s harder and harder for a small independent to make it.”
Brad came back to Powell from out of state in 1991 to join his father and a sister, Janice, in the store. Janice, who was store manager, died in 2009. Greg and Brad became co-owners at their father’s death, and Greg, a licensed insurance agent, assumed an active role at Food Basket just in the last year.
Brad said sale of the store does not mean that retirement is at hand.
“We will be looking for jobs,” he said. “But first, I want to be able to spend time with my kids. I’ve been in here seven days a week for quite a while.”
Brad and his wife, Kerri, who also manages the in-store flower shop, have two boys, Landin, 12, and Ostin, 5.
In 1946, Eastside Grocery was a store of about 1,600 square feet on East Coulter Avenue. Bob Kolb and a brother-in-law, Mike Beier, joined with Harold Kolb to form a partnership as store owners in 1950.
The name Food Basket was born in July 1958 when Eastside Grocery moved to 156 N. Clark, taking over a former implement company store. Harold retired in 1965, and Bob Kolb and Mike Beier became co-owners.
They moved to a new store of 15,000 square feet on the present location of First and Day streets in 1976. Mike Beier retired four years later, and Bob became sole owner.
Food Basket expanded with a major addition of 10,000 square feet in 1989.