Jim Baldus, owner of Jim’s MarketPlace in Austin, stands in Nelson’s Market Place in Albert Lea on Saturday. Baldus is purchasing Nelson’s after its former owners announced in April they would close. – Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune
Jim Baldus, owner of Jim’s MarketPlace in Austin, stands in Nelson’s Market Place in Albert Lea on Saturday. Baldus is purchasing Nelson’s after its former owners announced in April they would close. – Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

Archived Story

Sale of Nelson’s grocery store is official

Published 11:48am Tuesday, May 6, 2014

By Jason Schoonover, Austin Daily Herald

An Austin grocery store owner is officially expanding his business to Albert Lea.

Jim Baldus, owner of Jim’s MarketPlace at 301 11th St. NE in Austin, reached an agreement to manage Nelson’s MarketPlace at 1619 W. Main St. in Albert Lea. He and Casey Connor, a former Nelson’s manager, will take over operations of the store May 12.

The store had been set to close May 17, but Baldus decided to move ahead with a plan to take over the store after he received “many, many phone calls from Albert Lea residents.”

“We just feel there’s a good opportunity there,” he said.

For current co-owner Jay Nelson, the move is bittersweet. He’s sad to see the business change hands after three generations in the Nelson family, but he’s happy it will remain open in Albert Lea.

“We’re actually very excited for Jim to be taking the store over so it won’t be closing,” said Jay, who owns the current store with his cousin, Chris Nelson.

Chris and Jay announced their intentions to close the store in April, and Chris cited decreasing sales as the reason. Chris said the store was too large of a store to compete with Hy-Vee and Walmart. Nelson’s MarketPlace occupies 55,000 square feet, which he said is larger than Hy-Vee and larger than the grocery section of Walmart.

However, Baldus said he’s “not concerned at all” about the size of the store, since he’ll be operating grocery stores in Austin, Albert Lea and Hayfield, which means he’ll have more buying power and can split semi-loads between his stores.

“There’s plenty of business over there for all us,” Baldus said.

Jay agreed the added buying power will help.

“He’s going to have a much better opportunity with the stores to buy for the three,” he said.

Along with the buying power, Baldus envisions several other changes. He plans to expand the produce and dairy sections, plus he plans to add more in-store specials.

“There’s going to be a lot of changes,” Baldus said.

Baldus said the floral section will remain open, as will the touted meat and bakery departments. Curt’s Pharmacy will also keep its space in the store.

Baldus also said he plans to keep the 80 people who work at the store — 50 of them part time.

“The employees are excited,” he said. “They’re all long-term employees.”

The grocery store likely will lose the Nelson’s name to allow Baldus to more easily advertise for all three of his stores.