‘It’s been a good ride’

Published 10:10 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Albert Lea couple to retire, hope to sell their business beforehand

Fleet Farm Supply owners Steve and Kathy Nelson serve a large crowd on a warm November afternoon at the business.

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Customers look through aisles lined with inventory marked at 20 percent off in preparation for the retirement of the store’s owners, which is expected to result in the closing of Fleet Farm Supply after more than 60 years in Albert Lea. 

Steve Nelson’s parents moved to Albert Lea to open the store in 1956. Five years later, his father died and his family purchased the current building at 310 Main Court.

Since then, the store has been added onto twice.

Steve Nelson credits customers with helping his mother operate the business after his father passed away.

“They’re the ones that helped build it,” he said. “They stuck with us. They put my brother and I through college, they put my kids, my brother’s kids through college, and they supported us in our living all of the way through.

“And they were really good, I think, when they supported my mother. She was a woman in a man’s field with two kids to raise, and they supported us very well. So you look to them as the ones who helped grow the business.”

The store sells clothing, farm and pet supplies, tools, home repair items, decoration supplies and other items.

Steve and Kathy Nelson have tried to sell the business for 1 1/2 years but have been unsuccessful in landing a buyer for the property, which could still happen before they retire.

Steve Nelson said he decided to retire while on the island of Kauai.

“I made up my mind; we’re done,” he said.

The couple plans to travel and see their children more after they retire, as well as spend more time with their friends.

“It’s been a good ride,” Steve Nelson said.

Kathy Nelson said customers have come from Florida, as well as one customer from Australia who has visited each summer.

“It’s good to see them come back each year,” she said.

Kathy Nelson said there have been difficult moments since they announced their plans to retire, and she anticipates further tough situations.

“The first week was very emotional, when we told our employees and stuff,” she said. “I know Steve and I had been thinking about it a long time, but to come right down to it and tell them was very emotional.

“People coming in here have been emotional. There’s a couple people that have cried. You try not to cry, because you are trying to run a business, and I think as it gets closer to the end, it’s going to be harder.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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