Berens Market is moving! The move will be two blocks east of the current store on Highway 12 in Milbank. Brandon Berens and his wife, Jani, took over ownership of the company this past January, but Brandon is beginning his sixth year as manager. Even more impressive, Brandon is the third generation of the Berens family to own and run the business. Brandon said, “We found opportunities to build in other parts of Milbank that were more centralized but we thought the east side was the ideal spot since Milbank is growing in that direction. Milbank and the Minnesota shoppers have always been supportive of our business and I hope to see that with the new store as well.”
Now that the ink has dried on the purchase of the land for the new building, the design stage begins. The recent name change to “market’ is just the beginning of our transition to the fresh-local market experience. He said he researched upscale grocery stores and plans to incorporate dozens of new ideas. Brandon said he has a vision for the new grocery store to be modern and inviting. “People now want a gourmet feel when they shop for their groceries, and food quality has become an important part of their lifestyle. The goal is to give the high end look but keep the low pricing like we have always done.” Brandon and Jani are partners with Tim and Jodi Dittes. Tim is originally from Milbank, but the Ditteses live in Appleton. The Ditteses own 10 stores including Berens Market.
The size of the new store will remain similar — about 26,000 square feet — but the new design will shrink the backroom and use the additional floor space to showcase more products and services. The new location will feature a full deli which will offer a variety of fresh salads, sliced meats and fried chicken. Zem’s Bakery will make the move to the new location. Also, all new fuel pumps will be installed. According to Brandon, the deli and expanded store options will create many new jobs including additional cashiers. Brandon said, “The new site will be pushed all the way to the back of the lot. This will allow for a much bigger parking area with cart corrals.” Construction is expected to start no later than spring of 2022 with completion requiring about a year.
The current building was erected in about 1974 by Brandon’s grandfather, Dick Berens, and originally housed a roller skating rink. In 1976, his grandfather transitioned the roller rink into Berens Warehouse Groceries. At the time, Brandon stated, they went with the warehouse theme and name because that was trending. Everyone wanted to shop at a bulk store. Brandon continued, “When the second generation took over, my dad, Bob, and my uncle Tom, built up the business. They branded the store and cemented it as a part of the community. Now, it’s my turn to take it to the next level.”
Starting April 12 customers will get a taste of the new concept. Brandon and his staff will begin rearranging the current store. He said, “I believe people will notice a big change. The store should look more open and have a better flow and be a little more upscale. It is what customers can expect to see when we move to our new location. This is all good stuff. I think people will really enjoy the new look.”
Brandon will be adjusting to one of the changes along with his customers. He knows exactly where every grocery item is located in the store — which aisle and even which shelf. Now he said he will need to draw a new map in his head. But, the task should pose no major issue as Brandon started helping at Berens when he was six years old. He continued to work there during high school. After he graduated from MHS in 2011 he said, “I thought I would try something different, but the store just kept pulling me back here. It was weird to be away. I enjoy being here every single day. This isn’t work to me at all. I love it. I enjoy seeing all the people, talking to them, and being part of the community.”
Brandon said he would love to have his two-year-old son, Jack, be the fourth generation to own and run the company. “Jack spends quite a bit of time in the store already. I picked him up from daycare last week and asked him if wanted to go home. He said, ‘No. Go to the store.’ So, I asked him what he needed to do at the store? He said, ‘I got to order.’ Brandon continued, “Every time I place an order, Jack rushes around, moving from shelf to shelf with me, and scanning items with his toy scanner. He likes being at the store and that makes me really happy.” One day, when Jack’s a little older, someone will probably tell him to mind his own business. He might just do it.