Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, March 27, 2020

The Fairway Market and George Dietz

In examining the history of the Elk River business district, one grocery store continuously receives mention: George’s Fairway Market.  Exploring the brief history of the Fairway Market provides an interesting perspective on the personality of Elk River and the business philosophies of community leaders.

In an oral history at the Sherburne History Center, George Dietz remembered the early years of operating the Fairway Market.  Dietz grew up in the retail business.  “My dad belonged to the Minnesota Food Retailer Association,” he remembered.  While moving to several retail operations early in his career, he gained his greatest experience at National Tea.  “I ended up being the produce manager at Excelsior,” he said.

The Fairway Market featuring its low prices
In August 1953, Dietz bought the Fairway Market in Elk River.  “Ann’s dad was in business in Victoria.  He was on the Board of Directors of Fairway.  There was no way I could even consider any other type of store, except a Fairway.” 

The unique feature of Dietz’s Fairway, the detail that set him apart from other stores in Elk River was his policy of cash and carry.  “Clint Walker had the Red & White [Grocery Store] and then Donald Davis had a store on Main Street next to the post office.  He was the big gun in Elk River.  They were both charge and delivery and I went cash and carry.  So I reduced all the prices in the whole store so that we would be below them.  We opened up with $1500 a week.”

In addition to his low prices, Dietz worked with a very loyal staff.  Less than a year after he opened his store, George Dietz suffered from an attack of polio. “It took me a good three, four months to recover once I got home,” he remembered. “Mrs. Kittridge, Mrs.Stafford, Mabel Johnson, Lorraine Hohlen. Then we had a meat man, and Chuck Bartusch as the carryout.  They kept the store going.” 

Until the early 1960s, George Dietz operated the Fairway Market.  Anticipating the developing suburbs, he built a new store north of Elk River.  Yet, for ten years, with low prices, cash and carry policies, and loyal staff, the Fairway held a unique place in the business history of downtown Elk River. 

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