Thank Grocer for Transferring Ownership to Employees

Target: Joe Lueken, owner of Lueken’s Village Foods

Goal: Thank the grocer for giving employees ownership of his business

For nearly five decades, Joe Lueken and his family have owned and operated Lueken’s Village Foods, a popular and successful group of grocery stores based in Bemidji, Minnesota. Lueken has been known as an excellent boss; he is affable, easy to work with, and willing to work alongside the average store employee. After the better part of a lifetime at the helm of Lueken’s Village Foods, he has decided to step down.

Rather than sell the stores to an outside party, or simply transfer ownership to one of his children, the Luekens have decided to make a radical decision—they will transfer ownership of the company to its employees. At the start of 2013, Lueken’s workers will gain control of 100% of the company. Each of Joe Lueken’s 400 employees will be given stock shares, allocated according to seniority and salary.

This decision will be a massive benefit to the Bemidji community. The Lueken family estimates that if they sold to an outsider, all of the management positions filled by locals would disappear, and within five years there would be a complete employee turnover. Profits would disappear from Bemidji and go elsewhere.

Lueken has decided to empower his (soon to be former) employees and strengthen his community. He has put people over money, making the choice to bolster those around him rather than exploit them. After Lueken retires, shares in the company will automatically go to the employees—they have no hoops to jump through, and they do not need to pay a dime.

In an increasingly cutthroat age, Joe Lueken has decided to invest in the power of people and community. He has made the rare decision to give people something while expecting nothing in return. Give Joe Lueken the recognition he deserves.


Dear Mr. Lueken,

So much of what we hear in the news is about business owners and CEOs acting unscrupulously, taking advantage of their workers and leaving employees out to dry. Suffice it to say, then, that you are a refreshing exception to that rule. Your plan to transfer ownership of Lueken’s Village Foods to your employees is a shining example of a boss having the best interests of his workers at heart.

You could have sold your grocery stores to a third party—someone who would pay a hefty sum of money. In fact, people did make you some hefty offers, yet you rebuffed them, choosing instead to give your employees stock shares upon your retirement. Rather than strengthen your bank account, you made the choice to strengthen your community.

If you had sold the company, people would have lost their jobs. Profits would have left Bemidji for other cities around Minnesota and around the nation. You decided to keep the business local and empower your workers and the city of Bemidji.

The generosity you have shown is truly awe-inspiring. Your decision to invest in people is something that we can all learn from. You have enriched the lives of all of your employees. Thank you.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: The Consumerist via Flickr

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