Small town store fulfills Austin native#039;s goals

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 3, 2002

Small town living suits Kent Steiner of K&K Groceries of Brownsdale. He has been the proprietor of this one stop necessity business for the past six years. Besides being the owner of this store, he holds the titles of chief stock boy, baggage carrier, and cashier. He is a go-getter with a ready smile for his customers. He knows most of his customers by name and often knows what each will purchase when he or she stops in.

"I always wanted to own my own business. I am originally from Austin. My dad worked at Hormel. My first job was working as a stock boy at Woolworth's in Austin. I found that I really enjoyed working with people," Steiner said.

After his stint at Woolworth's, Steiner worked several years at Austin Drug. Howard Nepp was the owner and he was instrumental in developing Steiner's interest in working retail.

"Howard Nepp was a great man to work for. He was my mentor. He was wonderful with people and a great businessman. He comes by and visits me here in Brownsdale. Through Howard, I worked five years in Billings, Mont., as a manager of a drug store," Steiner said.

On a family visit back to Austin, Steiner saw that the Hayfield and the Brownsdale grocery stores were for sale. This peaked his interest because he had always wanted to own a business. He first tried to purchase the Hayfield grocery store, but that did not pan out. He went back to Billings and the banker in Brownsdale, Don Peterson, called him up, and as Steiner says, "He shot some numbers at me and it worked out."

While Steiner liked Billings with the breathtaking beauty of living in Montana, he is glad he moved his family back to southern Minnesota. His wife, Kris, has extended family that lives in this area because she is from Austin, too. Kris represents the other K in K&K Groceries. The two met when she worked at the Oak Park Mall at Trousers Works. Steiner spotted her and was interested in getting to know her. He wanted to ask her out on a date but was too shy.

"I kept going in to the store to see her and I bought quite a few clothes before I got up the nerve to ask her out. Now we've been married 16 years and we have three boys, Matthew is 15, Jordan is 11 and Jacob is 6," Steiner said.

It is a tremendous amount of work to be the sole owner of a business, he said. K&K Groceries is open seven days a week; Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Steiner says he never takes a vacation. He has three employees and his wife helps out on Saturdays. She is a teacher's assistant for Brownsdale School. The couple works well together and Kris does the bookwork for the business in the evenings. For fun they like to golf at the Oak's Country Club and spend time with their boys.

Steiner has a support system with other businesses in town. The Garden Gate restaurant delivers his lunch to him every day.

"They have great food," he said.

Old friends he grew up with come out to Brownsdale and get their hair cut from the town barber, Dale Ersland and they stop in to chat with Steiner.

"This is just what I always wanted to do. I am my own boss and I get to know everyone in town. I have made a lot of great friends running this grocery store. Brownsdale is a good community with many great people," Steiner said.

Sheila Donnelly can be reached at 434-2233 or by e-mail at :mailto:newsroom@austindailyherald.com