Friendly Staff within Arm's Reach at Sunshine Foods
Sunshine Foods — Merlin and Sherri Goebel
While much of the retail world is focused on scale, tight operations, and consolidations, Merlin and Sherri Goebel are taking their business in a different direction.
As the owners of the Sunshine Foods in Hartford, South Dakota, the Goebels understand the changing landscape in food retail.
High-volume, low-overhead grocery chains are on the rise, and their message seems blunt and loud: Join us, or pay the consequences.
But the Goebels also understand the data behind the grocery market, and they believe the pendulum effect is in full force.
Visit one of these big chains, and you may struggle to find a single staff member to assist your needs. You may feel overwhelmed by the sum and disorder of the inventory. Perishable items may be limited or highly preserved to keep costs down.
Oh, and you’ll likely have to bag your own groceries, too.
But visit the Sunshine Foods in Hartford, and you’ll experience something entirely different.
A warm greeting will meet you at the front entrance. Friendly staff are always within arm’s reach for assistance. All perishables are cut, stocked, made, or baked fresh daily. Specialized departments exist to meet a variety of needs: floral; beer, wine, and spirits; deli; greenhouse; and more. And not only are your items bagged for you, but they can be personally delivered to the trunk of your car.
This closely-held belief in personal service and value extends beyond the Goebels’ business philosophy — it’s simply a thread in their very character.
Merlin Goebel’s story in the grocery business began decades ago, when he first started working for Larry Goebel (who, ironically, has no relation to Merlin or Sherri) at a small store in Luverne, Minnesota.
Following a few years of operating a small grocery store in Flandreau, South Dakota, the Goebels packed up and headed to Hartford in August of 2002 to partner at a new grocery store. The opportunity was bright for them, as the store was newer, bigger, and served a rapidly growing market.
It wasn’t until 2008 that the Goebels would buy out their other partner’s share of the business and become full owners of one of the largest Sunshine Foods stores in the state.
With 15 stores generally located in smaller markets, the Sunshine Foods group is an antonym to corporate America. Each location is independently operated, and the owners gather on a regular basis to discuss overarching matters.
“Part of what makes Sunshine Foods special is that the owners are in the store every day,” Goebel states. “No corporate office is making decisions for us.”
This is especially important for the community, when local non-profits or groups come to the Goebels with requests to hold fundraisers, gain support, or the like.
As active community members, the Goebels are more than happy to help, especially with the vacant corporate approval process is icing on the cake.
“The buck stops here!” Goebel chuckles.
While the grocery business has been kind to the Goebels, it certainly has not consumed their identity.
“This may sound cliché, but [my favorite aspect] has to be the people,” gleams Goebel. “Selling meat is not exactly glamorous. It’s all about the people you meet.”
With such a positive impact made on the Hartford area over the years, Merlin and Sherri Goebel are excited about the bright future of this community. And while the city prepares for even more growth, they’ll be sure to keep everyone’s refrigerators (and bellies) stocked full.
All without sacrificing their characteristic service, of course.