Thursday morning, County Market cashier Alexis Hunold was one of a handful of employees who could be seen armed with a broom and dust pan, doing clean-up work where needed.
Asked if the workers were trying to make the store look even more presentable since Congressman Sam Graves was going to be visiting the Hannibal store later that day, Hunold smiled and shook her head.
“We’d be doing it anyway,” she said.
While County Market, which is undergoing a major renovation, has signs posted asking customers to “pardon our dust,” one would be hard pressed to find a lot of dirt. That lack of debris is no accident, according to Steve Rakers, regional director of operations for Niemann Foods Inc.
“A lot of extra labor goes into the store right now to keep it clean behind the contractors, working right along with them, because we want a good, clean offering for the customers as we go,” he said.
Additional personnel has been added to assist shoppers while the upgrades are being made.
“We increased labor about 40 percent to make sure if a customer needs something and it’s not out because a contractor is in the way, they help them out and do about anything they can,” said Rackers.
Customers apparently appreciate County Market’s efforts as they continue to shop there.
“We’ve tried to keep it ‘shoppable,’” said Steve Hoffman, store director. “We’ve stayed open and people keep coming, so we thank them for that.”
Regular customers understand that changes for the better are in the works, according to Hoffman.
“People are excited about the changes,” he said. “They’re understanding what we’re trying to do here.”
The changes will include a number of new offerings such as oriental cuisine, a salad bar, an expanded bakery and an outdoor meat smoking unit.
“Every department in this store is literally being changed, expanded and brought up to date,” said Rakers.
What prompted company officials to invest $2.5 million in its Hannibal store?
“The community deserved it,” said Rakers. “No matter what the competition is, our customer base has been consistent here, and it’s growing. We decided we needed to up our game here in Hannibal and bring up a new scale store that will really take care of the customers at a higher level.”
According to Rakers, the project is in the home stretch.
Page 2 of 2 - “We’re about 75 percent of the way there. We’re looking at a grand opening the end of September. It’s a four- to five-month process. We feel it’s right on target,” said Rakers.
No one is more excited about the upgrades to the Hannibal store than Rich Niemann, Sr., chairman of the Niemann Foods Board.
“The closer we get to the grand opening the more exciting it is because you remember what it was before,” he said. “New store openings for me are one of the most exciting times of my life, and we’ve had a number of them.”
Once the grand opening festivities begin, they won’t end for a while.
“It will not just be a grand opening week, it will keep going for the next several months,” said Rakers. “Every day something else will be going on in here to keep the excitement rolling all the way through the holidays.”