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Mini Mart owners Twila Flamme and Jeff Alderson
Twila Flamme and Jeff Alderson have seen business methods change quite a bit in 10 years.

Aldersons observe decade at Mini Mart

by Nathan Arneal
published 6/24/09

In 1993 Twila Flamme was sitting at a ball game in North Bend when she heard that the Mini Mart was for sale.

Later that year, her husband’s family bought the North Bend Mini Mart. In 1998 Flamme and her husband, Jeff Alderson, became sole owners of the Mini Mart and made the move back to Flamme’s hometown.

After celebrating one decade of ownership last fall, Alderson and Flamme looked back at where they came from and where they see their business heading.

When they took over a 10 years ago, their first move was to add indoor restrooms. Next came an ice cream counter called the Dairy Mart. In the subsequent decade, numerous technological advances have revolutionized the way the business is run.

“In a half a day I can do the work that used to take me a whole week to do 10 years ago,” Alderson said. “Everything is right at your fingertips.”
Though her role has decreased as their two children have gotten older, Flamme still takes care of the produce section and runs errands between the Mini Mart and Brady’s.

Other factors have had a negative impact on business. When Alderson’s family bought the Mini Mart in ‘93,

Fremont didn’t have a Wal-Mart. More recently, an economic slowdown has gripped the U.S. in the past 18 months. While the economy hasn’t really cut down on the business volume at the Mini-Mart, Alderson said, they have begun stocking more private label, generic-type brands to keeps costs down for the customer.

“As far as North Bend, (the economy) hasn’t changed us a whole lot,” Alderson said. “We’re still convenience based. People will shop us because we’re here. People still buy their necessities from us, and that never seems to change. I hate to say ‘recession proof’ but we kind of are.”

Alderson has taken a few other steps to cut the cost of business. For example, to cut down on delivery costs, all the deliveries are taken to Brady’s Meats and Foods in Fremont, a store the Alderson’s bought three years ago. From there the Aldersons drive the shipments to North Bend themselves.

The Aldersons also own a store in Madison and owned one in Lindsay before selling it this May. The additional stores were something they started to look at when the Highway 30 bypass around North Bend started to look like a reality.

“I really thought when (the bypass) happens it is going to kill business,” Alderson said. “In every town that has been bypassed businesses die, so we really thought we needed to diversify.”

While the bypass doesn’t look like it’s any closer to reality now than it did 10 years ago, Alderson has thought about what he’d do with the Mini Mart if the bypass ever came to fruition.

“If the bypass ever comes, I might just convert to a grocery store and get out of the gas business because you wouldn’t have that highway trade,” he said. “I think you can still run a good business as a small-town grocery. We proved that in Lindsay.”

By becoming more of a grocery store and less of a convenience store, Alderson could reduce overhead by shortening hours, therefore cutting payroll, and getting rid of the gas pumps. Alderson said there’s no money in selling gas unless you sell a tremendous amount of volume. He figures he has lost money on gas over the past three years.

“It would never hurt my feelings, if that bypass comes, to totally get rid of the gas pumps, make a nicer parking lot and become a grocery store,” Alderson said. “That’s where the value is to the community, not in one more gas station.”

For the immediate future, Alderson said the plan is to look at improvements that can be made at the Mini Mart, a process he said is due.

“Really over the last three years since we bought Brady’s and Lindsay, this store probably got left behind as far as attention,” he said. “Now that we’ve sold Lindsay and Brady’s has smoothed out, we’re going to get back and focus on this unit and see what it needs and what we can do to make changes.”

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