Tom Olson sells Moorhead business for ‘village’ life; fishing opener weekend was ‘initiation’ at lakes area store
A guy who loves fishing and lives on Lake Ida buys a general store in his neighborhood–a seven-day-a-week, 52-week-a-year operation.
How much fishing will he be doing now?
“I’m a little worried about that,” laughed Tom Olson, who took over the Cormorant General Store February 28.
The reality of being a general store owner in a bustling village–on fishing opener, May 12–was the first big test. The store was hopping all weekend, and Olson may need to find his time on the water during non-peak days.
Olson will continue the village general store tradition that Richard Sherbrooke has carried for the past four decades.
“I love this community. We’ve had an excellent response. People have gone out of their way to stop in and welcome me…It’s a real hometown U.S.A. atmosphere,” said Olson, 48, who sold his Moorhead business, Extreme Signs. Now, he is proprietor of a business that, literally, offers everything from soup to nuts….and bolts, and nails, and screws, and baked goods, and gasoline, and minnows, and worms…
The list is endless.
“It was a little overwhelming the first day…learning the vendors, the merchandise and going through the whole store,” said Olson, who has a staff of about seven to eight in the winter and will increase to about a dozen in the summer. His partner, Suzie Olson, will be keeping the books –among other duties, no doubt. She actually preceded the ownership, as she has been bookkeeper for Sherbrooke for the past year or two.
Former owner Sherbrooke continues rental business
Olson moved from Moorhead to Ida about five years ago.
He got to know Sherbrooke when he was helping him with installations at Sherbrooke’s Kiddie Land amusement park next door. Before he knew it, the two were talking about buying the business.
“Richard will still be around–you can’t keep him down,” said Olson, adding that Sherbrook will continue to do maintenance, including mowing, along with operating the seasonal amusement park. Sherbrooke plans to continue the rental business across the road, but will be scaling back to specialized and larger equipment. Some of the rental inventory sold at a large auction last month.
Olson plans some changes, both near term and long range.
Dedicated fisherman Olson increases angling inventory
Expanding fishing merchandise lines and bait is among them, said Olson, who has been an active fisherman on Becker and Otter Tail County Lakes–and also makes trips into Canada.
Additional hardware lines are planned, and he plans on reviewing some prices to be more competitive. “We’d like to be in line with other small town hardware and grocery stores. We’re never going to compete with Menards or WalMart, and most people don’t expect us to,” said Olson, noting that the hardware operation is affiliated with United Hardware, which also has the Hardware Hank label.
Cormorant will continue to have its full time baker, with a full range of baked goods.
“I can’t say enough about the community… People have been more than welcoming,” said Olson. Village excited about new ownership in community Cormorant area resident and township board member Steve Sorenson said, “We’re excited to have him at the store. He’s an exceptionally hard worker, he’s dedicated to the community, and he’ll be a real asset.
Olson’s move from “city life” in Moorhead to the lakes was a fairly easy transition. Fewer options, like multiple stores and businesses within blocks in the city, required some adjustment when he moved to the Lake Ida area five years ago.
“I got past that in just a few months, I just love it here,” said Olson, adding with a laugh, “now I almost dread going back to the city and all the traffic.”