In true family business fashion, children Treyd and Tydan helped mom and dad, Mark and Brittany Dokken, stock the paper products section at Larry’s Super Market.
Pickins’ were slim on the bread shelves at Larry’s Super Market, by Sunday afternoon, March 15.
The rushed buying as the coronavirus news circulated around the globe was an unusual initiation into business ownership for Mark and Brittany Dokken. Brittany grew up in the business, and Mark has been on board for seven years, but they finalized purchase of the store from Brittany’s parents, earlier this year. Despite plenty of business experience—it was difficult to be prepared for a situation hardly experienced in the history of the U.S.
A lone banana, on the produce departemnt backroom table—with a humorous note. “I always try to lighten the mood in intense, stressful times at the store,” wrote Mark Dokken.
Bathroom tissue was a scarce commodity at closing time, March 12, at Larry’s Super Market.

Not your average, run-of-the-mill days for small town proprietors 

Editor’s note:  Local grocer Mark Dokken kept an informal  diary over the span of about a week—as customers stocked up during the rush of the Covid-19 virus situation.

Mark and Brittany Dokken have been working nearly around the clock—not to mention their kids, Treyd and Tydan, who have also helped stock the shelves with toilet paper and other necessities.  

The Dokkens finalized  the purchase of the store earlier this year from longtime Pelican grocers Phil and Cyndy Stotesbery—Brittany’s parents. 

“Quite the initiation into new business ownership,” noted Mark, of the  the recent run on the store for household products—ranging from bread to toilet paper to hand sanitizer. 

Mark added that Larry’s staff has handled the situation well—including the younger members of the crew, who haven’t experienced the rush of a July 4th summer weekend.

We re-print Mark’s notes here, with some editing.  

—-Louis Hoglund, managing editor

Wednesday 3-11-20

• In the morning I was texting with my father-in-law, Phil Stotesbery, about what we are hearing in other markets.  He informed me of what was going on at the grocery stores/big box stores in the Mesa, Arizona area.  This gave me foresight of what was to come.  I was aware of consumer reaction in the larger markets in the MN/ND/SD area as well.

• I was at the MN state girls b-ball tourney watching PR girls.

• Sitting by Jason Fahje, he informed me of the National Basketball Association shutting down and Europe/USA travel restrictions.  I immediately started thinking of the grocery store.  This was going to make it real for consumers.  Brittany and I talked grocery the entire ride home from Minneapolis, planning for various situations.  I went to bed at 1 a.m. which would now be Thursday, slept for 3 hours and went to work at 4 a.m. to start ordering. 

Thursday 3-12-20

•  Worked a full day, went home for a 1 hour nap and came back and worked until midnight.

• I went to social media first thing when I got to work.  I noticed social media and some news sources were creating fear.

• Ordered heavy for my truck to come Thursday night, a truck similar to July 3rd-4th trucks (our busiest time of the year).

• Ordered over 3 pallets of toilet paper on this truck, I stayed at work after closing and restocked the toilet paper, nearly all of it went out.  This means we sold about 3 pallets of TP on Wednesday/Thursday.

Friday 3-13-20

• Busy day, I knew I needed that big truck I just ordered. This truck was for the entire weekend.  I called my supplier as I knew I was going to run out of TP and flour.  I added TP and flour to come with my bakery truck Saturday morning. Worked about 12 hours, which is common for me on a Friday.  Brittany came in at night when I went home.  

Saturday 3-14-20

• Two pallets of TP came in and some flour.  Most of the TP went out, had some overstock which was nice.  Ordered Saturday for the truck that comes Sunday night.  I ordered heavy again…same size as my Thursday night truck. Worked 15 hours.

Sunday 3-15-20

• Very busy day again.  10.5 hour day for me, which is a light day considering. Spent a few hours with my family to have a birthday party for my son, then came back to the store.  We ran out of eggs and all-purpose flour for a few hours in the afternoon, once truck arrived at 5:10 pm I put eggs and flour out.  I just didn’t order enough eggs and flour, wasn’t a supply issue.  We also ran out of bread, which I don’t order, they have sales reps that come in.  I sent a photo of the empty shelves to my Village Hearth rep and he drove over to put some bread out.  After closing I was pretty tired, Brittany and my two sons were at the store as well.  We ate supper in the deli.  I asked Brittany if she would help me put TP out so I could get home a little earlier. She did, as we were putting out product…..my two boys came and started helping put TP out.  We placed the boxes where they needed to go and they did a great job, I taught them how to read tags & UPC numbers, taught them how to face products.   It was a good memory and stress reliever to have our family together, working together.

Monday 3-16-20

• We’ve sold about eight pallets of toilet paper from Wednesday through Monday.

We have yet to run out of toilet paper, there were times we only had 4 pks available.  We are out of hand sanitizer and it will be a while before it is back in stock.

I’ve seen supply on my wholesalers end, we’re doing okay.  I encourage people to remain calm and patient, there is enough supply but it takes time to restock.  Some things are in short supply, such as hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes.  Clorox has sent a letter indicating they’ve increased staff, prioritized critical disinfecting products, has an allocation process set in place, and initial allocation will focus of disinfecting wipes and sprays.

We have started limiting supply on some items.

We’ve had a lot of new out of town customers.  Many from Fargo-Moorhead, Fergus Falls and Detroit Lakes.  Customers have been buying for their families in St. Cloud and Grand Forks.  I appreciate seeing new customers from other communities, as well as our seasonal lake customers.  However, we all need to think of thy neighbors.  We are one small town grocery store, we are not able to continue to supply northwestern Minnesota, eastern North Dakota, and north-eastern South Dakota areas.  Again, we all need to be patient and allow the supply to come to your hometown grocery store or your hometown big-box store.  The trucks are on the road.  I hope to see these new faces in the future, I hope they’ve enjoyed seeing Pelican Rapids if they’ve never been here before.  We are here to serve.