Red Owl (retail chain)

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Red Owl brand spice tins.

Red Owl was a grocery store chain in the United States, headquartered in Hopkins, Minnesota. Founded in 1922, it was initially owned and operated by a private investment firm affiliated with General Mills, and purchased in 1968 by Gamble-Skogmo.[1]


Red Owl started as a coal company in the 1920s.[2]

It opened its first store in Rochester, Minnesota.[3] There were eventually stores throughout the upper Midwest, with one having opened in Bismarck, North Dakota, in 1927.[4] The chain briefly expanded into the Chicago area starting in late 1959, but in 1963 sold its Chicago area operations to National Tea Company. In 1980, Gamble-Skogmo was acquired by Wickes Corporation, which sold the chain to three executives of the chain in January 1986.[5] At that time, the company operated 441 stores in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota.

In December 1988, the rights to the Red Owl name were obtained by grocery wholesaler Supervalu Inc.,[6] along with its warehouse and distribution operations.[7] Supervalu phased out the Red Owl name.


Forest Lake, Minnesota was home to a Red Owl from 1946 until the early 1980s.

Masons Red Owl is in Green Bay, Wis.[6]

Iron Mountain, Michigan was home to a Red Owl and the building is now a St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Store.

Crystal Falls, Michigan was home to Lada's Red Owl.

Marquette, Michigan was home to a Red Owl store located at 200 W. Spring Street, which is now the location of the Pathways Community Mental Health Center.

Brownsville, Wis. is home to Hoff's Red Owl and Quality Meats.[8]

Brownlow's Red Owl had been in Le Roy, Minn. The store contains a Red Owl memorabilia collection that was in the Coen Brothers film, "A Serious Man,".[9] Brownlow's Red Owl closed in 2010, or 2011 and is now a locally named, small town grocery store.

Wagar's Red Owl is in Henderson, Minn.

Morris, Minnesota was home to Willie's Red Owl.

Coon Rapids Family Center opened in 1964, was a mall in Coon Rapids, MN that was anchored by a large Red Owl store.[10]

Thief River Falls, Minnesota had a Red Owl on US Highway 59 South, right next to McDonald's. Now it's the River of Life Church.

Stewart, Minn. had a Red Owl for over 60 years until the early 2000s. It was started in 1939 by William Sunde as a Red Owl Agency Store and he ran it till his death in 1978. Larry Roepke purchased the business in 1979 and ran it under the new name of Larry's Red Owl until 2001.The building is now being restored as a community center that will also honor its Red Owl history.[11]

Hal's Red Owl was in Wausau, Wis. It eventually dropped the Red Owl affiliation becoming simply "Hal's" before closing altogether in 1996. The building is now a "Family Video" store. Hal's was one of two Red Owl stores in the Wausau area as of the 1980s.

Waubay, SD had a Red Owl for over 60 years on main street until changed to an independent grocery store in 2003. The building still stands today with a red color store front.

Tigerton, WI had a Red Owl for many years before changing into an independent grocery store called Ron's Foodland in the early 1990s. Ron's Foodland later closed in the late 2000s.

Eau Claire, WI The former London Square Mall had a Red Owl as an anchor on the south side in the early 70's.

Andy & Arvid's Red Owl & Ben Franklin Was Located in Wheaton, MN where in 1959 Kenneth "Andy" Anderson bought the store and named it Andy's Red Owl. In the late 70's his son came into the store and the name changed to Andy & Arvid's Red Owl. In the early 80's they bought the Ben Franklin store next door and renamed the store "Andy & Arvid's Red Owl and Ben Franklin". When Red Owl was bought by SuperValu they held out until eventually changing the name again to Country Market in 1993 when Andy retired.

Valley City, ND had a Red Owl that was reopened as a non-chain grocery store after Red Owl closed, and eventually converted into a locally owned pharmacy affiliated with the regional chain Thrifty White.

In popular culture[edit]

The title sequence of The Mary Tyler Moore Show has the lead character in a Red Owl meat department.

A Red Owl store, shown to be in Bloomington, MN, was featured in the 2009 Coen Brothers movie A Serious Man.

In Season 3, Episode 1 of FX's Fargo a Red Owl is featured.

In Season 9, Episode 9 of the Sci-Fi Channel's Mystery Science Theater 3000 which features the 1980 Italian film The Pumaman, Mike uses some of the movie's music which resembles commercial theme music to make up a jingle with the phrase "Dick's Red Owl, selection and service!". Mystery Science Theatre 3000 originated in Hopkins, MN, which was Red Owl's headquarters.

Masons Red Owl[edit]

Masons Red Owl
Grocery/Convenience Store
IndustryRetail (Grocery)
HeadquartersGreen Bay, WI
Key people
Mervin and Jared Mason
ProductsFresh and Canned Groceries, Produce, Bakery, Deli, Liquor
Number of employees

Founded on February 1, 1969, Masons Red Owl was the first franchised Red Owl store in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Three years later, the owners, Mervin and Jared Mason, purchased a second Red Owl franchise in De Pere, Wisconsin. At that time, Masons Red Owl was incorporated from a partnership into the MEJ Corporation.

By 1985, the Green Bay area witnessed the introduction of several other grocery stores, including a Cub Foods and a Copps Food Center. At this point, the De Pere location was sold and efforts were refocused on the original franchise. In 1988, SuperValu Corporation purchased Red Owl's Green Bay warehouse, making it the supplier for Masons Red Owl.

In 1989 the store expanded to include a full-service deli department, and remained in 2009 as one of the smallest full-service grocery retailers.

Masons Red Owl faces competition in the Green Bay area from other grocers including Woodman's, Wal-Mart, ALDI, and Festival Foods.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Restored Red Owl aims high Supermarket news, Nov. 17, 1986
  2. ^ Red Owl's through History
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Red Owl Grocery Store at
  5. ^ Executives buy Red Owl Stores, Milwaukee Sentinel, Jan, 28, 1986
  6. ^ a b "Red Owl Logo Returns to LeRoy Grocery", Laura Gossman, Rochester Post-Bulletin, January 7, 2009
  7. ^ "SUPER VALU TO BUY PORTION OF RED OWL STORES INC". Associated Press. December 2, 1988. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^

External links[edit]