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Kiester grocery store closes

By Staff | Jul 8, 2012

The grocery store in Kiester closed its doors until further notice says a sign posted on the building’s front door.

A sign posted at Jamboree Foods urged customers to show their support to re-open the grocery store in Kiester.

That’s exactly what they did at an emergency City Council meeting held Monday night.

Some 70 residents showed up, prompting council members to shift the meeting from City Hall to the Kee Theatre.

“This was just as much a shock to the City Council as it was to all the community,” Mayor Jeanne Brooks told those in attendance.

On June 30, owner Brad Gohla closed the doors to the business as well as grocery stores in Truman and Elysian.

His attorney from Mankato in a June 29 letter to vendors referred to the businesses as “The Store” operated by BNMJ Enterprises, Inc.

The attorney says assets have been turned over to lenders with security interests and there are no funds to pay any debts owed to unsecured creditors.

Gohla did not return calls from the Register for comment.

Brooks says the council was looking for a “temporary fix” to get the grocery store operating again.

“The decisions we make are not permanent, they are a quick fix. The city does not have the money to operate it and we don’t want to raise taxes to do it,” she says.

Much of the discussion centered on what should be done with perishable items.

Don Nickel and Kent Christian of First State Bank of Kiester told the crowd their bank and one in Elysian have “security interests” ahead of the city.

That means if the store re-opens that any proceeds from sales would go to the banks first, then the city would get paid.

Brooks says Gohla still owes the city about $33,000 of the $46,000 he borrowed to purchase inventory. She says he was leasing the building with an option to buy it by 2015.

“What he did was cowardly in my opinion. I feel very deeply for you,” the mayor told store employees in the audience.

Brooks says the city owns the building and all the fixtures in it.

She says many residents have offered to work voluntarily to re-open the store.

Brooks advised the council to put the store’s electric and phone bills under the city’s name. She also suggested obtaining a license needed to sell food items.

Many residents questioned why the city should spend money because it would only benefit the banks.

“We don’t want the store to close. We’re here to work together, not fight over who owns what,” says Brooks.

Councilman Monty Flaskerud says he has heard a grocery store owner in Lake Mills is looking to expand.

“That is a possibility we need to check into,” he says.

Councilman Dean Johnson asked Flaskerud if his information was from a reliable source or just “street talk.”

Johnson says the council needs to decide what to do soon. He agrees with Brooks that tax dollars should not be used to operate the store.

“Everyday it is closed people will go shop elsewhere and we’ll lose money,” he says. “I already miss it.”

Christian says the bank will see if it is worth getting a license to sell perishables.

Nickel and Christian cited confidentiality for preventing them from disclosing how much they are owed.

The council agreed to put the utilities in the city’s name and hire an attorney to sort out some legal issues.