Red Owl (retail chain)

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 opening 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.


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

Brownlow's Red Owl is located in Le Roy Minnesota. The store contains a Red Owl memorabilia collection that was utilized in the Cohen Brothers film, "A Serious Man,"[8]

Brownlow's Red Owl closed in 2010, or 2011 and is now a locally named, small town grocery store.

Wagar's Red Owl is located in Henderson, Minnesota

Red Owl Family Center was a prototype opened in the early-mid 1970s featuring a drugstore and variety section alongside the usual supermarket.[9]

Stewart, MN 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.[10]

Hal's Red Owl was located in Wausau, WI. 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.

In culture

The title sequence of the Mary Tyler Moore television 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.

Masons Red Owl

Masons Red Owl
Grocery/Convenience Store
Industry Retail (Grocery)
Headquarters Green Bay, WI
Key people
Mervin and Jared Mason
Products Fresh 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, however, 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 DePere 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 remains 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


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