It seems everyone at Jerry’s Foods has a story to tell about founder Jerry Paulsen. Mohammad Haider’s story may be the most unusual.
Originally from Afghanistan, Haider has worked for Jerry’s Foods for 37 years. He started at a Supervalu store in Minneapolis in 1976, and when Paulsen acquired that store about a year later, Haider officially became an employee of Jerry’s Foods. And he’s never left.
Haider is now the kitchen manager of Jerry’s Foods flagship Edina store, and through the years of working up the ranks, he formed a close relationship with Paulsen, who passed away in 2013. “He was like a father to me,” Haider says. He laughs and adds, “Jerry always said, ‘Even though I am not Afghan, I would proudly call you my son.’ ”
Employees like Haider aren’t hard to find at Jerry’s. Carol Jackson, who has been with the company for 44 years, is just another example. Jackson is the unofficial historian of Jerry’s Foods and is able to recite almost every important historical fact about Jerry’s Foods from memory. She turns to her handy typed timeline of important Jerry’s milestones for anything she can’t recall.
“We as employees feel like we’re part of the family,” Jackson says. “Jerry operated that way and it continues to operate that way.”
She tells the tale of Jerry (always referred to by his first name) as “a man of fine tastes.” He was a “meat man” by trade, starting out by leasing a meat counter inside Grandview Market in 1947. Three years later, he bought the market and operated the store for 18 years before moving it to Vernon Avenue in 1968 and renaming the store Jerry’s Foods.
Paulsen continued to expand his business, at one point entering the hardware and men’s clothing markets before focusing on the grocery chain. In 1984, Paulsen bought his first Cub Foods franchise in West St. Paul; Jerry’s Enterprises now operates 18 Cub franchise stores across Minnesota. The company also owns 16 Save A Lots, three County Markets, and one Rainbow Foods, in addition to the three grocery stores operating under the name Jerry’s Foods—in Edina, Eden Prairie, and Sanibel Island, Florida. Jackson says the Sanibel Island location has been immensely popular for Edina snowbirds seeking familiarity during their winter vacations.
Throughout the years, employees of Jerry’s Foods have seen a lot of changes. Lynn Gallus, now retired, was the head cashier and bookkeeper for the Eden Prairie store, a position she took over in 1980 after working at Jerry’s part-time since 1971. She had to grow up with technology as accounting evolved from pen and paper to the digital age.
“Everything was hand-done, and now you don’t do that—it’s all pretty much there for you,” Gallus says. “It has been a real learning experience to see how the company has advanced from where it started in the beginning.”
Consumer trends also continue to change. Haider has seen the change in those trends firsthand. He used to make everything at the deli from scratch. “I’m an old-fashioned person and I like to make stuff, but we are getting too big,” Haider says. “If you walk into Jerry’s Edina or [Cub Foods locations] in West St. Paul or Bloomington, everything is uniform.”
Keeping things consistent is good for the brand and Haider still loves his job, his coworkers and his customers. Today, people rarely head to the grocery store looking for a personal touch from the meat man, but they’ll still find little traces of Jerry’s legacy at each of his stores. They won’t have to look much further than the employees who love their jobs.