Mark Biessener, owner of Mark’s Market (right), takes a break near the meat counter with his nephew, Michael Murray, who works the night shift as a stocker.

You could say that Mark Biessener, owner of Mark’s Market in Hackensack, has been in the grocery business since he was a kid.

As a teenager, he worked at Frank’s Grocery in Akeley, where owner Frank Lamb taught him basic meat-cutting skills. After graduating from Akeley High School in 1984, Mark attended Minnesota Community and Technical College in Pipestone which, at the time, offered a professional course in meat-cutting.

After completing the eight month course, Mark headed north, applying for jobs along the way. One of those stops was at Jerry’s Red Owl in Hackensack, where he was hired as a butcher by owners Jerry and Janet Carpenter.

A few years later, the Carpenters decided to move on. Mark, who was only 21 years old, worked out a deal to buy the store and changed its name to Mark’s Market. At the time, Jodie Karl was working at Jerry’s. She is now the store manager at Mark’s, so she has been with Mark since day one.

The original store was not much bigger than a good-sized convenience market. In 1997, a full-scale remodel and addition expanded the retail space to 6,880 square feet plus 1,050 in the back room, turning Mark’s Market into a full service grocery, with fresh produce and fresh cut meat daily.

The only remnant of the original building has been the walk-in freezer. This year, with the help of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Good Food Access Program Equipment and Physical Improvement Grant, a new walk-in freezer was installed on the east side of the store. The old freezer will soon be removed.

“Our grocery supplier is Mason Brothers out of Wadena,” said Mark’s wife Kris. “Mason Brothers supply numerous independent groceries across the state.”

Mark’s has five full-time employees and four part-time employees, most of whom have worked there for many years. In addition to Jodie they are Brenda, Donna, Kendra, Morgan, Claire, Michael, Sandy and Dolly.

“Over the years, many teenagers have stocked shelves at Mark’s as their summer job, but for the past few years, those jobs have gone to our kids,” Kris continued. “Our son Matt worked at the store for many years but is now working at a meat market in Duluth. Our twin daughters, Morgan and Claire, currently work night and weekend hours.”

The year 2020 has posed challenges for grocery stores, but Mark’s Market has met them with determination. In a recent inspection, the state health inspector gave the store high marks and said Mark’s was following the COVID guidelines to the fullest extent. During the pandemic, Mark’s also has been filling phoned-in, pre-paid orders ready for pick-up from people who had COVID or were afraid to venture out.

“There have been many unfamiliar faces, so we speculate that some people prefer a smaller store and less travel,” Mark observed. “We hope those faces will become regulars as they find a great selection, competitive prices and friendly faces.”

Plus — “We are proud that we never ran out of toilet paper!”

Two years from now in 2023, Mark’s Market will face more challenges when the Minnesota Department of Transportation rebuilds Highway 371 through town.

“The store sign in the ditch on the east side of the road is in the right-of-way, so it’s slated to be removed,” said Mark. “But overall, we look forward to the facelift that Hackensack as a whole will receive once the project is complete!”

Winter store hours are 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sundays. For orders or questions, call 675-6825. Specials and weather-related updates can be found on Mark’s Market’s Facebook page.

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