Jerry Paulsen, whose namesake grocery store is a decades-old institution in Edina with corporate tentacles reaching to a Florida resort island and closer to home in Minnesota and Wisconsin, has died.
Paulsen, trained as a butcher while earning a business degree before starting his first Jerry’s on Vernon Avenue, died in his sleep Friday at his Edina home. He was 89.
From his first store opening in 1950 as Jerry’s Lucky Dollar, Paulsen’s corporation now counts three groceries that bear his name — in Edina, Eden Prairie and in Sanibel Island, Fla., home of his winter retreat — as well as 34 others that have Cub, County Market or Save-a-Lot nameplates. A new grocery store in Woodbury is on course to open in the summer. Jerry’s also has hardware stores in Edina, Maple Grove, Bloomington, St. Louis Park and another about to open in Eden Prairie.
In all, Jerry’s Enterprises Inc. employs more than 3,400 people.
“My stores are not a chain, they’re a group,” Paulsen said in a Star Tribune interview in 1985. “Each manager has responsibility to key his store to his community.”
Carol Jackson, corporate manager for Jerry’s who’s been with the company for 42 years, described her boss as “a person of extremely creative ideas, actually ahead of his time in terms of ideas.”
Paulsen was a “meat man,” Jackson said, and devised “a whole line of meat called culinary convenience. He knew that customers who wanted beef stroganoff wanted their sirloin cut into strips. Then I did a recipe and put it on the package.”
He also was among the earliest grocers who “marketed cuts of beef that were very [closely] trimmed and very lean,” she added. “That was before people looked for leaner cuts of meat.”
Among his most creative ideas was opening the Jerry’s on Sanibel Island, a 30-year-old store whose first-time customers still come in and ask whether it is related to the one in Edina. The island has long been a winter destination for many a Minnesotan, and Edinians in particular.
“Jerry had a house down there for many years before he opened the store,” Jackson said. “People [on the island] couldn’t buy meat down there, so the [Edina] customers would buy the meat here and take it with them. Those are basically the ones who asked, ‘Why don’t you open a store [on Sanibel Island]? Jerry, you need to do this.’ ”
Jackson said there was a four-year court battle to win before the Jerry’s in Florida checked out its first customer at what became the island’s second grocery store. “They didn’t want anyone coming in from the north,” Jackson said.
Gerald A. Paulsen graduated from Minneapolis South High School in 1941 and enrolled at the Minneapolis School of Business. His education was interrupted for World War II; he served in the Army in Belgium and Germany.
Following the war, Paulsen married Shirley Ann Lund on June 15, 1946. The next year, he joined the Grandview Market in Edina as a part-time butcher while he earned a business degree from the University of Minnesota.
In 1950, he moved to the other side of Vernon Avenue and opened Jerry’s Lucky Dollar, near where the current Jerry’s Foods and corporate offices stand.
“I began working in a grocery store as a means of support, and I just stuck with it,” he continued in the 1985 interview. “I worked afternoons until I got my degree at the university. Merchandising the meat, putting some variety in the meat case, that was a challenge. Meat is still a great love, but now I’m very much involved in the total picture.”
To this day, Jackson said Monday, Jerry’s makes and sells its own potato salad “that is still based on Shirley’s recipe.”
Paulsen, who reported to work daily until a couple of years ago, was preceded in death by a sister, June Brunskill. Along with his wife of 66 years, he is survived by daughters Charlotte Shadduck, of Annandale, Minn., LuAnn Cornell of Minnetonka, and Cheryl Sullivan of Edina.
Two family members hold key positions with the company. Son-in-law Bob Shadduck is corporate president. Shadduck’s daughter, Melissa Shadduck Schaefer, is corporate project manager.
Visitation for Paulsen is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Washburn-McReavy Eden Prairie Chapel, 7625 Mitchell Road, Eden Prairie.
Memorial services are scheduled for noon Wednesday at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 5025 Knox Av. S., Minneapolis, with visitation at the church one hour prior.