We no longer have to lie to kids about Santa Claus because it turns out the kind-hearted giant is alive and kicking in Bemidji, Minnesota. Joe Lueken, the 70-year-old owner of the two Lueken's Village Foods, is retiring and leaving his business to his 400 employees. Of course, my cynical brain went straight to: This fool is a scam artist and he's leaving all his debt to the very people who trusted him HOW COULD HE?. But no! The businesses are doing well and the employees don't have to pay a cent. It's a truly altruistic act from a man who says he's received quite a bit in this life and he's ready to give back.
Although Lueken had other offers to sell for cash monies, he chose to hand it over to his employees as part of an employee stock ownership plan. The transfer of ownership from the Lueken family to the employees will begin on Jan. 1 — isn't that awesome? I want to have partial ownership of a grocery story. Oh, the snacks I would eat — candy bars and ice cream sandwiches! Pop chips and Fuji apples! Sorry, I got distracted with dreams of Supermarket Sweeping the entire baked goods section.
"My employees are largely responsible for any success I've had, and they deserve to get some of the benefits of that," Lueken told the Star Tribune. "You can't always take. You also have to give back."
As for the new owners, they're stoked and think Lueken is tops.
"He's rockin' awesome," said [employee] Svare, 41, who started at Lueken's in 2009 and worked up to front-end manager.
"He chose to protect his people," she said. "Being owners will make us care more about our work. It gives you something to call your own and gives you a more comfortable retirement to look forward to."
Man, this is the spirit of giving! Does this man have a grandson? Because I'd like to get it on with him and create a million little Luekens. And, considering my familial nickname is "Lu", I think it's a sign — we'll name our first child Lu Lueken and he'll grow up to become the king of the great nation of CanMexica. And I will be his queen. I think this is getting weird, but the point is, I want in that fantastic family.