When talking to Terry and Deb Harper, owners of the local Wagner's Market, the topic of customer service comes up often.
The couple has owned the local supermarket for 15 years, and October marked the 30-year anniversary of the store, since it was first established. It was originally owned by John Overbay and the Wagner family, and Terry and Deb bought the store in 2006. They wanted to keep the Wagner name, since it was a familiar name in the Prineville community.
"That is why we kept the Wagner's name, just because when we changed it from Price Slasher, we kept it Wagner's, because it was recognized from the Overbays when they had the Wagner's markets in Bend and Redmond," said Terry.
Deb Harper pointed to an advertisement that is framed and hanging in their produce section from the Old Wagner's market from 1975, when the building was in the location of the First Interstate Bank on Northwest Third Street. She also has a trophy displayed that Deb won from Wagner's Market in 4-H in 1973.
"When we were moving a few years back, I found it, and I went, "'Isn't that just kind of funny,'" she recalled of the history of the trophy.
The couple met when Deb, a youthful 15 years old at the time, was working in the bakery at Ericksons, and Terry was working for the Ericksons Grocery store. Terry later managed Albertsons stores and has almost 50 years of grocery business experience. Deb grew up in a family-owned business environment. They seemed destined to be together and to be in the grocery business.
The Wagner's building was originally built by the owners of Scotty's Thriftway. After they moved, the building remained empty for a time until the Overbays bought it in 1991 and established the Wagner's Price Slasher. The Harpers began managing the store in 1996—with Deb becoming bookkeeper in 1997. They bought the store in 2006.
"We have remodeled this store three times," Terry explained.
Included in the remodels was the upgrading of the interior décor, which involved new shelving, new check stands and cash registers, new refrigeration and freezer cases, and new flooring.
"Grocery stores are just constantly upgrading all the time," added Terry. "It's an ongoing process."
In 2014, Deb indicated that they changed from the Price Slasher name to Wagner's Market. They also signed up with IGA, because IGA offers independent store owners resources that they would otherwise be unable to offer to customers and employees.
"They help us with our website and our online ordering and shopping that we just got up and running. They offer retail classes to our employees that the employees can take for free," said Deb.
Terry added that the trainings were a real benefit, and out of the more than 1,000 video trainings, some of them include bagging groceries, OSHA requirements, cutting meat, and administrative supermarket management.
"What we liked about IGA, is they have a really strong emphasis on customer service, which is really important to Terry and I," pointed out Deb. "They have a strong emphasis on local and hometown. A lot of the programs that they offer us support community activities."
Terry went on to say that they are trying to overcome the misconception that IGA makes them part of a corporation. They pay monthly dues to IGA for a marketing platform that provides services to help them independently.
"You are looking at the corporation," he laughed, as he pointed to himself and Deb.
Currently, the Harpers have 32 employees. Many have been with the store from the time that Terry and Deb took over the grocery business. They recently developed a quarterly bonus structure for the employees, which is on its fourth quarter. It is based on the store profits and the employee performance.
"The employees seem to like that," said Deb. "They give that bit of input as to how the store is doing and how they can make it better. Our people are our most important asset, because they are who interact with the customers, and our customers are critical to everybody's success."
Terry noted that COVID has been a challenge, but they have also been very busy during the past two years. He added that the mask mandate and supply issues have been the biggest challenges.
The couple indicated that they finally were able to attend an in-person meeting with their distributer recently. They have changed distributers over the time they have owned the store, and the most recent distributer is based in the Northwest and provides more personalized service.
Wagner's Market has a website available for online shopping, with curbside pickup. It is picking up popularity, and the website can be found at www.wagners.iga.com.
IGA Hometown Proud
Owners: Terry and Deb Harper
930 N. Main St.
Hours: Daily, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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