New grocery store opens in Clare

July 27, 2017

The Freeman brothers, co-owners of Freeman Family Enterprises’ Save-A-Lot stores, cut the ribbon Wednesday morning officially opening the newest store in Clare. Shown above are CFO Paul, Vice President Tom, and and President Tim.

The Freeman brothers, co-owners of Freeman Family Enterprises’ Save-A-Lot stores, cut the ribbon Wednesday morning officially opening the newest store in Clare. Shown above are CFO Paul, Vice President Tom, and and President Tim.

By Pat Maurer

It was a big day for Save-A-Lot Wednesday. The brand new Clare grocery store held a ribbon cutting and grand opening Wednesday morning, and welcomed hundreds of shoppers into the store to celebrate their first day of business here.

Although they are new to Clare, this is the 26th store opening for Freeman Family Enterprises, which is headquartered in Gaylord.

Owners are Company President Tim Freeman, Vice President Tom Freeman and Chief Financial Officer Paul Freeman.

“We are third generation grocery retailers,” said Tim. “Our grandfather, C. Glen Catt, was the founder of Glen’s Markets which operated 26 Glen’s Markets in northern Michigan. Our family, Father Denny Freeman and Uncle Glen A. Catt, sold Glen’s Markets in June, 1999 to Spartan Stores.”

That year was the beginning of the new company for Tim, Tom and Paul. The three brothers created Freeman Family Enterprises and purchased Save-a-Lot stores in Alpena, Cadillac and Tawas from the family business.

Over the next 18 years they have now opened 23 more stores (including Clare), from as far south as Kalamazoo, to as far north as Sault Ste. Marie, and from the east side of Michigan to the west, making them the third largest SAL retailer in the country.

Save a Lot crowd

Hundreds lined up to be the first customers at Clare’s new Save-A-Lot Wednesday. morning.

“Most of the Freeman brothers’ Save-A-Lot stores are in towns of 2,500 or fewer,” an article earlier this year said, “although some serve entire counties with populations of 15,000 or more. Their biggest store is in Traverse City, which has a surrounding population of close to 100,000.”

Time said, “We are ‘Save-A-Lot,’ not ‘save a little’.” The Save-A-Lot model attracts customers looking for good value, but that’s not the only important consideration, the brothers said in the earlier article.

They have a very good meat image. “We cut all our meat in our own stores. We have our own butchers, and we do custom cuts,” Tim said.

They are licensed through Save-A-Lot, but are not a franchise, Tim said. They partner with Save-A-Lot, who assists them in researching future locations, store setup and merchandising in opening new stores and also assist them with training associates. Save-A-Lot’s national corporation also helps with advertising, competitive price checks and plans for every department.

Save A Lot opening 2There are 1,300 Save-a-Lot stores across the country and more than 90 in Michigan. Save-a-Lot is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, with a Michigan warehouse close by in St. Johns. “Save-a-Lot is our supplier. We get all of our groceries there,” Tim said, “we get three to four trucks a week.”

Clare’s new 16,000 square foot store won’t be the only new store to open this year, Tim said. They are planning to open another, in Manistee, later this fall.
The manager of the new Clare store is Ray Martin, he added.

Freeman Family Enterprises is a local Michigan company. “We all live in Gaylord and have lived in northern Michigan our entire life,” Tim said.

In fact the whole family lives there including the three brothers’ still active 96-year-old grandmother Elsa Freeman.

He said some of the “fourth generation” are also now involved with the company. Tim’s twin sons Steven and Scott are store managers, Steven in Kalamazoo and Scott in Benzonia. Tom’s daughter Jaclyn Eckert works in the corporate office in Gaylord.

Tim and wife Sarah have five grown children and three grandsons. Tom and wife Theresa have two grown children and Paul and his wife Heather have six Save A Lot ribbon cuttingchildren including three who are adopted. One is in college four are in school and one is a preschooler.

The brothers are all graduates of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a college choice strongly encouraged by their father, Tim said with a smile.
When asked what made them decide to open a grocery store in Clare, Tim said they had been contacted by shopping complex owner Dan Ashcraft about the opportunity after Valu Land closed last winter. “We were impressed with Clare,” he said. “and we were pleasantly surprised at how nice and how successful the community is.”

He said, “We are very excited to be a part of the Clare community and we look forward to serving your grocery shopping needs. Thank you for the warm reception we have all received.”

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Kelli Nicholas, Interim Director of the Clare Area Chamber of Commerce, said, “Having a Michigan based company want to include Clare in their expansion plans is a testament to what our area offers to businesses. The Chamber is happy to help Save-a-Lot open with their ribbon cutting ceremony. It was great seeing the large crowd here this morning.”

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