Park ’N Shop Remains a Community Fixture After Six Decades
If you could go back in time 60 years to visit small-town America, you would likely find scenes similar to those in “The Andy Griffith Show.” The economy was buoyed by small, specialty businesses like butcher shops, tailors, barber shops, book stores and groceries. The best of these not only provided excellent customer service while the business was open, but also played critical roles in the community by supporting local charities, and addressed customer comments and suggestions with grace.
Due to the introduction of supermarkets and the 1980s recession, many of those businesses closed, to the detriment of the rural American economy. However, some small markets survived. Park ’N Shop in Culver has played an active role in the local community since 1960.
David Rhodes, the third-generation owner of Park ’N Shop, grew up on Lake Maxinkuckee and spent his summers working at the store.
“I started out as a bagger,” he says. “Then it became semi-clear that I was going to try to run it, and I started taking on each department one by one, trying to learn it piece by piece so if I ever got myself into a scenario where I lost a major department head, I knew my way in and out of every department of every store.”
Still a Lake Maxinkuckee resident, Rhodes takes great pleasure in being part of an economy still held up by small businesses. He plays an active role in the community as a philanthropist, annually donating to dozens of area charities, events and organizations.
“There are very few donation requests that we turn down,” Rhodes says.
Although it’s a relatively small store, Park ’N Shop has a wide variety of items. As much as Rhodes would like to offer his merchandise at supermarket prices, this remains impossible due to national pricing models. However, he works to make sure his prices remain reasonable.
“We want to establish ourselves as a year-round place to get good, fresh meat and produce deals,” Rhodes says.
Park ’N Shop is specifically known for its meat department, which serves only choice or prime options, all of which are cut or ground in-house.
“There’s prime, choice and select, then a bunch of sub-grades below that,” Rhodes says. “Think of it as A, B, C. We’ll never buy anything lower than a B, and when I can get A at a good price, I will.”
The staff also offers seven varieties of sausage, all of which are roped onsite. The Polish sausage in particular is known as being deliciously authentic.
One of Rhodes’ favorite parts of running the store is helping customers behind the meat counter.
“On a Friday night, there are people who come in who have no idea what they’re doing,” Rhodes says. “After talking about their preferences, I’ll say, ‘OK, this is what you’re going to take. I’ll season it for you, and you’re going to cook it for five minutes on each side. Then tomorrow you’re going to come in, and you’re going to thank me for the best steak you’ve ever eaten.’ We always have a laugh, then that’s what happens. They come back and say, ‘My gosh, you were right!’ That’s what’s fun for me because it’s like talking to a friend who needs some guidance.”
Even after work hours, Rhodes looks for ways to go above and beyond the call of duty for local residents.
“Sometimes, I’ll see a good round of steaks come in,” he says. “If I see someone at dinner who I know likes that kind of steak, I’ll tap him on the shoulder and say, ‘You need to be at the store tomorrow and come get this stuff.’ I buy one for myself and take it home and cook it, and they’ll cook theirs. That interaction, helping customers, is fun.”
Of the 25,000 items the store carries, several are stocked due to customer request.
“There are probably 200 to 300 items in this store that I carry for one specific customer,” Rhodes says. “They’re thrilled about it, and it’s no sweat off my back at all. If I can gain that one customer with just one item, it doesn’t only make good community sense, it makes good business sense.”
Rhodes also owns Save A Lot stores in Knox and Rochester. However, Park ’N Shop is still the pride and joy of his family.
“This one has the most variety, the most freedom, and the most work involved to keep it looking as good as it does,” Rhodes says.
At the Culver location, Rhodes has more than twenty employees. He also relies heavily on his mother Cheryl, who is in charge of day-to-day operations at the store. His sister Stephanie manages the store’s Facebook page while being a mom to 2-year-old Diana.
“It would surprise me if Diana doesn’t end up working here,” Rhodes says with a grin. “She’s going to have to wait at least 10 years, though.”
Rhodes’ primary goal is to please customers, and when he does so, it brings him great satisfaction.
“The people who do appreciate us make it all worthwhile,” he says. “They do understand that we’re trying our hardest. It makes us really happy to have those who are loyal to us.”
Park ’N Shop is located at 1105 North Lake Shore Drive in Culver. For more info, visit Facebook.com/parknshop3 and call 574-842-2450.