Independent, locally-owned grocery stores have become a rarity. They are all but extinct in large cities, having been pushed out by large national and international chains, but some have managed to survive in small towns.
That’s the case of Yoss Bros. in Adrian. It has managed to thrive.
Yoss’ Bros. Grocery has been a fixture in Adrian for more than 50 years, and has operated as a partially employee-owned company for most of that time.
That fact, as well as maintaining an active presence in the community by supporting events and organizations, as well as providing a place that many people in Adrian got to experience their first jobs, are all reasons Kip Yoss said they have managed to continue.
His father, Jim Yoss, established the employee stock ownership plan at some point in the 80s while Kip was away at college.
It’s a transformation which owner Kip Yoss attributed much of the company’s ongoing success and persistence in a national market that has dramatically changed since his father, Jim Yoss, and his father’s cousin, Don Yoss, first took over their family’s grocery store which was originally founded in the 1930s in Appleton City.
Jim and his wife Carolyn, and Don and his wife Katherine opened a second location in Adrian. November 16 marked the store’s 50th anniversary.
Jim and Don Yoss later amicably split the company and Don went on to run his own grocery business elsewhere. Jim Yoss later passed the business on to his son, Kip.
After growing up working in the store, Kip Yoss went to college before working at Associated Wholesale Grocers for a couple of years. It’s the same company that Yoss Bros. has used as their distributor since the beginning.
Kip Yoss then returned to work for his father in 1992 and later took over management of the store and eventually expanded to a second location in Holden. That was the same year that the store expanded by adding on the north end of the building.
According to Yoss, the name Thriftway was tacked on during the mid 70s at the suggestion of the distributor. The name became common among other locally-owned supermarkets around the country.
Like the rest of the country, Yoss experienced considerable disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it difficult to come by various products. He credited their distributor for working hard to continue bringing products into the store.
While certain paper products were selling at rapid rates during some of the early hysteria, he said they were never in any danger of truly running out.
“There’s still some categories that are hard to come by,” said Yoss.
But he also said in 2022, as the market began normalizing, they’ve had to relearn their merchandising.
“There are still some anomalies that are going to work their way out eventually,” said Yoss.
Yoss said that his father was really good at what he did, but he couldn’t do it all on his own. He credits the employees who have been with the company through the years.
“I don’t care how good my dad was at customer service, he can’t take care of everybody,” he said.
He’s optimistic about the future of Yoss Bros. and the future of Adrian.
Yoss said he doesn’t yet know if his son will decide to follow in the footsteps of the family business, but regardless he is proud that Yoss Bros. will continue to be locally-owned through its employee stock ownership, leaving a legacy in Adrian of which he hopes the whole town can be proud.