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Markus Foods begins major renovation

by HEIDI DESCH
Whitefish Pilot | March 28, 2021 12:00 AM

Markus Foods in Whitefish has embarked on a significant remodel that is expected to enhance the market while keeping it the downtown staple that folks know so well.

The grocery store will undergo a renovation project that looks to completely revamp the produce and deli area of the store. In addition, work will be done to refresh the rest of the Baker Avenue store with new lighting, flooring, fresh paint and new signs.

“We’re hearing a lot of excitement from the community about this,” Markus Manager Jared Zuege said. “We want to make it more appealing, but we’re not changing Markus. As long as I’m here it will always be the same grocery store.”

Markus Foods was purchased by Rob Isackson, and his partners, with the intent of remodeling the building. The same group also purchased the former Great Northern Brewing Company building on Central Avenue with plans of opening a brewery in the building.

Zuege is one of the new owners of Markus Foods and serves as manager for the grocery store. Patrick Burns also serves as a manager and along with his wife Molly Burns owns Pig and Olive delicatessen inside the grocery store.

Markus Foods opened in 1986. The store currently has about 40 employees.

When the new owners took over in October, Zuege and Burns began making changes to the products offered in the grocery store with an eye to providing more selection, unique items that can’t be found anywhere else, adding more organic ingredients to the store’s selection and bringing in more local produce and products. One of their most popular products has been taco kits from Senor Montana Tacos.

“We’re looking at the availability and when we get more things we want to be able to bring that in,” Zuege said. “Not just with produce, but with meats and baked goods.”

They’re also making the push toward more recyclable materials and less plastics, recycling the oil from the deli and working with Dirt Rich Compost for composting.

“We wanted a deli that offered scratch food made with real ingredients,” Zuege said. “We didn’t want to offer the same thing that’s found in any deli, we wanted to have unique and gourmet foods that you can grab before you head out for a hike or out on the boat.”

Pig and Olive opened in Whitefish in 2014, but took a hiatus until moving into Markus last October. Burns said the sandwich shop was looking for the right location and the grocery store fit the bill.

“The remodel of the kitchen will really expand what we can do,” Burns said. “We will be able to increase the selection. The demand is there, but right now we can’t keep up with the volume because we don’t have enough space.”

Part of the remodel looks to enhance the butcher shop in the store making it more visible to customers who have special requests, and the change will allow for a full service deli with meats, cheeses and salads.

Burns notes that the store’s prices haven’t changed and they don’t plan to. The focus is on bringing new ideas and products to the store — one of the popular new additions is an extensive selection of hot sauces.

Employees are encouraged to suggest items, they’ve already added microgreens grown by students at Whitefish High School and they take suggestions from customers on new additions.

“We really just want this to be a place where families come to shop,” Burns said.

The renovation project is expected to last about eight weeks. Tricon Commercial Construction of Kalispell is the contractor on the project.

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Markus Foods managers Patrick Burns and Jared Zuege are shepherding the grocery store through a major renovation project. They say Markus Foods will remain the same Whitefish staple that customers have come to love, but it will be refreshed and improved. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)