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Fourth Street Market’s owners serving Hillside community for over 30 years

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Fourth Street Market (photo taken by Gina Wilken)

By GINA WILKEN
DCN Reporter

A little over a year ago, it was uncertain whether Little John’s Fourth Street Market would continue to occupy the quiet corner tucked away in the heart of the Central Hillside.

John and Annette Nygard owned and ran the store for 36 years. The couple wanted to retire from the business in 2006, but were struggling to do so because nobody was interested in purchasing it.

After the Hillside Business Association (HBA) recognized that both residents and businesses would be hurt if the store was to close, the HBA decided to step in, hoping to ensure its marketplace in the neighborhood.

The HBA is a neighborhood business organization that aims to revitalize the Central and East Hillside Business Districts, according to the Duluth Local Initiatives Support Coalition.

“It provides a lot of retail grocery sales for many people in the neighborhood that really don’t have the means of getting to the other grocery stores,? said Bruce Wyman, the executive director of the HBA. “I felt that it was our responsibility to make sure that the store didn’t leave the neighborhood.?

According to the City of Duluth, the store is one of the two independently owned neighborhood grocery stores in Duluth. The other is on Park Point.

The HBA worked with John and his wife for about six or seven months until they decided to bring in a young couple with some knowledge of grocery store business.

“They weren’t financially able to purchase it,? Wyman said.

The A. H. Zeppa Foundation and the City of Duluth helped the HBA invest in the project to preserve the market.

“The store never had to close for even one day, and that was something we really wanted,? Wyman said. “I didn’t want down time because people would start going to other places.?

In June 2006, Deyona and Jamar Kirk took over Little John’s Fourth Street Market and changed its name to Ma and Pop’s Fourth Street Market.

The new owners are currently leasing the market from the HBA until they can afford to purchase it.

“We didn’t want the market to close,? Deyona Kirk said. “We kept it open. People seem so happy about it.?

The previous owners, John and Annette Nygard, agreed to stay in Duluth for six months to help the Kirks adjust to the business.

They spent time teaching the new owners how to operate the daily business and introduced them to the different vendors.

“They have been very helpful to us in keeping the market going,? Deyona Kirk said. “We still keep in touch with them?

The Kirks have tried to keep the market as it was with the intention of keeping old customers and drawing in new business.

“We have changed close to nothing in the business,? Jamar Kirk said. “Very few things are different.?

Deyona said she and her husband work well as a team.

“Jamar takes care of the work in the store,? Deyona Kirk said. “He usually does the things such as stocking the shelves and ordering new products.?

Deyona does the bookkeeping and much of the tasks within the office.

The couple says they enjoy the interaction with the customers the most. “We have had a great response,? Deyona Kirk said. “The customers are very patient and welcoming with us.?

Since taking over the ownership of the store, the Kirks began to widen the selection and offer more of a variety to their customers by adding new items.

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Ma and Pop's Fourth Street Market (Photo by Gina Wilken)

“We have recently added soul food [a variety of African American food]and Puerto Rican food to the deli menu,? Deyona Kirk said.

A large DVD and VHS rental selection is just one of the new items the market features. The couple also strongly encourages people to try their new delivery and catering services.

“The Kirks have done a wonderful job,? Wyman said. “They get between 800 to 1,000 customers a day.?

A lot of the market’s equipment was outdated and the HBA has recently been working with the Kirks to replace it.

Wyman said the HBA has put about 30,000 dollars of their own money to remodel it.

“We wanted to bring up the quality of the neighborhood,? Wyman said.

Comments

I haven't been home to Duluth in almost 10 years and I remember going to 4th street market throughout my childhood and teen years. I am on my way back home now and I can't wait to shop at the store. After living in St Paul for 8 years I was concerned that I wouldn't find foods that I was accustomed to finding but now that I know that the New 4th street market has African American food available, I will certainly be stopping by as much as I can! Thanks for the great memories, John and Annette but I look forward to making doing business with Jamar and Deyona!
Grace and peace!
Dee