A few minutes of conversation after receiving the wrap-around handshakes and welcoming smiles of Jeff Kearney and John Thomas of Andover and St. Francis County Market leave you admiring the grit and persistent innovation they bring to their work. Walk around their stores and you appreciate their ingenuity in the face of ever-changing customer needs, as well as their commitment to helping grow a family business and strengthen their communities.

This year, Jeff’s store in St. Francis marks its 20th anniversary. Back in 1987, John’s store in Andover was the first grocery store in the area. The surrounding area has undergone an extraordinary transformation since then, adding more than a million square feet of grocery business.

What connects the stores goes beyond the name and diverse selection of fresh and prepared foods. It’s seen in how Jeff and John have embraced energy innovations to become more resilient and reliable destinations for the community. Both stores are now using LED lighting which significantly reduces cost and waste associated with fluorescent bulbs and also have on-site generators that provide emergency backup as well as beneficial services to all Connexus members.

“You feel like you’re accomplishing something more if you can both reduce cost and provide more value to the community,” says Jeff. For just a few hours each month, Connexus is able to control when the generators run to help avoid the high wholesale costs of peak-time electricity. “What it’s doing is creating dependability for the whole network,” continues Jeff.

In addition to being able to power all the registers, freezers, refrigerators, and lights during an emergency, the generators at their stores allow them to effectively remove their load from the grid, freeing up power for everyone else. “Driven by cost savings, sustainability, and other factors, businesses are increasingly implementing energy saving upgrades,” said Connexus’ Paula Coffey, who advises County Market and other businesses.

Stores like Jeff’s and John’s play a key role in the resilience of our communities. Grocery stores directly employ more than 4.8 million Americans—workers who show up for their customers to provide the essentials we all depend on. Food and grocery also connects all the cultures of our communities, including business opportunities for new Americans.

Located on bustling 109th street between Central and University Avenues in Blaine, Lim Phan runs Oriental Market, a business he started in tumultuous 2020. After operating another oriental grocery in Blaine for a decade, Phan noticed significant growth in his customer base and undertook a major investment to convert an existing building into a clean and modern grocery. Phan worked with his contractor to ensure the remodel used money-saving and energy-efficient LED lights and display cases for refrigerated and frozen goods. With its wide selection of foods sourced from throughout southeast Asia, Oriental Market has carved out a niche of customers looking for things both familiar and new.

While we have all done our best to stay healthy and safe during the uncertain times of the last year, the seventeen grocery and food stores throughout Connexus Energy’s service territory have given us all the resources and ingredients to make sure neighbors, friends, and family are safe, cared for, and well fed.

This story appeared in Connexus Energy’s Fall 2021 newsletter.

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