Ron McIntire continues to set a strong pace with grocery store chain
Ron McIntire stands in the Super 1 Foods store in Hayden on Wednesday morning.
Hagadone News Network | September 3, 2020 1:00 AM
HAYDEN — With 16 stores — including one in Sandpoint — and nearly 2,000 employees in North Idaho and Montana, you might expect Ron McIntire to be a little reluctant to share the secret of Super 1 Food’s success. As the owner, he might not want to give anything away in this ultra-competitive market.
But he’s more than happy to tell others what got him this far — and it might surprise you. Or it might not.
“It’s no different than it was 50 tears ago. You still have to work and work and work and hope and do all the other things,” said McIntire, his hair neatly combed, wearing his trademark bowtie and white button shirt. “Lots of work. Pay attention. Listen carefully.”
“Working with other people, successful people, is a good thing,” he added.
One thing has changed in five decades, though.
“It’s a lot more expensive to do it now,” he said, smiling.
McIntire’s grocery store chain that began with Ron’s Thrift Store groceries in Hayden just marked its 50th anniversary. On a Wednesday morning, the man behind it all sits in the small upstairs office at the Super 1 store in Hayden. His daughter, Becky, is busy on the phone at the second desk in the office, making one call after another to suppliers. Son Randy, who oversees Super 1’s operations with Jack Strahan, is next door and pops in for a moment.
Their dad is 83 years old, and still works six-day, 40-hour weeks. He takes care of bills, reviews new developments and checks on things. He still visits the Idaho stores, chats with customers and staff and makes sure all is well.
“The easy stuff,” he said, laughing.
People, he said, are the best part of this business, and he takes pride in having three generations of customers.
“The kids that were in carts are the grandmas and grandpas today, bringing their kids in,” he said. “It’s just fun.”
He referred to 2020 as an “interesting year” that will “go down in history as a real tough one for us.”
Many products — eggs, sugar, flour, Lysol — became hard to get. Super 1 still got them.
“All through the season it’s been one thing after another,” McIntire said.
But Super 1 Foods survived and thrived, committed to customers to overcome challenges.
Which is something Ron McIntire learned young.
He was 12 when he got his start in the grocery store business in Deer Island, Ore. His job was to mark prices on products, using a crayon.
“Through that I got grazing powers,” he said, smiling. “I could go eat grapes or pick up something.”
McIntire graduated from St. Helens High School in Oregon and did not attend college. He served in the Army from 1956 to 1958 and was on active reserve from 1958 to 1960.
He returned to the grocery business as a manager before buying and opening a store on Government Way in Hayden, in July 1970, from Al Farver for $55,000.
“We had an agreement - never signed the paper for a year,” he said, chuckling.
“The kindest, nice man in the world,” McIntire added. “He and his wife were really neat people.”
In 1973 they opened a store at U.S. 95 and Hayden as Ron’s Thrift Store and a few years later changed it to Ron’s Harvest Foods. In 1996, the Hayden store became Super 1.
“It’s been a while, the growing thing,” he said.
The Coeur d’Alene store, which opened in 1985, was the first Super 1 Foods. Today, there are Super 1 Foods stores in Athol, Bonners Ferry, Oldtown, Post Falls, Rathdrum and Sandpoint. There are also eight stores in Montana, including Columbia Falls, two in Kalispell, and Whitefish.
There could be more expansion.
“I hope so. The competition gets better all the time,” he said. “You have to look real hard to find places to land anymore.”
In the beginning, he didn’t envision the chain that he leads today.
“The first and only one, period,” he said. “That’s what you think.”
But growth came and with each new store, the process was a little easier. A little. There were always challenges that come up with building and ordering and hiring for a new grocery store.
Still, McIntire has always forged ahead and continues to do so. He enjoys his time at the office and greeting customers in the store like he did Wednesday. They are both pleased and surprised to see him, as he has celebrity status with the Super 1 crowd.
“‘Good morning Ron,” said a cheerful Kyle Rutley.
Another woman stopped to chat and they exchanged pleasantries and laughs.
“Hi Ron,” she said.
Talking to customers is clearly something McIntire loves.
“I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t do that,” he said.
He and Joanne have been married 59 years. They have seven children; all worked in the grocery stores growing up and four are with Super 1 Foods today.
He treasures time with family that includes 25 grandchildren, and enjoys fishing, mowing his lawn, making apple juice in the fall and going on day trips with Joanne. This last weekend, they took a spin north on U.S. 95 to the Canada border.
“You have to have a little free time,” he said. “I let the kids run the business. Eventually they’ll have it all, anyway.”
On the door leading to his office, which bears his name, “Ronald B. McIntire,” are several stickers that reveal his love of country: “God Bless America.” “Support Team USA.” “America is too Great for small Dreams.” — Ronald Reagan.
He has no plans to retire and wants to work as long as he is able.
“I need something to do and this is a good thing to be doing,“ he said.
Which means he could be out there for years to come, as he is healthy, sharp and strong. Asked for secrets to his fitness, he said there are none. He doesn’t pay particular attention to exercise or diet.
“Just take care of yourself,” McIntire said.
Becky, with a break between phone calls, knows how he does it:
“Work,” she said with a laugh.
He is active in his community — Hayden mayor 16 years. Coeur d’Alene School Board 18 years. PTA president. Boy Scouts executive committee member. Avondale Irrigation District board member.
“You keep doing things,” McIntire said. “Just keep busy.”
Asked if he considered his to be a good life, if it has been, so far, what he expected, McIntire answered quickly.
“Probably better,” he said.