Realizing His Dream

“I Want to be a Store Owner Someday.”

Garrett Larson, owner of Ronnings, shared his inspiring story to a rapt audience at TREK on March 7 in Thief River Falls.

As a second grader, growing up in Little Fork, Minnesota, he had a dream of being a storekeeper one day.

Although he wanted to own his own store, he didn’t pursue entrepreneurship in earnest until he was sixteen, with a little encouragement from his father.

“My dad called me out of high school one day to go purchase my first rental property,” Garrett said. He ended up buying the property for $5000 and spent the following summer working with a local carpenter to renovate it. “I rented it out for thirteen years, and I just sold it about two months ago,” he said.

His entrepreneurial journey continued when he went to college at Moorhead State University. While there, he bought a stump grinder and did stump removal around the Fargo-Moorhead area and the Detroit Lakes area. The money he earned from his stump grinding business helped him pay off debt and put him through college. He also worked at Scheel’s for about a year.

History of Ronnings

The first Ronnings store opened in International Falls in 1964. Garrett’s parents bought the International Falls store in 2001 and opened a second location in Baudette in 2003. They ran those two stores for about fourteen years. Garrett came on full time in 2016, and they opened a third store in Roseau a couple years later. In 2019, they bought and renovated the J.C. Penney building in Thief River Falls. In October of 2020 Garrett purchased Ronnings and realized the dream that he had carried since his early years.

Evolution of the Business

Over the last few years, Garrett has made some changes, including introducing computers and shifting from a “jobs” perspective to more of a “careers” perspective. That shift started with the addition of health insurance for their employees and continued with the addition of a retirement program and restructuring salary ranges. These changes have helped them attract better applicants for their open jobs.

The value proposition that Ronnings is founded on focuses on the customer experience. “Amazon has its place, and they are good at what they do,” he said, “but small town retail is about giving people an experience. That’s the value we bring.”

Garrett is planning a major expansion of the International Falls location and wants to open a fifth location in the near future. Recently, he was nominated for the SBA’s Minnesota Young Entrepreneur of the Year.  

For more on Ronnings, visit their website.

Second grade essay and artwork by Garrett Larson, “I Want to be a Store Owner Someday.”

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