Rush Lake near Stanchfield, Minnesota, boasts some of the best year-round fishing in the area—something that Rush Point Store has capitalized on for more than a century. “We have a lot of fishing tackle, plus a back room with bait tanks to meet demand,” said Manager Alyssa Oldenburg. “The store stays busy with fishers looking to do ice and open water fishing, and we only have a month or two between those two seasons where traffic slows down.”
For 142 years, Rush Point has greeted fishing aficionados, along with locals and tourists, with fishing tackle, bait, groceries and snacks. The original store was established in 1879. While a fire destroyed the first structure, today’s building dates to 1899. Larry McDonough has owned the store since 1996.
“Our floors are original to the 1899 building,” Oldenburg said. “We’ve tried to keep everything as original as possible.” Old scales and decoys decorate the walls and sit atop coolers to carry the old-fashioned feel throughout the building. “Our customers know we’re an authentic general store when they walk in the doors,” she said.
From its inception, Rush Point has been the place to pick up fishing equipment and licenses. Customers can stock up on a wide variety of fresh, seasonal live bait, including crappie minnows, fatheads, golden shiners, angleworms, nightcrawlers and leeches. The store also carries a full line of tackle for summer and winter fishing, including hooks, custom-painted lures, spearing decoys, bait buckets, scoops, weights and bobbers.
“If you need it for fishing, we’ve got it in stock,” Oldenburg said. “We’re the closest store to Rush Lake, which is a very popular fishing spot for Northern pike, walleye, largemouth bass, black crappie and bluegill fish.”
Our customers know we’re an authentic general store when they walk in the doors.
Over the years, Rush Point diversified its services beyond fishing and snacks to include propane tank refills, grilling pellets, Minnesota Lottery tickets, an ATM and gasoline pumps, which McDonough moved from the front of the building to the side to make way for a handicap ramp into the store.
While the coronavirus pandemic has decreased foot traffic at many retail locations, Rush Point has seen an influx of new customers over the past year. “I hate to say it but COVID-19 has been a huge benefit to us,” Oldenburg said. “Lots of people took up fishing as a new sport, and we’ve seen a ton of new faces plus our regulars. Our sales and traffic have been up compared with previous years.”
Rush Point also caters to the local community, given it’s the only store with groceries in the small town. The store has four cooler doors for soft drinks, milk and beer and a freezer section for frozen pizzas and frozen entrees. Grocery staples include canned soups, baking essentials and “anything you might run out of at home,” Oldenburg said. The store also has off-sale liquor.
The store offered curbside pickup in the early days of the pandemic, but not many customers utilized the service. “We’ll still do it if a customer asks, but it hasn’t been something our folks want,” she said. “We also found that when the big box stores ran out of items, we had more luck keeping items like toilet paper in stock, so our customers shopped us more.”
One thing customers won’t find in this one-stop shop is fresh foodservice. “We don’t have any plans to offer that because we’d have to install a public restroom if we did,” Oldenburg said. “Frankly, we have way too many people coming through here during our busy seasons to keep up with an in-store restroom, since the store only has two employees.”
Overall, the atmosphere at Rush Point is welcoming. “We have so much fun in here,” she said. “When people come in the door, we try to make them feel as welcome as we can.”
That welcome spills over to social media, with the store’s active Facebook and Instagram pages. “We use social media to talk about what’s new in our store and to highlight catches from our customers,” Oldenburg said.
Her advice for other retailers looking to provide customers with a similar experience is to listen. “Everybody has a different story to tell,” she said. “If you take the time to listen, you’ll learn a ton. I’ve learned a lot about fishing and life from my customers.”
Rush Point Store might not seem like a place to buy branded clothing, but it has become a popular apparel destination. “We’ve really expanded our clothing line over the past year or so,” said Manager Alyssa Oldenburg.
The store stocks t-shirts and hoodies in a variety of styles. All feature Rush Point Store and the year it was established. Some have the store’s tagline: “Life’s Better on the Lake.”
“We started out small with our clothing line and added to it gradually as sales increased,” she said. “Now the shirts and hoodies sell very well.”
Ideas 2 Go showcases how retailers today are operating the convenience store of tomorrow. To see videos of the c-stores we profiled in 2019 and earlier, go to www.convenience.org/ideas2go.