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Giving Away the Store

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Joe Lueken could have sold his grocery stores to the highest bidder. Instead he transferred ownership to the company’s more than 400 employees.

After 46 years running Lueken’s Village Foods, a three-store chain, the 70-year-old Lueken and his family began “giving away the store” on January 1. Associates will participate in an employee stock ownership program in which each employee will receive shares based on their salary and years of service -- at no cost to them.

Asked last month by ABC News what prompted him to give away his business, Lueken said, “My employees are largely responsible for any success I’ve had and they deserve to get some benefits of that. You can’t always take. You also have to give back.”

The former supermarket owner has left his beloved employees in good hands. He recently named longtime employee Brent Sicard – who started as a night janitor in 1998 – the company’s president and CEO.

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