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Keeping it in the family

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Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2018 12:00 am

John’s Supermarket in Monroe has been a family business since 1965, when John Thompson started selling meat and produce out of the old John’s building, next door to the current store.

With an upcoming expansion, owner Greg Thompson is not only trying to build a more competitive and successful business, but bring another Thompson into the fold.

Thompson will be overseeing an 8,500 square foot addition to the front of the existing space and knocking down the old building to expand the parking lot. The new part will include more space for groceries, six loft apartments on the second floor, and a restaurant.

The last part is crucial.

Thompson’s son Michael, he said, does not have the same passion for groceries as his father and grandfather. Michael is a chef, and has been cooking at Aubri Lane in Milledgeville for the past few years.

But, once the expansion is complete, he’ll be coming home to Monroe to cook at the new restaurant, which will tentatively be called Bistro South. More importantly, he’ll be carrying on the family business.

“My dad (John) wasn’t too happy at first with the idea of tearing down the original John’s,” Thompson said.

“But when I told him how it was the way to continue the family business and move forward, he got on board.”

Thompson said he is doubtful Michael would have wanted to come back and work at John’s if not for the opportunity to run a restaurant. 

He hopes to offer freshly made Southern food, along with beer and wine options.

It will be more than a restaurant, too.

Thompson recognizes that eating habits are trending away from going to the grocery store, buying food and taking it home to cook it, to picking up something premade and throwing it in the oven at home.

“People with two kids and a job don’t always have time to cook and clean up every meal they eat. There are options now that mean you don’t have to do that,” Thompson said.

The trend is evident in the rise of made to order meal kits, delivered to anyone’s doorstep. It’s also evident in big box grocery stores, which are starting to make fresh meals, on top of premade things customers can finish in their own ovens.

Bistro South will help John’s get a piece of that growing market.

“We’re going to offer premade lasagna, chicken alfredo, meatloaf and other meals at the you can just pop in the oven.” he said. “This is the way the food industry is going.”

The new addition will likely start construction in March. Then it will be a five to six month process, during which time the grocery store will be accessible from a side door. Thompson hopes it’s all done by this time next year.

These new options will help John’s compete with the coming chain grocery store, as locally owned grocers become scarcer and scarcer.

But while the expansion will help, Thompson sees a greater advantage in doing what John’s has always done, which is offer a personable, nearby, neighborhood food source.

“We’re always here,” he said. “We employ locals. We’re friends with our customers.”

Thompson doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. But when he does, he’s hopeful that the changes he makes now will allow him to pass on a thriving business to someone else in the family.

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