DIXON – Oliver’s Corner Market does more than fill grocery orders. It fills a niche.
“We are a traditional grocery store with less variety than a superstore,” said Patty Oliver, who owns the store with her husband, Tim. “We try to offer everything that a person would need on a daily basis, and we try to offer it with convenience, quality, and service.”
That niche has helped the neighborhood market survive – and thrive – under the Olivers’ ownership for nearly 30 years.
The store is located on the corner of Brinton Avenue and Bradshaw Street, in the heart of Dixon – which is fitting, since the owners like the think of Oliver’s as the small store with a big heart, offering not only personal service, but community service as well.
Oliver’s offers many of the same things as its more super counterparts, just on a smaller scale – and with the kind of personal touch that a quintessential neighborhood market provides.
“We offer personal service: We’ll carry your groceries to your car, we’ll deliver them to your home,” Patty said. “Plus, we offer the convenience of not having to drive across town to then walk through a huge store.”
The store boasts a meat counter, a produce department, a salad bar, bakery and deli. It also carries the pantry staples and household basics – in other words, just about everything that big box stores offer, just with less variety.
The Olivers know most people do not and cannot do all of their grocery shopping at their store. But they know they fill a niche for many of their customers.
“No one does 100 percent of their shopping at one store,” Patty said. “We want to be your first store, obviously, but we know who we are, the niche we fill, and we try to fill that niche to the best of our abilities.’
“There are some people we see every day, some people we see once a week, and some people who just stop and get their meat for the month,” she said. “We see just about everything. We see the neighborhood, but we also draw from the greater area.”
Patty and Tim, married for 30 years, bought the small-town grocery store in 1987. They had a partner for the first 7 years, then bought him out. They have been sole owners ever since.
“I had wanted to be in business since my childhood,” Patty said. “I always felt it was my calling.”
Today, she shares that calling with her family. Tim does double-duty as the store’s butcher. Their nephew is assistant manager and his wife is the bakery and deli manager. Their brothers and sisters have worked at the store, as well as all six of their children, many of their nieces and nephews and even some of their grandchildren. And Patty? She’s not one to shirk the double-duty; she’s also the produce manager and bookkeeper.
The store itself is also part of an extended family of sorts. Oliver’s is part of a cooperative (co-op); Patty and Tim own part of a warehouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The membership gives them not only more buying power, but also greater ability to source specialty items, such as gluten-free products.
“There are literally thousands of items available to us that weren’t available before,” Patty said.
Technology has undoubtedly changed the grocery business, as much of the behind-the-scenes work has moved from paper to computer. But product availability also has grown and changed the business, as customers become more health conscious and seek more all-natural, organic, and/or locally produced food.
Oliver’s recently expanded its meat offerings to include grass-fed beef. The store will expand its produce department to include more local and organic fruits and vegetables, and with it will expand its salad bar. It also will add to its shelves some 500 items that are all-natural, organic, and/or gluten-free.
“If we want to stay with the times, we have to do it,” Patty said.
But despite all that change, the couple hasn’t forgotten the most important part of a neighborhood store: the neighbors.
The store is a regular donor to local fundraisers. And every weekend, from April through July, it has a cookout in the parking lot to benefit local sports teams, nonprofit groups, and other organizations.
“It started out probably when we first went into business,” Patty recalled. “A good customer of ours, her daughter got sick, and we had a parking lot cookout and raised $2,000 for them. The idea just came to us that, if we could do it for this family, then we could do it for another family or for an organization. The idea just grew from there.”
Groups sell hot dogs and pork chops, and Oliver’s supplies the meat and buns at cost, and donates the ice, condiments, and paper products.
“The money they make is theirs,” Patty said.
Personal service, changing with the times, a connection to the community, they’re all ingredients in the store’s success as a neighborhood grocer.
“It’s a necessity, and it’s an integral part of any community,” said Patty.” It’s challenging – every small business is challenging. It’s the same thing every day, but it’s always different.”
Oliver’s Corner Market
Address: 748 N. Brinton Ave., Dixon
Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; closed on Christmas