Ten years ago, Frank Kuhn took the risk of leaping from working in a secure job that offered a weekly paycheck to opening his own business, a supermarket he called Mallard Market.
A decade later, not only is the business flourishing but the store has shown impressive growth.
Kuhn and his wife Karen purchased the former Golden Key IGA Market in 2002 and converted into Mallard.
Extensive renovations occurred to the store, including a modern front entrance, new produce, meat, and deli cases, a new roof, and additional product lines.
"Possibly the only original case in the store from when we bought it is the first 36-feet of dairy case," he said.
One new product lines recently added is called "Essential Every Day." It is the store's own brand, replacing the Rich Food label that Mallard used to carry.
The most noticeable improvement at Mallard Market is the meat department, with freshness being the emphasis.
Because of the emphasis on fresh meat, the recent hamburger controversy never was an issue with his store.
"We cut our meat fresh every day," he said. "We cut our own hamburger every day so we know what's going into our hamburger. We know there's no pink slime. We're not using that stuff."
Mallard Market has 34 employees, including two meat cutters with a combination of 60 plus years of experience.
"We kind of hang our hats on fresh meat and deli," he said. "Some of the big stores have centralized meat cutting. It's cut and wrapped somewhere else. You don't get that personalized service that you get here."
Kuhn, who has 35 years of total grocery experience, said he started out in high school working at the former A&P store, then worked for the former Laneco and also had a short stint at the Giant market.
Asked why he would take the leap into becoming self-employed, he said it's something he always wanted to do.
"I've always worked for someone else but always had a passion to own my own store," he said. "The opportunity came and fit, and I was fortunate enough to purchase it. I do the day-to-day operations and my wife does all the accounting work. And, we're blessed with a great staff."
Mallard provides employment opportunities for many high school students, but Kuhn stresses that he emphasizes academics to them, taking pains to work around their personal schedules.
One of the things that has made Mallard Market competitive with supermarket giants is participation in a Tri-State Ad Group, which works together on putting together specials, which are highlighted in the store's weekly circular. The Tri-State Ad Group consists of six store owners who own 12 stores.
"We pool our resources and buying power," he said.
In addition, the members meet periodically and discuss related problems and potential solutions.
"It's tough for independents to go up against the giants. Each year we lose a few of us. All of us have our own little niche," Kuhn explained.
Although independent businesses always have unique challenges, Kuhn is optimistic about the future of the store to the extent that he presently is considering an expansion or major renovation project in the near future.
Most impressive to the store owner has been the customer loyalty.
"We have a great customer base," he said. "We're proud of the customers we serve."
Mallard Market is open daily including Sundays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For more information, phone 610-377-5090. The store's website, for which the weekly circular can be viewed, is mallardmarket.com.
The weekly circular is also included in the Lehighton area copies of the EARLY TIMES on Saturday.