Rib Mountain’s Quality Foods will be sold to the owner of Lamb’s Fresh Market


RIB MOUNTAIN – After 21 years at the head of Quality Foods IGA, Jason Fritsche is taking a step back.

The business located at 2900 Rib Mountain Dr. will be sold to Ron Lamb, owner of Lamb’s Fresh Market on the north side of Wausau, Fritsche said. Sunday will be the last day for groceries as Quality Foods IGA, with Lamb taking over on Monday.

The hometown supermarket will then be rebranded as the second location for Lamb’s Fresh Market, Fritsche said.

Fritsche said it was bittersweet to end his job at the company. He’s been an owner since 1998, but joined Quality Foods as a store manager in 1981. Overall, this Wausau-area native has been in the food industry for about 35 years.

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It was a personal decision to sell the store, he said. Her son graduated from college and her daughter left for college. Working holidays and being constantly on call for decades was starting to wear him down, he said, and Fritsche is looking forward to more time in his schedule.

The 49-year-old said he would not retire but would look for another job.

While looking for a new owner, he said he wanted to find someone who would maintain the store as a local market. When Lamb showed interest, Fritsche said he knew he was the right person.

Lamb’s Fresh Market was previously an IGA of Quality Foods. Lamb changed the store’s name and appearance in July 2016 and has owned the location since March 2014 with his wife Cathy.

Lamb’s Fresh Market is now one of the only locally-owned small grocery stores in the Wausau area, as greater competition has descended on the small grocery market – stores like Walmart and Kwik Trip have seen growth along with grocery delivery services.

But Fritsche said he doesn’t think all major stores will totally wipe out the local IGA.

“I like to know who cuts my food, how they distribute it,” Fritsche said. “I think there will always be a market for us.”

Lamb's Fresh Market at 730 E. Wausau Ave.  on the north side of Wausau is pictured here in November 2017. The owners of the former IGA store purchase the Quality Foods IGA in Rib Mountain and it will become a second location for Lamb's Fresh Market.

IGA stands for Independent Grocers Alliance. It operates as a franchise and brings together independent grocers across the country. Stores are able to carry IGA-branded products in their stores and can look to other alliance members for advice and tips.

Quality Foods was the largest IGA north of Portage, he said. There are other small IGA stores left in Edgar and Athens.

When Fritsche bought the store in 1998, he bought it from a man he said owned nine IGA Quality Foods stores in the area, all of which were sold. One of those locations is now Trig’s grocery store on Business 51, he said.

After decades of running a grocery store in his hometown for the Rib Mountain community, Fritsche said he will miss his employees and customers who helped make the job so important to him the most. He knew customers by name and they became an integral part of his life.

The grocery store has 73 employees, including himself, Fritsche said. He said he thought Lamb would keep all the employees, but that would be up to him as the new owner.

As a local business owner, Fritsche has worked hard to be part of the community. He would sponsor softball teams and organize fundraisers for the Lions Club and the VFW.

“There’s never a weekend where you wouldn’t see a barbecue in front of my store to raise funds,” Fritsche said.

The Rib Mountain Lions Club served kids at Quality Foods IGA at Rib Mountain.

In the future, Fritsche plans to do her own shopping at the new Lamb’s Fresh Market store.

Although he looks forward to a more regular working life, Fritsche said he couldn’t imagine what it would be like not to spend a night managing a broken fan or a broken cooler at the store.

“The day after the keys are handed over, I will regret not having him in my life anymore,” Fritsche said. “There is no doubt about it.”

Do you have a question or advice? Contact reporter Megan Stringer at (715) 207-1571 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @megstringers.


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