Editor’s note: In its May 15, 2024, edition, the Sun Times News included a special “Discover Tecumseh” section. It contains articles describing many of the businesses and community life in this charming town. We’re running the articles online and encourage you to add a trip to Tecumseh to your list of fun things to do this summer.

Ken Heers and Justin Dalenberg are the driving forces behind a thriving family of businesses in rural Southeast Michigan, which includes Perky Pantry, Doll N’ Burgers, Manchester Market, Jerry’s Market, and Lenawee Fuels. These ventures not only cater to the community’s diverse needs but also showcase a successful model of local entrepreneurship and adaptation, especially during challenging times.

Doll N’ Burgers, their notable burger chain, was founded amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic on March 23, 2020, the day Michigan shut down. Ken recalls the inception: “We started Doll N’ Burgers during the pandemic, but just under six months later, we opened our second location in Jackson.” This expansion occurred when the pandemic severely impacted local businesses, necessitating layoffs and adaptations. “Michigan restaurants were decimated. They were shut down over and over again,” Ken noted, highlighting the challenging conditions they navigated.

Beyond restaurants, the duo ventured into retail by acquiring and revitalizing the Manchester Market in September 2020. This acquisition aimed to address a significant local need. “Manchester was a food desert…they had the dollar store. But no produce,” Ken explained, emphasizing the community’s demand for a reliable grocery store. Their plan involved expanding their existing operations, “Our plan with that building was to expand the butcher shop, bakery, and commissary.”

More recently, Justin and Ken bought Jerry’s Market to replicate their success in Manchester. Their priority is to stock it with as many products as possible close to home. The two firmly believe that local food sourcing plays a crucial role in enhancing community sustainability by supporting local farmers and reducing the environmental impact of long-distance transportation. Additionally, it ensures fresher, often more nutritious produce for consumers, fostering a healthier, more connected community.

Lenawee Fuels, another facet of their businesses, serves a broader range, including municipalities and farmers. Lenawee Fuels also supplies the Perky Pantry chain of convenience stores in the Tecumseh area.

Moreover, the business partners focus on sourcing locally, benefiting their products and the local economy. The ingredients for Doll N’ Burgers, such as the buns and meat, are sourced from local farms and bakeries, enhancing product quality and supporting local producers. “We try to source everything we can from Michigan. It’s our philosophy,” Ken emphasized.

Through strategic expansions and community-focused operations, Ken and Justin have not only sustained but also expanded their ventures, demonstrating resilience and a deep commitment to their community’s economic and social well-being.

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