Steve and Elaine Roop make a great team. In the past 20 years, the husband and wife have opened multiple Roopers Beverage & Redemption stores in the Twin Cities. Steve provides the vision and oversees the stores, while Elaine supplies the advertising and marketing expertise – and, quite possibly, the inspiration.
The couple was still dating in 1992 when the idea of the first Roopers was born. Steve was working as a beer and wine salesman for Central Distributors. Elaine was a marketing consultant for a major insurance company, frequently travelling back and forth from Chicago. Steve mentioned to Elaine that he’d like to have his own store if he could find the right place. Elaine’s reaction: “Hey, why not? Do it!”
It was Steve who spotted the original store on Sabattus Street in Lewiston. The right place turned out to be a foreclosed property that Elaine generously described as a “little hole in the wall.” Steve called it “uninhabitable.” He gutted it out and then rebuilt it himself, working at the beer distributor during the day and building coolers at night.
The first Roopers started as a one-man operation – a beer and wine store and a redemption center. Some people had their doubts that the business would succeed, but Steve soon hired an employee and then another. Elaine helped get the word out through advertising and other ways, while cheering Steve on in the background.
In 1994, Steve opened the second Roopers store on Main Street in Lewiston. It was an old electronics shop; so naturally, Steve gutted and renovated it himself.
In 2004, Steve built another Roopers, this time from the ground up (the fourth in the chain, for anyone keeping score). With over 12,000 square feet, the Minot Avenue store in Auburn was the biggest that Steve had ever built.
On November 2010, the fourth Roopers was started on 1420 Lisbon Street in Lewiston.
Recently, The latest addition to the Roopers family is the renovated Florian’s Market on Main Street in Auburn. The Roops are excited about the new store, having revived the neighborhood landmark with a new floor and fresh coats of paint. They’ve torn out the deli and plan to move the redemption center to make room for more parking.
Though the Roops have worked hard over the years, they’ve also given back to the communities that contributed so much to making their business a success. Because bottle and can redemption is more than 10 percent of their business, bottle drives are a natural form of community involvement. Roopers support everything from Boy Scouts to Maine Catholic Charities to, recently, a woman going on a mission trip to Africa. The fundraising drives can mean redeeming thousands and thousands of containers in one day, or running an ongoing campaign that lasts up to a year.
Steve and Elaine are especially fond of youth sports teams like Little League baseball, youth football or high school cheerleading. With sports funding being cut in schools, the Roops do their best to offer a boost by sponsoring teams and giving an additional penny on redeemed containers during drives. “All those extra pennies can quickly add up to thousands of dollars,” said Elaine.
Steve believes that the strength of Roopers’ employees is that they care about doing a good job. Likewise, he tries to do his best by them by paying a fair wage and providing health benefits and vacation time. He also insists on being direct with his employees and setting good boundaries, an approach he uses with vendors and business contacts too.