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Grocery carts need repair too

It's a common dilemma that makes anyone's trip to the grocery store less than pleasurable -- getting the wrong shopping cart. No matter how selective you may try to be, it seems you always get the cart with the wacky wheel or the one that rattles...

It's a common dilemma that makes anyone's trip to the grocery store less than pleasurable -- getting the wrong shopping cart. No matter how selective you may try to be, it seems you always get the cart with the wacky wheel or the one that rattles or squeaks and won't let you make left turns.
There would be many more of those carts if not for Wayne Shinn.
Shinn owns Wayne's Supplies, a business that specializes in cleaning and repairing shopping carts.
Shinn's business is based in Duluth, but his work ranges as far west as Jamestown, N.D., to as far east as Manistique, Mich. In Minnesota, his work takes him south to Hinckley as well as north to the border.
Shinn said the price of a new cart ranges from $110 to $115. Keeping up on repairs will extend a cart's life an extra three to four years.
"This is basically the same as the maintenance you do on your car," Shinn said. "If you keep them up the lifespan is longer."
Shinn has been in this business since 1987. His retired friend, Louis Eskelsen, was looking for something to occupy his time, so he called Shinn and asked if he wanted to start a cart cleaning and repair business.
"When he called that day, it was probably the furthest thing from my mind of doing or ever wanting to do," Shinn said.
That first year, Shinn said they did six stores. This year, Shinn worked for approximately 73 stores.
Grocery stores rely on Shinn to clean and repair all the carts, not just the ones customers use. These include stock room carts, meat carts, produce carts -- all of them. "It's basically everything that they would use in the store," Shinn said.
Behind his truck, Shinn pulls a large trailer carrying everything he needs to get the job done. Welders, grinders, 10 different types of wheels, casters and a pressure washer, to name a few items.
He starts by pulling the carts outside behind the store. First he degreases the carts, then he uses a pressure washer to clean the carts with a water temperature of 190-degrees and pressure at 2,000 psi.
Next, Shinn inspects the carts and decides which ones need new wheels and other repairs. Besides wheels, Shinn replaces handles and leg-hole closers (the flap that children sit on).
Shinn said he charges stores on a piecemeal basis. If he cleans 50 carts, then he charges for 50 carts. If he replaces 10 wheels, he charges for replacing 10 wheels. "Then you don't overcharge the customer and you don't get yourself into a bind," Shinn said.
Locally, Shinn repairs all of Jubilee's carts along with a few Super One stores. His main competition comes from businesses in the Twin Cities. In the Dakotas and Northern Minnesota region, however, Shinn said he doesn't know of any competing cart repair and cleaning businesses.
Cleaning and repairing carts makes up close to 50 percent of his business, Shinn said. He also fixes floors and other equipment for grocery stores, and he does a fair amount of cleaning drive-throughs and sidewalks for fast-food restaurants, banks and credit unions.
Shinn said he has worked as a salesman his entire working life, and compares the revenue of his business to that of a commissioned salesman: it depends on how much and how well he does the work.
On a typical summer week, Shinn said he'll put in 80 to 90 hours a week. During the winter months he focuses only on repair work that he can do inside.

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