Oleson's Food Stores has a large buffalo herd that supplies natural buffalo meat to its four Northern Michigan stores. (Courtesy | Oleson's Food Stores)
Oleson’s Food Stores has a large buffalo herd that supplies natural buffalo meat to its four Northern Michigan stores. (Courtesy | Oleson’s Food Stores)

LANSING, MI — At Oleson’s Food Stores in Northern Michigan, you’ll find something you likely won’t find at other grocers: buffalo meat.

The family-owned grocer has a large buffalo herd that supplies natural buffalo meat to its stores and restaurants.

One of Traverse City’s oldest grocers is getting some recognition for doing things its own way.

Oleson’s in Northern Michigan and Lipari Foods, headquartered in Warren, were recently spotlighted by the Michigan Grocers Association with the 2017 Al Kessel Outstanding Achievement Awards. Kessel, who died in 2012, was a MGA director and founder of the Flint-based Kessel Food Market chain.

The small grocery chain got its start in 1926 when Gerald “Jerry” and Frances Oleson opened a small store in Traverse City. The business has since grown to four stores in Traverse City, Petoskey, and Charlevoix. Today, grandson Don Oleson is president and his son DJ is vice president.

Oleson’s is the association’s oldest member, joining in 1934. A former MGA board chairman and current board director, DJ is part of the grocer’s fourth generation along with his brother Brad and cousin Martha “Marty” Watts.

Since 1956, Oleson’s has donated all the food as well as thousands of hours of time for the annual Northwestern Michigan College BBQ to raise money for scholarships, equipment, and much more. The Oleson Foundation grants close to $1 million…