BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) - Four hundred employees of grocery stores in Bemidji and Wahpeton, N.D., are getting ready to take them over. Workers at Bemidji, Wahpeton groceries taking over

Joe Lueken, owner of the stores that bear his name, is retiring. The transfer to an employee stock ownership plan becomes official on Sunday.

Store managers say they believe the three stores could have fetched $30 million from outside owners. Instead, employees will pay Lueken store profits for the next five to seven years.

Maria Svare, a manager at one of the Bemidji stores, says Lueken's decision will probably save many jobs and keep profits in Bemidji and Wahpeton.

To participate, store employees must be over 21 and have worked there for at least a year. But they didn't have to post an upfront investment.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)