Shoe Column: Neighborhood Grocery Stores Are a Thing of the Past
By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
Stevens Point neighborhood grocery stores used to be scattered all throughout the city. There used to be many. Now there are none.
Chalk it up to “progress”, I guess. In came the supermarkets and out went the mom and pop grocery stores. All that are left are the fond memories.
Let’s see. There was the Triangle Store, so called because it was on the corner of three streets. Division Street for sure, and I’m guessing Plover and Shaurette Streets. Then there was Westgate, one of the bigger ones located on the west side across the river.
Bob’s Food King in downtown Point always seemed to do a lot of business. I played softball for BFK for a few years, as did Dave Bisbee, Earl Higgins, Paul Thompson, Norm Dake and several others. One moment back in the 70s still stands out when it comes to that store.
I was in Bob’s Food King buying noodles or something. A big guy, the late Larry Fritsch, walked past me with a shopping cart and turned down an aisle. He stopped by the donuts and loaded all of the Twinkies into his cart! Later on, I found out why he did that. The Twinkies came with baseball cards, and Larry was the biggest card collector probably in the world. Not the state. Not the nation. The world. He made a great haul that day.
Bob’s Food King was located next to Ben Franklin. The store, not the guy.
Then we get to Weltman’s. Pretty sure there were TWO Weltman’s. One was on the corner of Water and Shaurette, and the other was on the square.
My favorite neighborhood grocery store when I was just a kid was Knudson’s on Strongs Avenue. Two incidents readily come to mind.
The first was when I was in about the fifth grade at St. Steve’s. Our class was holding a “bazaar” in the school gym. That meant that all the kids had to bring something to the gym and set up a table and try to sell the stuff. Only things I ever bought there were baseball cards, so this was a big step up. I ordered a box of 24 Snickers bars. Probably cost about $5. Figured I could sell each bar for 20 cents apiece and break about even. So on the morning of the big sale, I walked into Knudson’s to pick up my Snickers. But wait — oh no! They gave me a box of SNIRKLES instead! Didn’t even know what they were. Toffy bars or something. I took them and cried all the way on the walk to school.
Once inside the gym at my table, I learned Business 101 right on the spot. Put out a sign. Get one for 20 cents. An hour past. I was the only kid who didn’t sell anything. This wasn’t good. So I changed the sign: Buy one for two cents! Sold out in five minutes. Nothing to it.
Never missed going to Knudson’s on Saturday mornings. They had a penny gum machine. You put a penny in it and out came a gumball.
No big deal there. However, if you were the lucky kid to get a yellow gumball with a red stripe, you turned it in and they gave you a nickel — it was like winning the lottery. In three years, I never got the lucky one. But one morning, I did get a yellow one. So I went home, brought out my sister’s lipstick, and carefully painted a red stripe on it. Marched straight back to Knudson’s and turned it in to the lady. She studied the gumball, laughed like hell, and gave me the nickel.
There also was a grocery store right down Ellis Street a block or so from Emerson School. Since Emerson is also not there any more, it’s kinda hard to explain.
Barb Bentzen insists there was a grocery store called Feltz’s right around St. Stan’s. Let’s take her word for it.
Thrifty was somewhere around there, also.
I bought a candy bar at a grocery store on Forest St on the Northside. Don’t remember the name of the store … or the candy bar. And another grocery store called Stanislawski’s was somewhere around Bukolt Avenue.
Pretty sure Chartier’s was across from P.J. Jacobs High School.
Buffy’s Lampoon on the square is where Jurgella’s used to be, and the A&P across from the post office kept their watermelons outside. Northside IGA was a few blocks off the square. Charlie Fecteau was the great manager, and Barry Fecteau, Ma Pesch, Duck Shannon, Barb Alfuth, Mimi Peck, Katie Boyer, Pat Raflik, Ronnie Landowski and Jack Mrozinski all worked there.
The grocery store I was most familiar with was Cigels, owned by Harris Cigel, a super guy. Right across the street from my house. Cigel’s parents lived in the house which was attached to the store. Seemed like every time I was in there, Harris’ mom was holding a long stick of some kind trying to bring down a box of tissues or something. And in the summer, every time you walked by you’d see some of the neighborhood kids out there sitting on the steps drinking a Pepsi.
Hal’s Red Owl and Piggly Wiggly were definitely bigger than the old neighborhood stores. They’re gone, too.
I miss all those places. Progress sucks. Anyone wanna buy a box of Snirkles?