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Walgren’s — A grocery mainstay in Wauneta for 40 years PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 07 July 2011 20:24

By Josh Sumner

The Wauneta Breeze

 

Naming all the markets that have served the Wauneta community over the last 125 years would be similar to compiling an actual grocery list — it would be long, and you’d probably forget to mention a few of the stores on it.

Many outfits have come and gone, and there were often periods when multiple grocery stores served Wauneta simultaneously. Presently, Wauneta is a one-grocery store town, served proudly by Walgren’s Supermarket.

In business since 1971, Walgren’s has been at its current location since the early 1960s, when it was still known as Hoff’s Grocery. The family-owned business belongs to Bob and Sharon Walgren, and their sons Rex and Scott Walgren.

Wauneta grocery titan Bob Walgren displays a rack of sausages in this photo from the late 1950s, taken inside Hoff’s Grocery. (Courtesy Photo)

 

Bob has been in the grocery store business since 1945, when he started out sweeping floors and running carry-outs at the old Hoff’s Grocery store, which was owned by Amil Hoff. Amil sold the store to Arch and Elsie Counce that same year, but their ownership didn’t last long. In 1947, the Counces sold the store to Amil’s nephew Dwight Hoff.

Dwight Hoff held complete ownership of Hoff’s Grocery until 1961, when he and Bob decided to make the business a partnership. It wasn’t until 10 years later, when Dwight went to work at Super Foods in Imperial, that Bob and family became full owners of the business. It was that year, 1971, when Hoff’s Grocery became Walgren’s Supermarket.

The 1970s is when Scott and Rex took a bigger hand in the family business. Scott, who had worked at the store since high school, went right to helping run the store upon graduating high school in 1974.

Rex returned to Wauneta from Kearney in 1977 to also assist in the operation. Both brothers have been at the store since.

Things have changed in Wauneta during his 65 years in the grocery business, says Bob Walgren. Vendors can’t stack their inventory outside the store’s backdoor before hours like they used to. The grocery store has also gone from being full-service to more of a self-service endeavor. Those aren’t the only changes, however.

Up until 1986, when Jerry and Sue Horton closed the doors of the Jack and Jill Food Center, Wauneta routinely had multiple grocery stores to choose from. In the 1970s, if people didn’t like the produce at Hoff’s, they could walk down the street to the Co-op Supermarket to shop. In the 1940s, if people wanted a meat selection that B&B didn’t offer, they could take a gander at the cuts available at Stinnette and Wade’s. In the 1920s, the Hoff Mercantile Store was in competition with the Koon and Butler City Meat Market.

 

McNaul, Schutz lay the groundwork

The first store credited for selling groceries in Wauneta was started in the summer of 1886 by George W. McNaul. It sat at approximately the same location on Main Street that Valley Bank does today. The general store carried a variety of merchandise along with its grocery stock.

The store was heated by a “pot bellied” stove, which customers would gather around after a long ride to town by buggy or wagon. The room was lit by a kerosene lamp which was suspended from the ceiling. Customers even had the option of sitting down and enjoying snacks right there in the establishment.

McNaul’s store went through several ownership changes before finally going out of business. The property was later purchased and torn down by then Wauneta Falls Bank in 1953.

Another store, sometimes referred to as the Schutz Store, was started in 1897 by C.E. Schutz. A homesteader on the South Divide, Schutz had connections with the Wauneta Mills for several years. He opened the store in the Doty building, which stood near the present-day location of HomeTown Agency. Although under different ownership, the store was closed in 1913 when a fire destroyed the buillding.