Customer appreciation day Saturday, Feb. 4
By Starrla Cray
WAVERLY, MN For Pete Chmielewski, owner of Pete’s Grocery in Waverly, the time to retire has arrived.
“I’ve been threatening it for a long time,” Chmielewski said with a smile.
He is planning a customer appreciation day Saturday, Feb. 4, to thank the citizens of Waverly and surrounding communities for their support throughout his career.
“We’ll have coffee and cookies, and prices in the store will be marked down,” Chmielewski said.
He plans to close Pete’s Grocery after his inventory has been sold.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to attract a buyer, and get it back open in short order,” Mayor Connie Holmes said.
Anyone interested in purchasing the store can contact Al Doering at (763) 658-7040. Doering is part of a “support Waverly” group that raised nearly $30,000 for remodeling and repairs of Pete’s Grocery in 2005.
“We can assist with reviewing the historical operating numbers, providing some legal advice, as well as help in finding financing options,” Doering noted.
Goodbye, grocery store
The prospect of not having a grocery store in town is disappointing for many Waverly residents.
“It’s very sad,” lifelong Waverly resident Gerry Smith said. “I’ve shopped there more than 61 years.”
According to Montrose-Waverly Chamber of Commerce member John Peterson, Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company conveyed the property to E.J. Kohanek in 1911.
In 1944, Kohanek conveyed the property to Henry “Heine” Franske and Katherine Franske.
Smith worked at the store from 1950 to 1960, when it was owned by the Franskes.
In 1972, Jerry McRaith purchased the store, and Chmielewski bought it less than a decade later.
Although Chmielewski had just graduated from college at the time, he was no stranger to the grocery industry.
Chmielewski grew up working at his parents’ grocery store in Foley, learning everything from bagging groceries to stocking shelves.
He earned a degree in business management to help him in his career, and was excited for the opportunity to purchase the Waverly store.
“It’s good to be a small business and be part of the community,” he said. “You know everybody.”
Chmielewski didn’t know he’d stay in Waverly for the next three decades, but he’s glad he did.
“I just liked the community and liked what I was doing, so I just kept going,” he said.
One of his employees, Rosemary Doering, has been with the store since before he started.
Many workers, however, have come and gone throughout the years.
In addition to Rosemary, the store’s current employees include Alayna Karras, Kendra Klima, and Kenny Parks.
As the owner, Chmielewski works about 60 hours per week.
“I do everything cut meat, do ordering, bookwork, and oversee everything,” he said.
Throughout the years, Chmielewski has enjoyed seeing changes in the industry.
“It’s an interesting business to be in,” he said.
Back when Smith was working there, the store also sold dry goods, such as pillowcases, undergarments, and boots.
Although those items are no longer carried, Chmielewski said grocery stores have more product choices than before like selling bottled water, for instance.
“When people come in, we try to help them get what they need and what they want,” he said, adding that he’s always been open to requests. “If one person wants it, chances are, other people do, too.”
Several decades ago, Waverly was home to three grocery stores and a meat market, Smith said.
“Business isn’t what it used to be,” Chmielewski said.
Chmielewski, who enjoys golfing, fishing, and bowling, said he’s still exploring his retirement options.
“I’m going to do something, but I haven’t decided just what,” he said. “I haven’t gotten that far.”
Currently, Chmielewski is active in the community as a member of the Waverly Lions Club and Montrose-Waverly Chamber of Commerce. He is also a retired member of the Waverly Fire Department.
Pete’s Grocery is located at 410 Elm Ave., and can be reached at (763) 658-4113.