Farmer's Store

Hallock, Minnesota

by

Chuck Howe

Senior High Division

 

Retailing is the selling of goods in small quantities toconsumers. The "retailing" serves as the last link in the seriesof middlemen through which goods move from the manufacturer or farmers toconsumers. They buy goods and know more about consumer demand than any othermiddlemen. They influence consumer selection. They finance by carrying goodsin stock and paying operating expenses. They assume risks in owning goodsand extending credit. A classic example of the business of retailing isthe Farmer's Store in Hallock, Minnesota.

The Farmer's Store was first incorporated in 1904. It wascalled the Kittson County Farmer's Mercantile Company. The original storewas much smaller in size than at the present. The people that formed theoriginal Farmer's Store bought out another store that was known as McCullenand Suppel.

The location is approximately the same, next door to Sjostrand's.The original store was a small wooden frame building. The board of directorsheaded by Andrew Anderson of South Red River township hired their firstmanager, Leonard Erickson, at a salary of $80.00 per month.

The farmers also used the store as a meeting place. Thesewere the days of the pot-bellied stove, open crackers and pickle barrels.The farmers used to stand around the stove in the wintertime and discusspolitics, weather and crop outlook. Very often you could see them dippinginto the crackers or the pickle barrels and munch on these while visiting.The storekeeper had a sharp eye and collected for these tidbits as the peopleleft.

When the Farmer's Store first opened, about everythingwas sold in bulk, pickles, crackers, cookies and apples all came in barrels.Sugar and flour were sold in 100 pound bags or barrels at that time. A lotof fruit was dried, such as, apricots, apples, prunes, raisins and dates.These items were then weighed at the time of sale. In those days, grocerystores also sold kerosene for lamps. There was no electricity in the homes.They also sold much china.

Some of the farmers sold their produce, such as, milk,cream, eggs and butter which they normally brought in gallon crocks, directlyto the store or they sold this to the people and lived in town. The farmersthen took other items they might need, such as, sugar or flour, in returnfor the produce they brought into the store. This kind of trading couldnot take place today due to food laws and regulations.

Today, milk must be pasteurized before it is sold and eggsmust be candled and graded before being put on the market to the customers.

The articles on the shelves today look much different thanthey did in the early 1900's. The customers selected what they needed outof the open barrels or crates and the shopkeeper would then place the itemsin a bag. Today, the foods are prepackaged, sealed and much fresher andmore sanitary. A person can find a jar or package in practically anythinghe wants in a size to suit his own needs.

Some stores then were called General Stores and sold everythingfrom boots to soda crackers. The Farmer's Store handled dry goods and groceries.

When the Farmer's Store first went into operation, theyhad only four employees. Today, that number will vary between ten and fifteen.The increase in the amount of the employees is due to more services beingoffered to the customers.

In 1915, they built the present building. When it was originallybuilt, the Farmer's Store occupied only half of the building. There wasa partition in the center of the building and the other half was occupiedby a drug store known as Robertson Drug Store which was there until 1957.Various doctors, lawyers, and beauticians have occupied the upstairs overthe years. The basement was rented out as a shoe repair shop and newspaperoffice.

In the early days of the Farmer's Store, more space wasdevoted to dry goods than to groceries.

John Swanson came to Hallock in 1910 and started to managethe store in February of 1911. He resigned this position in 1938 and becamepresident of the board of directors, a position which he held till his deathin 1973. His son, Leonard Swanson, is the present manager.

About 150 stockholders were involved in the original storeaccording to Leonard Swanson.

"It's an interesting thing about the Farmer's

Store, because it was started by a bunch of

farmers in the Red River area just out west of

Hallock." (1)

The farmers thought the store owners in the town of Hallockwere perhaps what you would call "city slickers" and were tryingto gauge them with their prices. The farmers figured that buying in thequantity and forming a cooperative would result in better merchandisingtechniques as they could enjoy better prices and still make a profit. Thisis how the Farmer's Store formed the incorporation.

The first eight years of operation for the co-operativewere rather shaky, and they found it necessary to borrow money frequentlyto keep operating. In 1909, they hired another manager, Victor Carlson.It was on the verge of bankruptcy when John Swanson started to manage thestore, in fact, the store was in the "red" or in other terms,they were losing money.

Mr. Swanson was hired by the directors for one year atfirst. His future depended on how the store did during the next year. Throughtighter management, better merchandising and additional products and services,the business increased. Mr. Swanson turned around the fortune of the Farmer'sStore and it started to make progress during his first year of management.After showing the directors that the store could be run profitably, theyoffered him the managership of the store on a permanent basis.

In 1914, Mr. Swanson entertained the thought of quitting.He felt that he had done as much for the store as he could due to the conditionof the building. It was an old building, rats were trying to take over,the roof leaked every time it rained. Between the rain and the rats, muchof the merchandising was ruined before it could be sold. In fact, he didgo back to Sweden.

The directors headed by Andrew Anderson decided to forma second co-operative to erect a new building at a cost of $38,000.00. Enoughmoney was collected to build the present building, The Farmer's Store. Thebuilding was completed in 1915 and Mr. Swanson came back from Sweden tomanage the store. He was associated with the Farmer's Store for 60 years.

Dollar-wise, the store did not do as much business backthen as it does now, but they did have a good business. At that time, therewere people living on practically every section of land.

At that time, more people used to raise and can their ownfoodstuffs and there was no demand for all the different kinds of foodsthat they carry today. The farmers used to load up their families and cometo town once a week as this was practically the only time the people saweach other.

No records of any kind were really kept by the store. Priorto about 1920, there were no forms that were required by the government.The only records that were kept at all were the amounts of credits issuedto the customers as a monthly or semi-monthly basis. When the people camein to pay, their records were given back to them. The kids always like togo along on payday as the storekeeper usually gave the kids a few piecesof candy.

About 1920, came the first income tax and this startedthe procession of records that a storekeeper must keep up to date to satisfythe government. Everyone is familiar with income tax and social securityand these records are just two of the many that are required today.

The Farmer's Store did not handle fresh meat in the pastas the fresh meat department is rather new, having been installed only afew years ago. The Farmer's Store handled cold meats, prepared and cannedmeats. One reason was refrigeration, another was that there were butchershops being operated in Hallock at that time and they wanted to leave thefresh meat field to the butchers.

There will be "retailing" in some form as longas there is man. There have been many changes in retailing over the yearsjust as there will be in the years to come. It will always play an importantand necessary part of man's life.

(1) Swanson, Leonard, January 26, 1975

Bibliography

Matthews, Gordon, Hallock, Minnesota, January 30, 1975

"Retailing" The World Book Encyclopedia. 1972ed., vol. 16, pp. 247

Swanson, Leonard, Hallock, Minnesota, January 25, 1975

Swanson, Leonard, Hallock, Minnesota, January 26, 1975

Swanson, Leonard, Hallock, Minnesota, January 28, 1975

Toffesdal, Elizabeth, Hallock, Minnesota, January 30, 1975

 >Swanson, Leonard, Hallock, Minnesota, January 28, 1975

Toffesdal, Elizabeth, Hallock, Minnesota, January 30, 1975