Glader’s Grocery, 2001

December 5, 2001

The loss of neighborhood grocery stores had been well-documented in Duluth in recent years. In the past several years alone, we’ve lost Bay Side Market on Park Point and Romano’s Grocery downtown, and temporarily lost Fourth Street Market, though that store has now reopened.

Here’s a 2001 profile of another store that hung on for years in West Duluth – Glader’s Grocery:

Wendy Glader stocks the shelves one afternoon in the the tiny West Duluth grocery store that has been owned by her family since she was 11. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)



By Baird Helgeson, Duluth News Tribune

Wendy Glader can’t imagine life without her tiny West Duluth grocery store.

Glader’s Grocery has been in her family for 30 years, since she was 11 years old.

The tiny three-aisled grocery store, at 5912 Raleigh St., sits between Grand Avenue and the St. Louis Bay, barely visible to passing traffic.

“I grew up here,” she said. “I can’t remember a holiday or a birthday that wasn’t spent here.”

Glader’s is a well-scrubbed but aging nook in a largely residential neighborhood.

The aisles are filled with bread, soup and Hamburger Helper. Coolers are stocked with frozen pizzas, TV dinners and Popsicles. The shelves behind the counter have a few batteries, aspirin and ponytail scrunchies.

She keeps a list of customers who have bounced checks in plain view as an embarrassing deterrent to those thin on cash but full of checks. “You start getting a lot of bad checks around Christmas time,” she said.

A picture of Jesus Christ hangs on the wall, not because of any particularly strong devotion, but because that’s where it has hung for 80 years, since the building was a butcher shop.

“We haven’t touched the picture since we owned it; but I probably should dust it,” she said with a laugh.

Wendy Glader takes a peek out of the store to see where a firetruck turned after it rumbled down the street. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)

During quiet times, Glader straightens inventory and listens to the police scanner behind the counter. She turns it on when she hears sirens.

Her 17-year-old terrier-Pomeranian mix, Kenya, ambles around the store, sniffing and tail-wagging the day away.

“There used to be lots and lots of these little grocery stores,” said Deede Westermann, executive director of the Spirit Valley Citizens Neighborhood Development Association. “But slowly they have nearly all gone away.”

The reasons are varied, she said. Some owners get old, retire and shut the stores down. In other cases, shoppers opt for the amenity-filled mall areas and larger grocers.

Neighborhood grocery stores used to be more than just corner stores. They were community gathering places, said Joe Perfetti, head of the Harrison Community Club. It’s where families gathered after Sunday church for coffee and rolls. It’s where old-time wheeling and dealing was perfected and laughter filled the aisles, he said. “But that’s all changed, now.”

Perhaps for good.

“People have to recognize the value of the small stores before they are all gone,” Westermann said. “In the case of neighborhood grocery stores, I don’t think that will happen.”

Neighborhood store owner Wendy Glader is reflected in the small corner mirror as she carries a box of paper products to the end of a narrow aisle for stocking. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)

Glader’s is the kind of place where Wendy is on a first-name basis with customers.

“Hi, Inga,” she said as the shy, willowy teen-ager came in. “What are you looking for?”

“Chocolate milk,” she said.

“Sorry, we’re out,” Glader said. “But we have that hot chocolate you like.”

The neighborhood grocery store probably wouldn’t be here today except for Glader’s quiet devotion. Mega-grocers moved into Duluth over the years and small, private neighborhood grocers have vanished by the dozens. Park Point’s Bay Side Market on Minnesota Avenue, the Fourth Street Market in Central Hillside and Romano’s Grocery downtown are among the last small groceries in Duluth.

But none is quite like Glader’s.

She is the only full-time employee and works seven days a week, with some fill-in help from her boyfriend. She hasn’t had a day off since July 4 this year, when she took her three children to Brainerd to see the Paul Bunyan statue. She can’t remember the last day off before that.

“Sometimes I don’t think I make any money,” she said. “But I pay all my bills and my kids are well dressed, so I really can’t complain.”

The store makes $400 on good days; top sellers are cigarettes and soft drinks. But Glader has given up on fresh meats and an extensive variety of vegetables and fruits. It’s tough to compete with the large grocery chains’ low prices, she said.

“I can’t blame customers for going there,” said Glader, who shops at the nearby SuperValu for fresh meats and other needs.

“Basically, they come here when they need an item or two. And I’m OK with that.”

An 80-year-old picture of Jesus hangs over some of the hair products Glader carries at her grocery store. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)

Glader’s offers one feature people won’t find at big-name grocers — a line of credit. She has about 30 customers who charge items onto an account and pay them off every month or two weeks.

A sign, next to the picture of Christ, says: “Your payday is my payday.”

Glader’s parents, Cliff and Jessie, bought the store 30 years ago for about $8,000 after diabetes forced Cliff out of his job as a Proctor bus driver. Jessie, a housekeeper at a nursing home, knew he couldn’t do it alone. She quit her job and they embarked on their retail adventure.

Glader bought out her brother and sister nearly seven years ago for $45,000 after her mother died and left it to the children. The other children didn’t want to run the store. But Glader couldn’t let the store, or the memories, go.

“That’s really why I still do it,” she said. “I don’t want to let it go. But with this economy, I can’t really see doing it forever.”

Glader has considered starting a child care in her Proctor home. The hours are better and she’d get to spend more time with her kids. But the ties to the store are strong.

Glader keeps going, seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.

“A lot of people think I live here,” Glader said. “But I have a house and a family. I’m not as into it as my dad and mom were. But I’m still here, still filling the shelves, still opening every day.”

Wendy Glader rips into a box from an early afternoon delivery so she can start stocking shelves. Her shelves may not always be full, like the larger store chains, but she tries to keep a good variety of daily necessities stocked. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)

Wendy Glader gives directions to a delivery driver trying to find his way back to the Interstate 35 after he completed his delivery to the tiny West Duluth grocery store. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)

I can’t find any more references to the store in our archives, and – correct me if I’m wrong – the store is no longer there. So, can anyone provide more information about when it closed? If so, please post a comment.

7 Responses

  1. Jim

    Looking at a 1956 city directory, it is amazing to see how many corner grocery stores there were in Duluth at that time.
    Very interesting article and brings back memories of good old West Duluth.

    1. sidonia slabodnik schumann

      A woman brought several dogs to our neighborhood grocery store off East Anoka street. Each one would carry a small package home in its mouth for her.

  2. Deb Erickson

    Wendy-I am so glad I happened upon this story, it brought back so many happy memories of when my children were young and we lived on South 59th for 10 years in the 70’s & early 80’s. Your parents were such a joy, and so understanding to those of us on a fixed income, often letting me charge a few essentials until payday. My two older children, Jody and Krista, spent untold minutes pondering what penny candy to get while one of your family waited so patiently on them. Jody was so excited to bring her daughter to your store to show her where Mama bought candy when she was little. I lost my Jody last summer to cancer, and I cherish the memories of her and your store as it was an important part of her childhood to her. After moving out of state, we still made at least one stop at Glader’s on visits to Duluth, at her insistance, to let her daughter buy candy. And she always told her the story of how proud she was when I finally let her go to Glader’s alone. I now am raising my grandaughter Morgan in Galena, Illinois. It is a small town; big enough to have a Walmart but small enough to have a cow pasture next to it. The whole town has that Glader’s air about it. Everyone pretty much knows everyone else and if you are a local, and a few cents short for a purchase, they know you are good for the money till the next visit. God bless you and your family, and mine thanks you for warm memories.

    1. Wendy Glader

      Hi Deb. Your letter touched me. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m sure I waited on you and your kids. I started working there when I was 11 years old. I am very proud to be part of the whole Glader Grocery stories. There are so many memories. My parents were so kind and warm hearted. They were hard working and they took pride in their store. I am so glad my loving parents and Glader’s Grocery made someone happy and gave people so many memories. Again, thank-you for the beautiful story. P.S On facebook I have posted some pictures of Glader’s on West Duluth Memories.

  3. kayla hall

    My parents owned this store and all my childhood memories were there, my mom even homeschooled my sister and I there.

  4. Mike Flaherty

    Glader’s must have closed shortly after that 2001 article. I shopped there several times when I was younger and knew the owner’s grandson.

    Back in the 1930’s, Peter Gerbich Groceries was in that building.

    In 1902, Joseph Schmauss’ meat market was located there. People say we are lawsuit happy today, but in 1909 Schmauss was sued by a woman who claimed she got the wrong kind of Polish Sausage.

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