GIBSONBURG – Starting today, the grocery store started by Raymond Paul Kirwen is celebrating its beginnings back in 1922.
Kirwen’s Supermarket, 104 W. Madison St., has gone through changes in its century of existence, including several moves and expansions, according to Raymond Paul’s three grandchildren, Brenda Norton and her brothers Bill and Andy Kirwen, who now run the village grocery.
“His family were general store merchants in Helena,” Brenda said of her grandfather’s business background. From Helena, Raymond Paul struck out on his own and opened a store in Gibsonburg shortly after World War I during the Roaring Twenties.
Kirwen’s opened shortly after World War I.
The family said Raymond Paul thought Gibsonburg was a progressive community at the time.
Two of Raymond’s sons – Raymond Bud and Donald Edward – joined the business after World War II. But the Kirwens were a large family and the founder’s daughters also put time in working and growing the store, which is now a long-time staple in Gibsonburg.
The current owners said their aunts all had a big part in Kirwen’s in the past: Carol Holcomb, Peggy Wonderly, Rita Brown, Mary Herman and Nancy Kirwen.
Brenda, Andy and Bill became involved with the operation of Kirwen’s with their father, Don.
“Many of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren have worked here,” Brenda said.
After Don Kirwen died in 2008, the three siblings took over the store.
Andy and Brenda pointed out that they have numerous siblings who went their own ways.
“We were the lucky ones,” Andy pointed out. “We all decided to stay in the family business.”
“I enjoy it,” he added. “I love the people and the community.”
At Kirwen’s, Andy said he has seen the same customers he has waited on for years.
The store owners said they’ve seen their clientele change as time passes due to people dying and others moving in.
Brenda said all three Kirwens got an early start in the village grocery. “When we were 16 we were here.”
Deli, meats remain a big draw for village store
A fourth sibling is also involved in summer operations in the store at Madison – Julie (Kirwen) Bickford, who is an elementary teacher in Gibsonburg. Andrea said her sister is very helpful during the summer months in the produce section.
Kirwen’s first was started in a village building that had been a saloon, according to an old newspaper clipping.
The store has been in its current location on Madison Street for decades.
Andy said in 1991, they purchased two more downtown buildings and expanded.
“We own almost half a block,” he added.
“Since then we have just done updates,” Brenda added.
“We continue to change the store and make changes that are needed,” Andy said about meeting local needs.
Beginning on Monday, the Kirwens plan to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the family grocery with a sale and drawings.
While the store offers many items, Andy said Kirwen’s has two big draws which keeps people coming back.
“They come for the meat and the deli,” he said.
They also draw a lot of out-of-town residents who are camping at Eagle Lake and White Star Park.
“They bring us a heck of a business,” Andy added. “The campgrounds have been the big support.”
Both Brenda and Andy pointed out that Gibsonburg’s other long-time businesses have also helped to support and keep their store going for 100 years.
Andy said he deals with Ideal Bakery at 101 W. Madison St., which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, and Randolph’s TV and Service, 119 W. Madison, which both direct customers to the grocery.
While the supermarket will be celebrating its 100th anniversary, Andy said they will not be overdoing the celebration. Visit Kirwen’s online at kirwenssupermarket.com or call 419-637-2601.