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Korczak’s grocery store era comes to an end in Greenbush

Michael (Mike) and Felix Korczak (photo by Mavis Gonshorowski)

Mike and Frances Korczak are pictured in their grocery store, Mike’s Red Owl, in the 1950’s.


With the passing of time, many changes have taken place in Greenbush’s business district.  The most recent being when brothers Felix and Michael (Mike) Korczak sold their grocery store, Squid’s Market.
“Years ago, some of the businessmen were concerned about how the stress of mail order catalogs was affecting local businesses. And it’s still happening, only greater,” Felix said. “At one time Greenbush was full of business places – five grocery stores, eleven filling stations, a couple of hardware stores, two restaurants, clothing stores, three or four implement dealers, a movie theatre, four taverns and the Legion…”
When the word spread that Squid’s Market was listed for sale, many people conveyed concerns as to whether or not  this was the end of an era for a  grocery store in our little town.
Exciting news was welcomed when it was learned that Corey and Ket Christianson of Badger, Minn., owners of KC’s Market, had “sealed the deal” to purchase Squid’s Market.
Join us for a stroll back in time…
It was in 1951 when Mike Korczak gained a franchise with Red Owl Stores, Inc., and his grocery business became known as Mike’s Red Owl. He had purchased the building in which Charles Anderson owned and operated Fairway Foods, directly across the street from the present-day building.
By 1957, Mike and his wife, Frances had outgrown their little store and decided to move across the street.  Their son, Felix, was nine years old; daughter Mary was three, and son Michael was born in September ‘57. Later, brothers Kenneth and Robert joined the family.
The Greenbush Centennial Book tells that on April 18, 1957, Red Owl Agency owned by Mike Korczak builds 40’x120’ structure of concrete block with brick front for a new store with a large business area and three-bedroom living quarters in the back.
August 1, 1957 … Grand Opening of the New Red Owl Store – self-service meat counter, frozen vegetable aisle, 80 more feet of shelving, scale and walk-in cooler. Mrs. Gilbert Anderson, Mrs. Clark R. Johnson, and Mrs. Mike (Frances) Korczak works in the store.
“It was a brand new grocery store and it was up-to-date,” Felix stated.
“We were working in the store when we were kids – helped with the unpacking. When we were still too young to mark the prices on the goods we had to pick up scraps from the floor. Everyone had something to do.”
Job listings changed as the children got older.
Mike offered, “Eating potatoes used to come in 100 pound gunny sacks. They were dumped from the sack into a box and Felix, our sister Mary, and I had to put ten-pounds of potatoes into brown paper bags that had handles across the top for carrying.”
Herring was kept in a barrel inside the store while the frozen northerns were stacked in shopping carts in a cold-storage area in the front of the store. This area was taken down for the summer.
“I remember shoppers helping themselves to herring from the barrel to sample,” Felix laughed. “They’d walk away saying, ‘that was good!’ ”
Michael commented, “When I was a kid, Lars Wold, the boss from Bridgeman, would come and hand out samples of mini-ice cream cones in different flavors to anyone who would be at the store.”
Felix added with a sly grin, “We had lots of samples throughout the day!”
He went on to tell that it was his job to burn the trash in a 55-gallon barrel out back. “One time Lynn Rigstad picked up the trash which unknowingly still had a spark or two in it and the back of the garbage truck burned up!”
Mike Korczak passed away in 1975 and Frances, along with sons Michael and Felix continued to operate Mike’s Red Owl.
To see the complete story, read the December 5 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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