Hollis Turnwall has been involved with Karlstad Korner, a business located on the corner of Main Street South and Cleveland Avenue, or Highway 11, in Karlstad for the last 50 years.
When asked to confirm he had been with the business for 50 years, he said he opened it up at that time and said he would stay for two years.
“Two 25’s,” Hollis said, getting a laugh from Carolyn Turnwall.
As both Hollis and Carolyn Turnwall look for prospective buyers of the business, they held a Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of Super America and Karlstad Corner and Hollis’ dedication to the business for all that time on May 16. They also hosted the celebration as a Twenty-Fourth Anniversary to its Hot Stuff Pizza Franchise and as a Syttende Mai Celebration of their Norwegian heritage.
A few days prior to the celebration, they discussed their time with the business— including its changes along the way, its connection with the community and to their Norwegian heritage, and their best memories of the business over the years.
Super America, now known as the Karlstad Korner, opened its doors on May 11, 1971 by owner Bob Carlson. He owned the business for about 20 years and sold it to his son, Todd, who owned it for about 10 years. The Turnwalls have owned the business ever since. The business’ name changed to Karlstad Korner prior to the Turnwalls’ purchase of it.
Hollis said he was about 25 years old when he started working at the business. Asked what he did when he first worked here, Hollis said he was the “pump devil.” This got another laugh from Carolyn, who added that he was the manager at that time.
As for changes in the business over the years, Hollis pointed to the closing of the grocery store. They were sitting down for this story interview in the space that used to be the grocery store. It transitioned to a hardware store before turning into what it is now storage space for the convenience store.
Shortly after the closing of the grocery store, Hot Stuff Pizza became part of the business in 1997. About 15 years ago, the Turnwalls remodeled the store, opening up some space to become part of the current convenience store.
Speaking of Hot Stuff, Carolyn explained why they are celebrating Hot Stuff’s Twenty-Fourth Anniversary, instead of its Twenty-Fifth.
“Because we’re trying to sell, we don’t expect to be here for the 25-year anniversary of Hot Stuff,” Carolyn said. “We thought it’s a good time to celebrate it.”
At the celebration, besides serving hot dogs, hamburgers, and cake, they also served Hot Stuff Pizza by the slice— 20 plus pizzas.
Carolyn spoke further about changes, mentioning a story Hollis told her about when he worked here in the 70’s— by himself most of the time.
“I would suppose it was in the 70’s when Tom Olson wanted a coffee… and you (Hollis) had to bring in the coffee pot and have coffee in the mornings because (it was) when there was no coffee,” Carolyn said. “And then when they started coming to sell bottled water, Hollis always thought, ‘Oh my, why in the world would we ever sell bottled water?’ And now today? It’s a really big deal.”
Hollis said water now occupies the most space in the store’s cooler, something he considered “insane.”
“You probably have just as good of the water on your faucets… but it doesn’t have a name,” Hollis said.
“But it’s not nice and cold,” Carolyn said with a little chuckle.
“Put it in the fridge,” Hollis said. “It’d be nice and cold.”
They also decided to use this event last weekend to celebrate their Norwegian heritage, specifically Syttende Mai, or Norwegian Independence Day on May 17— the day after the Karlstad Korner celebration.
“We’ve always celebrated that just because people, we’ve got a lot of Scandinavians in this area,” Carolyn said. “And so we started doing the celebration on that particular day, doing all the Scandinavian treats like we have listed on our program here.”
At the celebration, they gave away Scandinavian treats, including Rømmegrøt, rice pudding, lefsa, pickled herring, and krumkake. Carolyn also wore a red and white Norwegian dress for the occasion. One can also find a hint of their proud heritage as he or she enters the front door of Karlstad Korner. Black lettering reading “Valkommen”— meaning welcome— hangs above the door.
They continue to look to sell the business, finding it to be the right time.
“I was hoping to sign the papers (to sell) this weekend,” Hollis said jokingly, getting yet another laugh from Carolyn.
“Then it would be a full-blown celebration,” Carolyn said laughing.
As Carolyn explained they are getting tired and are ready to move on.
“We’ve got good staff. We could never do it without them,” Carolyn said. “… We are both getting to the point where being in our late 60’s and 70’s, being that we just need to stop. We need to rock the babies and help old people; that’s what I’m going to do.”
As Carolyn added, they have a great grandchild. After she is no longer working, she will have the chance to do that rocking.
Hollis said he has not given much thought about what he’ll exactly do in retirement.
“Nobody’s… wrote out a check yet (to buy the business), so there’s no point in worrying about it,” Hollis said.
He then went into the best thing about running this store. He pointed to all the people he has worked with over the years, including the many youth who have come to work in this store.
“The hundreds and hundreds of kids that have worked for me, how dramatically they’ve changed how much fun it’s been. Some of them are my sons and daughters,” Hollis said. “They don’t know it, but when they leave, it’s just like losing one of my kids. But it sure is fun watching them, watching them grow up and change. So many of them could turn around and run the store better than I could, almost all of them.”
To see the complete story, read the May 20 issue of the North Star News in print or online.