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Super longevity
Wangsgard's is thriving, thanks to loyal clients

At the northern edge of Ogden, Washington Boulevard splinters in five directions, forcing travelers to choose a path.

For more than a century, the unique intersection known as Five Points also has served as a focal point for shoppers. But even as the rest of the area's retail landscape changed, Wangsgard's Super Market thrived.Wangsgard's, 120 Washington Blvd., recently celebrated its 80th year of continued business with a $1 million renovation and grand reopening.

During the holidays, one longtime customer brought his grown children who were visiting from out of state to the store. He drove the family straight to Wangsgard's from the airport, telling owner Dee Hutzley, "I told them that they needed to see what wonderful things you've done to our store." The customer's comment reflects the loyalty for many.

When the century was young, Pete Wangsgard and his wife, Mary, ran the original grocery store, sandwiched next to the old Forester Drug store, a three-story building on the southeast corner of Second Street and Washington Avenue. Used as a local community hall, the Forester building featured a sit-down soda fountain and pharmacy.

Pete Wangsgard purchased the adjoining Forester building in 1947, expanding the business and giving sons Owen and Spencer the responsibility of running the store.

Mildred Stowe Anderson has been a loyal Wangsgard customer for more than 65 years. She remembers making a daily circuit to Five Points to shop and pick up mail. With her 3-year-old toddler loaded into a red Coaster wagon, Anderson and her sister-in-law, Lorene Stowe, both pregnant, would walk to Five Points.

After indulging themselves at Forester Drug with an ironport and cherry drink, they would use war rations to purchase a pound of hamburger for 15 cents (an amount that would feed the family for at least two meals).

The women would pause at the front candy counter, breathing in the aroma of fresh doughnuts laid out on a tray with a thin sheet of wax paper spread over the top. Sometimes they would bring their waste fat to exchange for butter or splurge on a quarter's worth of kippered salmon, Anderson said.

Pete Wangsgard would stand watch at the cash register, located atop a candy counter stuffed with peppermints, suckers, jellybeans and nutballs in yellow boxes. Waiting patiently for the ladies to count out their change or ration coupons, he would then fill a white paper sack with candy and give it to them for their trek home.

"During the war years and when my husband was laid off in the early 1940s, Pete Wangsgard allowed us to charge our groceries and carried us on credit for several months. I'll never forget that courtesy," Anderson said.

Owner Dee Hutzley spends every morning at the store, just like he has for nearly six decades. As a wiry 14-year-old, Hutzley began stocking shelves in the original store every morning at 6. He worked before and after school while attending the old rural Weber High.

After sweeping up and delivering the leftover orders to homes in the old Bonneville Park subdivision, he would run the 2 1/2 miles to his home in nearby Harrisville. Having already spent two years working alongside his father as a brick mason, he was eager for the responsibilities given him by owners Owen and Spencer Wangsgard, even driving the delivery panel truck without a driver's license.

"We had a real modern back room in those days," he joked. "It was the dark basement area under the corner building."

There were hooks and nails hammered into the rafters. Produce would be brought from the train depot on 25th Street.

"Stocks of bananas would come in dead green. We would hang them from the ceiling and let them ripen."

Huge wheels of cheese delivered direct from Kraft, weighing 90 to 120 pounds, were placed on a shelf to ripen in the dark. Upstairs, the cheese would sit, a hugh knife nearby, ready for use in hacking off hunks.

Local farmers would deliver 80 dozen eggs every morning. Hutzley would clean and check each egg in the store cellar before putting them out for sale, making sure each farmer got an even exchange in groceries for his goods.

"In those days, we boxed all the groceries and tied string around the top flaps to make more room." Many boxes were gathered for use from the liquor store next door.

On Sunday mornings, the wooden floors would be oiled and sprinkled with sawdust. Hutzley would sweep up and polish the floors.

Owen and Spencer Wangsgard eventually dissolved their partnership, with Owen Wangsgard retaining ownership of the grocery store. He offered a partnership to Hutzley and store butcher Russell Smuin and Cal Chandler.

With Hutzley as store manager, this new partnership expanded the business to include a pharmacy and hardware store. A new building was constructed directly across the street at its current location.

At the grand opening of the new store in 1959, Wangsgard's Super Market was one of a kind and touted as the largest store that the region had ever seen. With wide aisles, numerous checkstands, shiny linoleum floors and state-of-the-art lighting, it was the brightest store in the area.

Hutzley attended trade school and took correspondence courses to keep up on the business end of the enterprise.

"It was the wisest thing I ever did," he said.

The store held to a high standard of employment and dress. Shirts and ties were the norm, even for the baggers. The women all wore uniforms. High school kids were eager for employment.

The personnel roster churned out doctors, lawyers, school principals, ambassadors and surgeons, all who worked their way through the ranks of bottle return sorters to box boys.

"In our industry, people don't come to you skilled," said Hutzley. "If a person doesn't quite understand, it is our responsibility to teach them and make them a better employee. If we can't do that, then we have failed," he said.

"I learned on the job . . . I loved all of it. The wisest thing I ever did was get myself educated by taking every opportunity I could to learn."

The business had its roots in a time "when people loved their postman and trusted their grocer." It was built on the belief that personalized, friendly and efficient customer service was essential. Although there have been many changes and the technology is now different, Hutzley says the store's philosophy has stayed the same. "You've got to take care of the people."

Wangsgard's is still a family business. Hutzley has turned over the reins to his daughter, Sandy Dawson, who oversees the daily operation of the store.

"We have had some lean times, but we've always had the location and loyal customers, said Hutzley. "We have survived because of the Retail Grocers Association and membership in Associated Food Stores Inc. Being a member gives us equal buying power. Using a central warehouse is the life blood of our supply, it makes us competitive."

Although Hutzley laments the mergers that continue to swallow up less-competitive independent businesses, he believes that "in America, especially the Western United States, the independent grocer still has a very important place in the community."