The Drew family calls it a career
On Sunday morning, brothers Steve and Phil Drew passed off the reigns of Drew’s Piggly Wiggly, after 70 years of family ownership. Taking the helm will be Debbie and Bill Schultz, owners of Lee’s Piggly Wiggly of Mosinee.
“The wonderful Schultz family expressed interest in the store and we felt it was a good fit,” Steve Drew said. “After speaking with members of the family, we agreed they were a good fit and the time has come to retire. I’m 64 and Phil is 73. Phil retired last year, and after deciding the sale to Bill and Debbie felt right and was the right fit, we decided it’s time to call it a career.”
The Drew’s grocery legacy began in 1944. While Phil and Steve’s father Shirley Drew was working in a grocery store in Rockford, Ill., his mother Marie informed him of a store for sale back in his hometown of Merrill.
“My dad was living in Rockford and working in a grocery store,” Steve said. “My parents were originally from the township of Doering. One day my grandmother noticed the Krueger family grocery store on East Main Street was for sale, and had an apartment upstairs. The store was where Allied Health Chiropractic is now located.
“We were living above the store the day I was born,” Steve adds in humor of growing up in the grocery business. “You wake up in the morning and dad tells you to go down and sort pop bottles, that was a big deal for us kids back then. Then while mom and dad were locking up at night, we would fall asleep on the 50-pound sacks of flour. That was probably the most comfortable spot in the store!” he adds with a laugh. “We stayed at the East Main location until our big move in ’59.”
Alongside their parents, Shirley and Elaine, Phil and Steve were active with the store from a young age, along with their late sister Shirlaine, who passed away at the age of 38.
In 1959, the Drew’s built a brand new store further east where Oak Park Dental is now located.
“That was a huge deal for our family business,” Steve adds. “For the first time we became an IGA (Independent Grocers Association) store, known as Drew’s IGA Food Liner. We bought from Copps Wholesale in Stevens Point, which is now owned by Roundy’s.”
The family would later opt out of carrying the IGA name, due to two other IGA stores in the city. In 1964, the store changed names again to Drew’s Supermarket as well as switching wholesalers.
In 1986, the family purchased Mel’s Big Dollar on the west side of town, which became known as Drew’s West. Years later, the family sold the store to nationwide chain Family Dollar.
The family moved the east side store to its current location at 3404 East Main Street in 1989 and switched wholesalers once again as Drew’s Piggly Wiggly.
“Of course I’ll miss it,” Steve Drew adds, as he works on finishing things up Monday morning.
“I’ll miss the generations of people most of all. There are three generations of friends and customers which come into the store; my mother and father’s generation, my and Phil’s generation and Steve and Betsy’s generation,” referring to his two children, Steve Drew Jr. of Merrill and Betsy of Milwaukee. Phil Drew also has two children; Jenny and John, both of Merrill.
“My wife Ginny and I are very thankful for our loyal customers and neighbors,” Steve said. “The transition has gone wonderfully and I know our tradition of service to our customers will not end here. There is no doubt in my mind of the Schultz’s carrying on that same sense of customer care we have had for the last 70 years. The only thing that is changing is the name.”
Lee’s Piggly Wiggly opened in 1988, owned by Bill Schultz’s father Lee on Mosinee’s West Side. While Lee owned the store, Bill managed the store with help from his older sisters, Marlene and Cindy.
After 26 years in the industry, Bill and Debbie affirm customer service and devotion to their employees have been their formula for success.
“Fresh, friendly and close to home are the words we live and work by,” Bill says. “We will continue to strive to bring the community the highest quality of services and products as we have always done.”
In addition the array of services and products the store already provides, the Schultz’s will bring with them all natural farmland pork which will be a first at the former Drew’s location as well as a larger selection of Angus beef. In addition, the Schultz’s plan to bring in new display cases for the meat and deli departments.
“We have a lot of ideas for the future, but as of now we are focusing on the transition and getting to know the community,” Debbie Schultz adds with a smile.
Geographically speaking, the Schultz’s not only face getting situated in a new location, but a location which lies in the vicinity of international retail/grocery giant Wal-Mart; a concept they had not faced in Mosinee.
When asked, Bill Schultz seems anything but concerned.
“Big box stores don’t scare me,” Schultz says with a chuckle and a grin. “They just can’t provide the community the same thing I can and that is genuine customer service. Debbie and I insist on being involved with our community and our customers, that’s just how we do things. We want to be on a first name basis with our customers when they come in. Our service ethic is all about keeping the community involved in our business and in turn keeping our business involved in the community.
“Many businesses today don’t really make an effort to know the customer, but we here at Lee’s make that effort,” he adds. “That’s what I feel what sets us apart from our competitors. By getting to know our customers, we in turn get to know what they want and need.”
“Our biggest asset is our employees,” Debbie adds. “We know they are the ones who make our business run.”
The Schultz’s plan to run both their Mosinee and Merrill stores, with the help of their daughter Jenny who will be assisting with front end operations.
“We are so happy to be here and starting this new chapter,” Debbie Schultz adds. “We are looking forward to getting to know the Merrill community.”