Artifact of the Month
Artifact of the Month: May 2022

Wingren's United Groceries

Interior photographs of businesses are rare and exciting finds. This month's featured artifact shows the Wingren's United Groceries within a year of opening. It was fully stocked with produce, canned goods, seeds, and plants. Four men in smocks are behind the counter at the center of the store. From left to right the men are identified as Cy Steers, Richard "Dick" H. Laub, Al Wingren, and Paul Wingren. Lauren Gillespie is the man in a dark hat and suit acting like a customer and exchanging money with Paul Wingren.

After years of stops and starts, brothers Paul and Al Wingren opened Wingren's United Groceries at 344 Front Street on October 26, 1937. The downtown store remained in that location for 24 years, through World War II and the construction of the tunnel less than half a block away. In 1961, the grocery store moved down the street to 325 Front Street to the building that once housed Piggly Wiggly. Paul Wingren remained in the grocery business, opening Ketchikan's first modern grocery store in the west end. Al Wingren moved from groceries into menswear, becoming the owner of Gaffney's Clothing Store.

The photograph donor's father, Dick Laub, had experience in the grocery business from working in his family's store in his hometown of Hicksville, Ohio. Dick spent parts of 1938 and 1939 in Ketchikan working for the Wingrens. After a couple years in Alaska, he returned to Hicksville, met his future wife, and raised twin sons after serving in World War II. Cy Steers continued in the grocery business opening his own store, Steers Wholesale and Marine Overland Refrigerated Express. Lauren Gillespie was the Pacific Fruit and Produce Co. salesman, a job Steers assumed after him.

Ketchikan Museums, KM 2019.2.24.2
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Photograph (border cropped)Photograph (border cropped)