Effort to turn old Red Owl store into museum takes flight

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A Minnesota man hopes to keep the legacy of a Midwest grocery store chain alive by turning the building into a museum - and he has plenty of memorabilia to make that happen.    

In its heyday, there were hundreds of Red Owl stores across the upper Midwest. Now, a group in Stewart, Minnesota wants turn the old storefront into a tribute to the beloved brand.

From spice tins to pop cans, Jim Pessek has always enjoyed collecting pieces of the past. But, Pessek's fascination with all things Red Owl is about to spread its wings.

"It’s just such an iconic brand - that logo, it’s a great logo,” he said.

Red Owl started as a coal store in Rochester in the ‘20s, but eventually became a popular chain of grocery stores around the Midwest. The Stewart store opened in 1939 and closed in 2003.

At one time, there were more than 700, but all but one were eventually phased out after Supervalu bought the brand in the late ‘80s.

"I wear this shirt around, and people come up to me and stop and talk to you about Red Owl. They remember where theirs was. They used to work at Red Owl, they can still list the address of where it was," he said.

Pessek has such fond memories of the store that he bought the building from the county for $1,000 with the hope of turning it into a Red Owl museum and community center. But so far, he and the Stewart Area Historical Society have only raised about $5,000 of the $20,000 needed to repair the leaky roof and replace the front window.

"This town has lost so much. The streets used to be full of businesses. Now, there is nothing left… [we're] trying to bring something back to this town, make it a nicer place to live," Pessek said.

Until the end of April, the Stewart Area Historical Society is selling T-shirts and sweatshirts with the Red Owl logo on them. In addition to raising money for a museum, the group is also collecting memorabilia. If you'd like to help, contact the Stewart Area Historical Society or find the GoFundMe here.