Wichita Feed & Hardware - resilient, after the crash
Imagine working after hours in your store -- and suddenly a pickup truck thunders through the wall and crashes into shelves, sending merchandise hurtling and smashing in all directions.
As reported at the time in THE BEE, Tony Cassinelli was still at Wichita Feed and Hardware at 8:15pm on Thursday, November 19th, when that very thing happened.
The driver of the pickup experienced a medical emergency which impaired his driving, causing him to veer off Johnson Creek Boulevard into the building.
Recovery, for the historic business, has not been easy. For the past four months, while still keeping its regular hours for customers, Wichita Feed and Hardware has been repairing not just its east wall, but also has been replacing five aisles of 25 to 30-feet-long wooden shelving inside the store.
Of course, all the merchandise on those aisles was knocked to the floor and damaged – including the entire inventory of light bulbs. Much of the merchandise had to be re-ordered.
"We are still working on getting merchandise back on the shelves," reported Pegg Cassinelli-Beeson, who co-owns the store with her brother, Tony. "We had to replace all of that shelving. It was antique wooden shelving that is no longer available. It took a month to replace, because the pegboard and metal shelving were not available right away, during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it took ingenuity to figure it all out." With one foot firmly in the past and the other in 2021, this venerable feed and hardware store has been in business for 84 years. It was founded in 1937 by Tony and Pegg's grandfather, Peter Cassinelli. Then their father, Henry Cassinelli, took over, working with an Army buddy, Art Hawkins. Their current staff includes three full-time employees and one part-timer, in addition to themselves.
Tony worked part-time at Wichita during his high school years; and, after graduating, he pitched in full-time to help his dad. Pegg went to Oregon State University for a degree in education, and filled in at the store as needed. After OSU, Pegg worked for two years at the Christy School for emotionally disturbed teenage girls. After that, she said, her dad needed help in the store, so she started working part-time – and finally one day he said, "Pegg, how about working here full-time?"
That was more than fifty years ago! Since then, Wichita Feed and Hardware has continued as a family-owned business, serving their customers with personal care, providing supplies for farmers and homeowners, and equipment needed by residents, builders, and contractors.
"We aim to give our customers complete satisfaction and to provide them with help", states their website. Pegg explains, "They [customers] come in with electrical and plumbing parts, and we give them advice about how to put them together.
"We either help them with their problem or direct them to where they can get help, recommending someone who does know if we don't," Pegg tells THE BEE. She has found it to be a two-way street – the customers and the owners educating each other over the years.
Tony and Pegg remark that they are glad the repairs, re-stocking, and extra purchasing are coming to an end after a challenging few months. But they are resilient, by all measures, and are happy to continue the longtime family business which has served so many customers, and been such an area landmark at 6089 S.E. Johnson Creek Boulevard for almost 90 years.
To reach the store, call 503/775-6767. Or, to see their products, photos of the store, and to learn more, go online – wichitafeedandhardware.com
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