Petersburg family business Hammer & Wikan marks 100th anniversary

Anniversary banners are up at Hammer and Wikan’s hardware and grocery stores (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

The year 2021 is a big one for a Petersburg family business that operates grocery, hardware and convenience stores.

Hammer & Wikan is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year with some events planned this month and next.

Wendy Westre is the secretary of the company’s board of directors and is on the committee planning the anniversary celebration. She’s also the granddaughter of one of the two founders of the company, John Hammer, and is excited to reach such a milestone.

“I was pretty young when my grandpa passed away but I’m just thrilled,” Westre said in a recent interview. “I can’t believe it’s been 100 years. My dad worked in the store for over 40 years. My uncle worked in the store for a long time. Carlene [Wikan] worked there forever. You know you think of all these people that have come and gone through your life over the years and you know the faces that have come and gone and it’s just amazing.”

The company got its start when two Norwegian immigrants, John Hammer and Andrew Wikan partnered on a business called the Petersburg Dairy in 1921. It began with sales of milk and cream from a dairy farm at Point Agassiz nearby on the mainland. But it expanded into other food and goods. It has grown into a company with separate grocery, hardware and convenience stores.

According to family histories in the book “Pioneer Profiles,” both immigrated separately to the U.S. from Norway in 1909. It’s not known if the two knew each other before leaving Norway.

The company’s board plans multiple events in the community to mark the 100th anniversary. The first will be a celebration of its founders’ day on April 17. There will be giveaways and a raffle at the grocery store that morning followed by an afternoon event with a raffle and games at the hardware store downtown.

Westre said that was initially planned for March but was delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Working with the community and talking with the borough we’ve come up with the date of April 17 which is just a month away from our annual shareholders’ meeting,” Westre said. “And we’re hoping this year with this being our 100 year anniversary that most of the shareholders will be able to join us in town and celebrate not only our 100 years but just being together as the two families started back with John and Andrew.”

She said there are 77 shareholders of the family-owned corporation.

There are several events planned around the Little Norway Festival. The company will unveil a new mural on the side of the hardware store building Thursday, May 13. There will be a street dance and hot dog barbecue that day as well with a live band downtown. The company also plans an entry in the parade the following day.

The board also is planning a private excursion for shareholders to visit Point Agassiz and the site that was so important to the beginning of the company. And there could be other events later in the year.

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