Once again the Fremont Store has reopened after a recent remodel and update. Minnesota’s oldest continuously-run grocery store was built by Luther Rice in 1856, two years before Minnesota became a state. It was originally located at a nearby settlement called Neoca, but a few years later the entire building was moved to its current location. Rice named the store in honor of John C. Fremont who was running for president at the time. The store has had 10 owners through the years including the Kelley brothers, Frank Root and, most recently, Donnie Johnson and later his mother Martha Johnson for years. When Martha passed away in July 2021 at the age of 105; the store was put up for sale.
Enter the Weggs; Bradley Wegg drove by the store and noticed the for sale sign. Everytime Bradley and Bonnie went into a craft store or boutique, Bradley had told his wife she needed her own shop. He went home and told Bonnie they should buy the Fremont Store.
Bonnie had run Steiny’s, a bar in Winona; she had sold her bar and had already started her own craft business creating original art painting on wood and decor. Owning her own store was the perfect next step. The Weggs decided to sell groceries, local products, and crafts at their store.
When the Weggs purchased the store in December 2021, they didn’t realize how much the kitchen portion of the store would delay their remodel. While they did most of the remodeling themselves, they hired contractors for the kitchen portion. The kitchen has passed all inspections and is now ready to use.
All the flooring, counters, and shelves are original to the building. A neighboring young man took care of sanding and polying the ancient wood floor. The store boasts the original safe as well. Bonnie uses an old fashioned candlestick phone at the store. Nearby, a working gramophone record player sits and an antique cash register adds even more authenticity to the old store.
The store has become a family project for Bonnie and Bradley. Bonnie’s mom helps with inventory; her sister and niece helped with the clean-up. Bradley’s mom who lives in Indiana loves history and has been digging into the history of the Fremont Store.
Bonnie shared that there was an overwhelming response from vendors and crafters when she first posted a request on Facebook. Vendors continue to call to this day. It was frustrating for the couple to have delays in opening, knowing the vendors were eager to get in. Once they had the go ahead from inspectors, Bonnie stocked the store and opened in early November with an emphasis on crafts.
Currently, there are around 20 vendors who have their crafts on display at the store. In keeping with the store, many of the items are rustic. Bonnie is looking for a jewelry vendor to fill out the store’s offerings. Bonnie and Bradley are trying to keep the emphasis on local goods; they look for Minnesota made and U.S. made items.
The store continues to sell groceries in homage to the beginnings of the store. After the first week of being open, Bonnie shared that the community was extremely happy to have the store once again open. Guests commented on the wide variety of goods available. She noted she was surprised at how many people picked up a few groceries as they visited to check out the store and crafts.
B & B’s stocks a wide selection of locally produced food and gift items. Available at the store are goods from Metz Hartland Dairy, Frickson Farms, Hart Country Meats, and McCabe Family Farms. Local honey from both Spring Bee and Bluff Country can be found on the shelves. Watkins products, Heggie’s Pizza, Country Corn Crib candles, Cabin Coffee, and Valley Fudge and Candy treats round out the selection on the shelves. Pints of Chocolate Shoppe ice cream can be found in the freezer.
A few things remain to be finished at the store. The outside awning was beyond repair and will need to be replaced. Maintenance on the 166-year-old building will, of course, be ongoing.
After the holidays, Bonnie plans to focus more on the deli area of the store. She hopes to offer scoopable ice cream from Chocolate Shoppe next summer. Once the kitchen is up and running there will be fresh deli sandwiches available.
Bonnie puts on the coffee and opens the store at 7 a.m. everyday Wednesday through Sunday for customers wanting a coffee and possibly a pastry or other sweet treat. The store closes at 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and at 4 p.m. on Sundays. Always an early bird, Bonnie figures she might as well be open for customers early. Bonnie takes care of their menagerie (12 fainting goats, two horses, and three dogs) on their five acres before heading to the store.
Bonnie, who says she has always been a people person, enthused that it makes her heart happy when people walk in the door and are “just loving our store!” Her only regret is that Bradley, who is gone for an extended time for work, was not able to be there for the grand opening of their store.
If you are looking for a unique general store with a touch of arts and crafts, some great food, and a good dose of history, be sure to stop in at B & B’s Fremont Store. Bonnie can’t wait to share her store with you!