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JR’s closing after three decades

Hardware store shutting down, key business still open

By Robert Cloud

After 34 years as one of Main Street’s retail anchors, JR’s Waupaca True Value Hardware is going out of business.

Owned by Roger and Gloria Coenen and managed by their daughter, Bonnie Olsen, the store has been on the market since May 2015.

“We decided that if no one bought it, we were going to close the hardware store and I would be an independent locksmith,” Olsen said.

The Coenens opened their first hardware store in Hortonville in 1980, then expanded by opening stores in Manawa and Waupaca.

They later closed the Manawa and Hortonville stores, concentrating their efforts in Waupaca.

In the early 1980s, Roger taught himself locksmithing and started JR’s Lock and Key. He later taught Olsen, who has been with the business for two decades, how to be a locksmith.

The two of them traveled throughout Waupaca County and beyond, rescuing stranded motorists. They worked with area law enforcement and AAA.

On Christmas Eve 1999, Coenen received a call around 10:30 p.m. that a baby was locked inside a car. He drove 35 miles to unlock the car.

“Mom retired five years ago, then it was Dad and I running the store,” Olsen said. “He became pretty sick about a year ago.”

Roger Coenen passed away on April 22, 2016.

Since then, Olsen has been managing both the hardware store and the locksmith shop by herself.

“When it was Dad and I, I worked only about 50 hours per week,” Olsen said. “Last week, I was here 67 hours.”

The long hours are due in part to JR’s liquidating its entire hardware store inventory.

Olsen said the hardware store will probably remain open until the end of the summer or all the inventory is sold.

Olsen believes JR’s Waupaca True Value has thrived for so long while competing with the “big boxes” because the local store and its staff have provided outstanding customer service.

“If you provide good service, they will come,” she said. “But if they drive past and can’t find a place to park, they’ll keep on driving to Fleet Farm, where they have to park just as far away.”

She said she appreciates the community’s 34 years of supporting the local business.

Olsen plans to continue operating JR’s Lock and Key in the same building until it is sold. She hopes to lease the space after it is sold.

The phone number where the key business may be reached is 920-570-2311.

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