New London Piggly Wiggly closing
Owner retiring after 49 years in grocery business
By John Faucher
Butch’s Piggly Wiggly grocery store in New London is closing its doors soon upon the retirement of its longtime owner Pete Butch.
Butch, who has worked in the grocery business for the last 49 years, has owned and operated the New London store located at 1919 N. Shawano Street, for the past 19 years.
“It’s been a good run,” Butch said from his small office at the front of the store during an interview with the Press Star, Sunday, Sept. 5.
“The lease was up at the end of October, and I turn 65 in October,” Butch said.
Taking on another lease would have pushed retirement past 70.
Over a year ago, he began trying to find other prospective buyers within the “Piggly Wiggly world.” When that didn’t develop any leads, they looked outside of the franchise for others who may be interested.
“So far, nobody’s wanted to take a chance,” said Butch.
New London has had a Piggly Wiggly store in the city since the early 1950s.
The city’s first Piggly Wiggly was located downtown on Wisconsin Street until moving to its current location in 1990, a then brand new 18,000 square foot building.
Other grocery stores in New London at the time included Ron and Lloyd’s Red Owl, Denny’s Supermarket and Markman’s.
Today, the only two remaining grocery stores in town are Festival Foods and Piggly Wiggly.
Piggly Wiggly’s closing announcement this week came as a surprise for many, and saddened customers in New London and surrounding areas.
More than once this week, Butch has heard the words, “This town is going to miss you.”
In the office Sunday, he held back tears as his eyes began to glaze.
“Not as much as I’ll miss the town,” said Butch pausing to take a long breath.
“The community is everything, they were just fantastic. The customers are very supportive. It’s been unbelievable and the employees have been fantastic,” said Butch.
“I thank the city. I thank New London for being part of a wonderful career,” he said. “I just wish we would have been going out a different way.”
In a statement Wednesday, Sept. 9, New London Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director April Kopitzke thanked Butch for his longtime devoted support of the chamber and the entire New London community.
“A prominent business closing in our small community can be shocking for some, but we fully respect Pete’s decision to retire and we wish him and Nancy nothing but the best,” said Kopitzke.
“Pete never hesitated to sponsor or support the Chamber and other community organizations and his business will be greatly missed.”
Butch said his wife and family have been supportive of him through everything, including when he first was thinking about taking over the store 19 years ago.
For the time being he said he doesn’t have any specific plans for what he’ll do in his retirement.
“I’ll take a while off,” explained Butch.
“Down the road I’ll do something, because I enjoy being with the public and being active.”
“Spring fishing will come, and maybe I can get back out on the water again,” he said.
“You know how it is when you own a business, you want to go but you can’t,” said Butch.
“The easiest thing is buying and selling is the hardest.”