Iconic landmark revived in Rural
By James Card
Husband and wife duo Chris Johnson and Stacia Fields have reopened the Weller Store in Rural.
They live on the same street as the store and their children and nieces and nephews (now adults) have memories of a cup in their home loaded with quarters. The children would grab the loose change and head to the Weller Store for 25-cent ice cream cones.
Those cheap ice cream cones were also memory makers for tubers scampering barefoot and dripping wet out of the Crystal River and also for weekenders browsing Mr. Weller’s vast collection of antiques.
“Over 56 billion served” read a sign in reference to the ice cream cones when Weller ran the store.
“Our main mission is to restore the buildings and to continue the tradition of retail here. And to continue creating new memories for people,” said Johnson.
Bob “Boob” Weller passed away in June 2020. His grandson kept it open for that summer and then is closed down. Johnson and Fields purchased it in early March 2022.
“We purchased it lock, stock and barrel,” said Johnson, meaning the buildings and their repair problems, as well everything inside. Weller had the place crammed with thousands of antique oddities in a semi-organized but musty inventory.
“We curate things and bring them out and have people come in and look at things that are old and jog nostalgia in their memories,” said Johnson.
In the retail area they have vintage lunchboxes for sale, along with old comic books, pocket knives, dishware, toy cars, tube radios, sporting equipment and other antiques. It is 2023 and the days of 25-cent ice cream cones are extinct from inflation. They do sell ice cream sandwiches and other frozen treats, and also chips, candy and cold drinks.
The Weller Store was once a Phillips 66 gas station and a grocery store. When State Highway 22 was rerouted, the gas station closed in the late 1980s. The 66 sign remains and it is the symbol of the store. Fields had stickers of the image printed. The building next door was once an art gallery and later an antique shop.
“I’m grateful and honored to have this opportunity to be the steward of this iconic property,” said Fields.
The last year and a half was one of enormous work. They sealed concrete, painted, put up insulation, built a ceiling, built walls, had a new roof installed and repaired the foundation. Family and friends helped but there is more work to be done. Their neighbors have been supportive of their work at keeping the store alive.
The Central Wisconsin Tractor Club and the Old Time Auto Club of Waupaca have swung by for pit stops during their club rides.
They plan to participate in the Vintage Shop Hop, a road trip treasure hunt involving more than 400 antique shops, barn sales and consignment shops in Wisconsin and Illinois scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 6-7.
The Weller Store will be open seasonally through early fall. Their hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The store is located on the corner of E1380 Main Street across from the Crystal River.