by Joe Bachman
Since 1920, J.C. Penney’s has been a staple in the history of Wisconsin Rapids; a run that is set to end this weekend.
Joseph Hagen, then a stockboy and Woolworth’s employee, first met James Cash Penney in his Grand Forks, N.D. store in 1909. It wasn’t until 11 years later in Fond Du Lac where they would meet again. Penney still remembered Hagen from their meeting over a decade ago, and offered the Fertile, Minn. native a store — store #292 in Grand Rapids, Wis., now Wisconsin Rapids.
Hagen found his new store wasn’t so new after all — as he was given a property that had been known to patrons as Krause’s Tavern. The property was small, unclean, and unpainted. His troubles didn’t stop there, as multiple merchants from competing stores would continually call meetings to complain about his store, mostly from unwanted competition more than anything. Hagen was even asked to open later than the 7:00 a.m. time he was accustomed to.
All of that soon faded away, as Hagen moved his Penney’s store into the Daly Block in 1924, and soon gained the respect of fellow merchants and customers alike. The message was clear: Penney’s was here to stay.
J.C. Penney’s would go through multiple locations — located at 130 Second St. South in 1929, and eventually moving inside of the Rapids Mall decades later, built in 1978. They also opened a catalog store at 231 Oak. St. in 1970.
James Cash Penney once was quotes as saying “Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” — None better can be said about the near 100 year history and success of J.C. Penney in Wisconsin Rapids.
You can check out J.C. Penney’s in Wisconsin Rapids for the final time this weekend, as they close down officially on July 31. They are located at 555 W. Grand Ave. inside the Rapids Mall.