The History of “The Little Store”
The Regent Market Co-op’s roots in its neighborhood stretch back nearly a century. An “up-to-date grocery and meat market” at 2136 Regent Street opened its doors April 1923. Within a year, the proprietor, F. J. Hoffman, had sold the business to the Universal Grocery Company chain, founded by Carl E. Hommel Sr. and his brothers. Ownership later changed hands several times more: in 1929 to the National Kroger Grocery chain, then by 1949 a Super IGA Store.
Some regulars today still call the store “Joe’s”, after Joe Heggestad who owned and operated it from 1974 to 1995. Under his management, the Regent Market acquired familiar features: full lines of meats and produce, quality service, friendly atmosphere, a sense of humor, and the nickname “The Little Store”. At his retirement, 500 customers threw him a party which made newspaper headlines, and Mayor Paul Soglin officially declared it “Joe Heggestad Day.”
By 1998, so many challenges confronted the store that it seemed unlikely to endure. Yet by valiant grassroots effort, almost 1000 friends of the grocery came together to lift it back to its feet. In the first week after re-opening as the Regent Market Co-op in April of 1998, our Little Store made and sold over 600 bratwursts.
In hindsight, the neighborhood had always felt as if it owned the store; incorporating as a cooperative aligned reality with that vision. Since the Regent Market Co-op’s founding, it has overcome many obstacles to continue serving its community. Through the loyal support of the membership, the hard work of the staff, and the dedication of a succession of managers and boards, the Co-op has always been able to rise to the challenge and survive as a member-owned neighborhood grocery store.