Wendt’s General Store

Wendt’s General Store
Wendt Road, Fitchburg, WI

The history of Wendt’s General Store can be traced back to 1890 when Thomas Purcell built a two-story building to sell groceries. In 1898, he sold his interest in the store to his business partners, Borchardt and Henrichs. They then moved the building from its original place to a location across the street from the train depot where it would be more accessible to customers.

Wendt store 1908 LR

Fitchburg Village looking north, 1908. The eventual Wendt General Store is the building on the right.

Herman Wendt bought the store in 1910 and he and his wife Dora ran the store until 1924 when Herman died. Mr. Wendt was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Waterloo, WI, the place where he lived before getting married in 1902.  Mrs. Wendt continued to run the store and in 1926 added a small post office within the store when the nearby Lappley mill office, which contained the Fitchburg post office, burned down. In 1929, William Dehnert took over the store while Mrs. Wendt moved to Lake Mills to live with her son Wesley Wendt and his family. Mrs. Wendt returned to Fitchburg in 1932 to retake possession of the store when Mr. Dehnert could not make the payments due to the depression.

Dora Wendt

Mrs. Dora Wendt sorting mail

Mrs. Wendt continued to manage the store and in 1940 became the Post Master for Fitchburg. In 1952, the postal service discontinued service in Fitchburg and the 14 remaining patrons were serviced by rural delivery from the Oregon Post Office. The store which sold groceries and other necessities was much more than a store; it was a meeting place for the local population. The store would open at 7 am each day and close around 10 pm when the patrons went home. Mrs. Wendt’s only time off was Sunday afternoon. One attraction of the store beside its location was its layout. In the middle of the store was a radiator, soft easy chairs and benches where people could discuss what was going on especially on Monday nights. When asked when she took vacations, she said there was no time for vacations.

Finally, in 1963 at the age of 84, Mrs. Wendt retired and went to live with her granddaughter, Mrs. Robert Wright in Madison. She sold the store to Mr. and Mrs. Herman Fischer who turned it into a hand-made novelty and antique store called the Old Country Store. Mrs. Wendt died on July 21, 1968 and was buried next to her husband in Oak Hill Cemetery, Waterloo, WI.

Wendt store 2020 LR

2020 picture of the old Wendt’s General Store now used as a home

The building, known as Wendt’s General Store, was built in 1890 for use as a grocery store, was moved and continued to be used as a grocery and general goods store for another 65 years. It was then used as an arts and antique store. Now in 2020, after 130 years, it is still standing and serving as a home.