The building at 609 West Main Street, today home to Prairie Farm Toys, Etc., was built by Edmond Bednarek in 1946 as an appliance store accompanying his bottle gas service.
Bednarek was a friend of the late area historian Elaine Reetz and a valued source, especially for her stories about St. Marie and Father Marquette.
“We who knew Edmond know he was blind, but only in sight,” Reetz wrote after his death in October 1966. “His senses were keen. Personal handicaps and health were not his foremost concern. … He will be missed by his many Princeton friends and relatives. The quiet, unassuming man who remembered the past lived for the present and also a future he knew Princeton has.”
Bednarek began his career at age 4 selling newspapers! His family for many years owned a newsstand, tavern and insurance agency at 606-608 West Water Street (today Twig’s).
Edmond graduated from Princeton High School in 1934. He was very involved with the city baseball team and served as city assessor for 22 years. His father, Martin, was assessor for 40 years. Edmond worked on Water Street, started a bottle gas service about 1943 and was soon looking for more space.
Princeton Times-Republic, February 7, 1946 – “Edmond Bednarek announced that he has taken the local agency for City Bottled Gas and will also handle a full line of appliances. Edmond has had considerable experience in this line and there is every reason why he should make a success of the new venture.”
Princeton Times-Republic, October 10, 1946 – “The new cement block building erected by Edmond Bednarek to house his appliance business is another improvement that should be mentioned. It is located on Main Street near the Grams Welding and Supply Co.”
Bednarek sold hot water heaters, stoves and refrigerators in addition to bottle gas.
His life took an unexpected turn in the 1950s.
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 1, 1957 – “At the meeting of the Lions Club Thursday evening members were informed that Edmond Bednarek has been sent to Cambridge where he is becoming acquainted with a seeing-eye dog and how to get along with it. He will be there for about six weeks and after three weeks guests are welcome to visit him. Edmond, a lifelong resident of Princeton and city assessor at present, has become visually handicapped in recent years.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 29, 1957 – “Saturday, August 17th, Edmond M. Bednarek, our city assessor, returned to Princeton with a new friend at this side, a Double A Guiding Dog. Edmond had been in training at and near Cambridge, Wisconsin, for four weeks where he had become master and companion to his beautiful 26-month-old German Shepherd guiding dog, Val. Our Princeton Lions Club helped make Edmond’s training possible by donating a large portion of their festival receipts to this nonprofit organization. … When I called on Edmond last week, I found him more happy, healthy, and proud than I have ever seen him since blindness became his additional handicap.”
Edmond continued to sell insurance, and I believe his building at 609 West Main was used for the bottle gas business until his death by heart attack at age 50 in October 1966. His brother, Henry, continued the gas business into the 1970s. I don’t know when it closed.
I’ve been told Ace Hardware might have used the Main Street building for storage. I’ve found no other occupants until the 21st century. Please let me know if you can help fill that 40-year gap.
Princeton Times-Republic, May 2, 2013 – “Organic, health, and natural food and product lovers can now find their favorite brands right in downtown Princeton. Healthy Source LLC, owned by Joshua and Mary Poulter, opened its doors Thursday, April 25. While seemingly small from the exterior, the Main Street shop offers customers a wide variety of food, household, toiletries, and medicinal products. … The shop is located at 609 Main Street in Princeton.”
After Carolyn Wilde, operator of Wilde’s Old Barber Shop at 613 West Water Street since 1995, sold the that building in 2016, she opened a shop at 609 West Main Street. (Barber Tiff Kolleck operated at 613 Water for many years. When Wilde moved to 609, she brought his chair and booster seat – remembered by many of his customers in the 1950s – with her, but no Hershey bars – a reward Tiff would distribute if you didn’t squirm too much during a crew cut.)
Avid Oliver tractor and farm toy collector Steve Prissel moved in last year.
Princeton Times-Republic, April 28, 2022 – “Prairie Farm Toys, Etc., 609 West Main Street, held their grand opening on Saturday, April 23. … Although the store has been open sporadically since it was purchased by Steve Prissel, he wanted to have a grand opening on the first day of the Princeton Flea Market.”
Please let me know if you spot any errors, can fill any gaps in my timeline or have photos to help tell the story.
Thank you for caring and reading about local history.