Corner store changes hands, but stays within the family

by Kamariea Forcier

The once-crowded aisles, barely wide enough for a person to walk through, might be a thing of the past, but Dinkytown’s oldest grocery store is still selling as much as it ever did, said House of Hanson owner Laurel Bauer.
Bauer recently became the third generation of Hansons to own the store that has served the Dinkytown community since 1932.
“(The stock) is all here but (now) it fits,” she said. “It’s just amazing.”
Raised in southeast Minneapolis, Bauer, like her father, started working in the store at a young age.
“I started putting up candy here when I was 12 years old,” she said. That was in 1969. Bauer, now 40, bought the store from her father around the beginning of this year.
“I didn’t inherit the store,” she said, her voice changing from a humorous to a more serious tone. “I want that to be very clear.”
Bauer’s choice to purchase the store from her father was more than just a business decision. It was also out of a love for the business.
“It’s always fun to meet people,” she said. “You get to know people who come in every day, and we try to anticipate what they’ll need.”
For example, she said, she tries to have specific cigarette brands ready for her regular customers.
But meeting people’s needs is part of what owning a convenience store is all about, Bauer said.
“I love to be a convenience store, and have what people need,” she said. She said odd little items like rubbing alcohol make her feel like she’s really running a convenience store.
“It’s like our stock anticipates people’s emergencies,” she said. “I like to be that kind of corner store.”
But House of Hanson didn’t start out as a corner convenience store. Originally opened as a cafe by Bauer’s grandfather, Henry Oscar Hanson, the store later changed to half-grocery store and half-soda fountain.
“We had 32 flavors of ice cream and sold a quart of hand-packed ice cream for 25 cents,” Bauer said.
As an employee during those years, Jose Trujillo met his wife Joanne there.
“She lived two blocks away, and used to come in to buy ice cream cones all the time,” he said. “It was love at first sight. And we’ve been happily married 26 years.”
Bob Hanson, Bauer’s father, also spoke of the days when ice cream was sold by the scoop instead of by the gallon.
“We sold a double-dip ice cream cone for 5 cents,” said Hanson. “We were so busy, we would let them in the front door and send them out the back.”
According to legend, the House of Hanson sold a million scoops of ice cream in one year.
“That sounds like a lot, but it was actually really close,” he said. “The police even came in to direct traffic because the place was so busy.”
Hanson, who recently turned 80, sold the store to his daughter around the beginning of the new year because he was ready for his life to slow down. He said when you turn 80, you start to lose your drive.
He also sold his other two stores, the Harvard Market and the Eighth Street Market, to non-family members early this year.
Bauer said keeping the store in the Hanson family was pretty important.
“I’m the third generation owner; the kids will be the fourth,” she said. “The store’s been in the family 64 years,” she said.
“My grandfather started it, and when he died my grandmother took over. My dad bought it from her, and I bought it from him,” said Bauer. “I just couldn’t see letting it go.”
However, Bauer said she’s not pushing her children to take over for her yet.
“I want them to get a college education,” she said. “I don’t have anyone slated to come in here. Basically, I bought the store six weeks before my dad turned 80, and I told my kids that I wasn’t going to wait ’til I was 80 to retire,” she said with a chuckle.