In the early 1900s, Jacob Palubicki and his brother John started a business in Perham, selling general merchandise and groceries at the corner of West Main and 2nd Avenue SW. In 1913, John moved to Montana, but “Jake” continued in business until he sold out in 1930 due to illness.
After finishing high school and two years of college, Jake’s son, Bernard, got the urge to follow in his father’s footsteps. He bought the Red and White Grocery in the Bauck building from Leon Ceynowa in 1937, taking on the Red Owl franchise in 1938.
Adjoining the Red Owl was the Perham Department Store, owned by Bernard’s aunt, Ann Mohr, who was also his bookkeeper.
In 1959, Bernard and his wife, Esther, took on an extensive remodeling project, expanding and converting their store into a modern “self-service” supermarket. They absorbed the area formerly occupied by the Perham Department Store and Bauck’s Hardware storage, plus a new warehouse addition in back of the Bauck building. The Red Owl corporation honored the Palubickis via KCMT-TV in conjunction with their grand opening in October 1959.
In the 1970s the Palubicki Red Owl was recognized for operating one of the top three meat departments in the Red Owl firm’s 300-store territory. Norbert Mikula was the meat department manager for 15 years.
In 1971, after four years of college and three years in the U.S. Army, Bernard’s son, Dick, returned to Perham and joined his father, taking over as owner in 1974. Dick and his wife, Karen, ran the store until the Red Owl Corporation was bought out by Super Valu in 1988. Due to this change, and the lack of customer parking, Dick sold the business and became owner of the Super 8 Motel. He also became part owner and manager of the Super America gas station and convenience store in Perham.
Bernard’s youngest son, James, was also in the retail food business, in Fosston, Minn.
Merchandising was an important part of the career of Palubicki’s daughter, Ann Marie. She and her husband, Bill Hughes, owned and operated the Hughes Department store for many years on Main Street, in the location now occupied by Lakes Café.
Bernard’s youngest brother, Michael, was also a food retailer. After serving with the U.S. Army in World War II, he returned to Perham and spent a few years learning the grocery business from Bernard. In 1949, with Bernard’s help, he bought the Red Owl in Aitkin, Minn. and operated it until his death in 1970.
Mike’s widow, Marge (Pawlowski), with the help of their sons Greg and Phil, continued in business and eventually built a modern new supermarket. After Marge’s death in 1978, Greg took over the Aitkin store and Phil bought the Red Owl in International Falls.
“Jake” would have been proud to see so many of his descendants inheriting his business ability.
Bernard and Esther Palubicki submitted this information for the “1994 East Otter Tail History Book, Volume II.” Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.