You Know You're From...Elcho: Dennis & Karen O'Neil

Published: Jul. 22, 2019 at 10:56 PM CDT
Email this link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

"This is a nice store," one customer exclaimed.

"We like working here," said Karen O'Neil.

"This is home," said Dennis O'Neil.

Home since 1976, when Dennis and Karen O'Neil took over North Trail Store in Elcho.

"My parents decided to retire up here, and they came and said to the owners here, because we used to shop here, 'we're looking for a business to buy so Dennis and Karen can move, too', Karen recalled. "And they said, you want to buy this one?"

Prior to that, they worked at a Walgreens in Illinois. They quickly had to learn the grocery side of business. And Dennis had to learn the meat market.

"We took over the store on April 5," Dennis said. "By Memorial Day I had to know how to cut steaks, grind hamburgers, slice lunch meat and all the other stuff."

The store came with another perk, too.

"This store used to have control of the fire alarm in town so when I took the keys to the store, he said, now you're also a fireman," Dennis laughed. "He came back here, showed me where the siren was and I was an instant fireman."

Married since 1973, working side-by-side ever since.

"Actually we'd probably miss each other if we didn't see each other," Karen said with a smile.

"Karen and I are friends first," Dennis added.

North Trail Store is a family affair. Dennis and Karen's two daughters worked here, Karen's sister Sandy is a manager and Sandy's daughter works here now.

"You don't see many where the family is running the whole thing," said Sandy Reynolds, store manager. "Keeping the old fashioned store with the wood floors."

The wood floors. A character trait that customers appreciate, like Patsy Lamm of Madison who's been coming here since 1946.

"You know, hardwood floors get a few bumps in when they've been here a long time," Lamm said with a laugh.

"If you let a cart go on one aisle, you can run and pick it up in the next aisle," Dennis said.

On the other side of the building is the gift store with clothing, trinkets and handmade items made by Karen.

"That's my first love, basically, is the sewing. So this gave me an outlet for it."

"Karen's first love is the sewing machine," said Dennis. "I may be 2nd or 3rd down the list."

After 43 years, the end of an era is near. The O'Neil's recently put the store up for sale.

When Karen is asked why, "Old," she said with a big laugh.

"I will miss people telling me, 'we don't get meat like this in our city," said Dennis.

"We've got three young grandchildren," Karen said as another reason.

As for Sandy, "Whether I stay here or not, I don't know. Depends on who buys it. "

"They're wonderful people and I hope somebody else takes over that runs it as nicely as they've run this," Lamm said

But until the I's are dotted and T's crossed, it's business as usual.

Latest News

Latest News