Small Sandusky County village is home to several 100-year-old businesses

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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) – A small Sandusky County village is home to several businesses that have truly stood the test of time. Gibsonburg has several businesses that have lined the streets of downtown for at least a century.

Making it to the century mark is getting tough to do for a lot of small town, family-owned businesses. But Gibsonburg is home to several of them, including Kirwen’s Supermarket.

Downtown Gibsonburg is full of history. Veh and Son Furniture has been family owned since 1882, Ideal Bakery is celebrating 100 years in business and Kirwen’s has also been open since 1922.

Bill Kirwen is the third generation of the family to run the business. “We’ve had a lot of support from the community and good employees that have kept us going. People come in and see friends and neighbors they haven’t seen in awhile. It’s a bit of a gathering place,” Kirwen said.

As the Kirwen family marks a century in business, Bill says some of today’s customers still remember the early days of the market. “We’ve had older people come in this week and say they knew my grandpa. They said he would give them credit if they were having tough times, no questions asked,” Kirwen said.

Bill and his family say the recipe for success is simple. “Our customer service and small town atmosphere. People also say we have items they can’t find in the big stores,” Kirwen said.

That would include the dozens of homemade deli items along with the meat and produce departments. “I love the customers and the retail end of the business. I’ve really loved it. I still do. I’ll probably be here until I’m seventy,” Andrew Kirwen said.

Of course, keeping the doors open has not been without its challenges. Andrew says there’s competition from big box retailers and online grocery services. “It’s been a challenge, a real challenge. We try to carry as much as we can as far as varieties,” Andrew said.

Cheryl Abel has worked here for nearly three decades and she says the reason she loves it is simple. “Tell me what special about this place. People. People you work with and the people who come in,” Abel said.

Bill and his siblings say the hope is that Kirwen’s will be here for generations, even if the family steps aside one day. “We all hope that when we decide to retire we can find someone who will want to come in, take it over, and keep it going,” Kirwen said.

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Debbie A. Cunningham

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