Hammer and Wikan celebrated the Petersburg family company’s 100th anniversary over the Little Norway Festival weekend. Thursday night shareholders and workers unveiled a new three-panel mural on the side of the downtown hardware store building. It honors the founders of the company, their history and Norwegian roots.
This is the second large downtown mural in as many years for Petersburg. It’s actually three panels unveiled following the 2021 Little Norway Festival pageant.
Bud Samuelson, president of the board of directors, thanked shoppers for the company’s century in business, a rarity for a grocery or hardware store, especially an independent one.
“We were able to serve our community for 100 years because of all of you, our customers,” Samuelson said.
Hammer and Wikan has grocery, hardware and convenience stores. But it started small, just selling milk from cows raised on the mainland nearby. Company vice president Bruce Westre read a history on the partnership started by Norwegian immigrants John Hammer and Andrew Wikan in 1921 and initially called The Petersburg Dairy.
“John and Andrew would take a boat to Point Agassiz and buy milk from the farmers for 10 cents a quart then bring it back to town, bottle it and sell it for 15 cents,” Westre said. “In 1924, John and Andrew borrowed $1000 and bought the lot where the convenience store is currently located. This is the only time that they would borrow money for their business venture.”
The partners moved the moved the dairy business to site of today’s convenience store and changed the name to Dairy and Groceries, reflecting more offerings. They expanded the building in 1934. Westre said they eventually changed to Hammer and Wikan name and added some hardware and house wares.
“During these times, most of the groceries arrived in a boat, shipped in barrels,” he said. “Much of the freight was shipped from Seattle on steamers, either that or on fishing boats returning to Petersburg. The fruit was dried and the cheese came in 25 pound wheels.”
The company started construction of a new store in 1960 in the downtown spot and added hunting, fishing and marine gear along with a butcher shop. In 1995, an expansion moved the grocery store into a new building on Howkan Street near Mountain View Manor. The new three-panel mural honors the two founders and the company’s history. It was painted by Andy Eccleshall, owner of Mural Works, Inc. of Edmonds Washington.
Company board secretary Wendy Westre explained each of the three scenes. The first panel on the left shows the two founders in their early days in business together in front of their first store, the Norwegian flag for the country they were born and family fishing vessels Curlew and Beaver One.
“It is with deep pride and respect that we honor the hardworking fishermen of our community,” Westre said.
The middle panel has John Hammer and Andrew Wikan at the 50th anniversary. Devils Thumb is in between, underneath is the Petersburg waterfront with the Viking ship Valhalla and the business partners inside their first building in the 1930s. Westre explained the third panel too.
“The American flag flies to remind us that our founding fathers loved and adopted their new country,” she said. “Across the middle are the current structures of Hammer and Wikan. At the bottom middle are the two partners who stand in front of an early delivery truck.”
The company displayed a motorized delivery jitney used to bring groceries to the busy fishing fleet. Westre’s husband Bruce recounted some company history about that.
“This service was not without it’s challenges,” he said. “There were a number of times, mostly during extreme low tides, where the jitney would be unable to slow down enough for the steep incline of the ramp and it would end up in the water.”
Westre said that dock service continued into the 1980s but ended when the city prohibited motorized vehicles on the floats.
That side of the downtown hardware building was decorated with a 1993 mural by local artist Val Hauer, covered over in 2019. That painting in shades of blue showed whales and salmon, the islands, Devils Thumb, a fishing boat and the Sons of Norway Hall.
The company’s current general manager Jim Floyd welcomed representatives from four generations of the two families to the unveiling. He also honored 99-year-old Art Hammer who led the company for 42 years before retiring.
“And he’s still with us today and he will be celebrating 100 years in July,” Floyd said.
Hammer and Wikan also held a street dance and other gatherings throughout the weekend and may do other events throughout the year.