"End of an Era" | Shimer Store To Close After 128 Years

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A business that's been a staple in Topeka for more than a century is closing its doors at the end of May.

Shimer Feed and Garden Center on 27th and California Ave. has been in business for 128 years.

13 News spoke with the owners and patrons about the shutdown, who describe it as the "end of an era."

"I'm going to miss the people, more than anything," Bob Forsberg says, trying to choke back tears. It's an emotional time for their family as they say goodbye to the company they've ran and grown up with for as long as they can remember.

Bob and his wife Susan say loyalty and friendship have keep the doors of Shimer Feed Store open for 128 years, and after growing up with the business, Bob says it's time to retire.

"A lot of people, when they retire when they're 50 years old, they get a gold pin or a gold watch. Well, I'm going to get the memories of all the friends that's come through Shimer Store."

For those friends, it's much more than a store that sells animal food. They say it's an institution in the community. Throughout the years, its owners have put customers' feed on charge when times were tough, carried specialized feed, practiced old techniques, and still implement the same sense of support today.

"This is part of the social gathering for the community," Dr. Gilbert Parks said. He owns horses, dogs and cats and frequents the store. "It's a place we can come, gather, share, talk and interact, it's like a contact place. You come in expecting to meet people."

Jeanne Emley lives at 93rd and Berryton Road, and Shimer's is the closest place to her that sells the plants she needs. Not only that, it's been the only place she goes to for a long time.

"It almost made me cry!" Emley said. "You know, it's the personal service, everything they have to offer. I don't know what we'll do without them. We live in a neighborhood where we have older folks and that's where they all come."

Joy Cantrell says she can't get a 40 pound bag of dog food for $18 anywhere else in Topeka. She's been going to Shimer's since she was little.

"I'm going to be sad to see them go, I really am," Cantrell said. "He's always wondering how we are, genuinely cares about people and that's what's missing nowadays."

Bob and Susan's daughter Jennifer says she's happy for her parents' retirement, but it'll be hard to close, and not see all the loyal clientele they've accumulated over the years.

Betty Matheny has been bookkeeping for Shimer Feed for almost 40 years. She started out in the North Topeka location and moved to the current on California when Bob Forsberg took over the store. Betty is retiring herself, and it carries extra special meaning knowing she'll be leaving with the Forsbergs.

"I've had a great time. I was always happy to go to work. And I think that says a lot about the Forsbergs."

Many thought Shimer's was closing because of the new WalMart in Highland Park set to open fall 2014. Bob says that's not true, but thinks east Topeka needs more small businesses.

"It's the personal contact with the customers and that's something the big boys can't do."

His customers agree.

"Mom and pops, those used to be where you could go in and people knew you by name. You don't get that anymore. You go into WalMart and you're just another face in there," Cantrell said.

Jennifer Forsberg says so many people have stuck around with her parents' store because of the quality of the product.

Looking back on his life with Shimer Feed, Bob doesn't remember the weekends spent at work, the long hours or the years without a vacation - he'll remember the friends and customers that breathed life into his business.

"The hardest part for me is when I lock the door for the last time. It's going to be tough. Tough. I've done it for so long. It's been a good life."

Shimer Feed and Garden Center will close May 31. Many of their products are on-sale as they try to clear out their inventory.

History of Shimer Store

James Shimer opened up the first Shimer feed, seed and coal store on S. Kansas Avenue in 1886. Two more stores opened after that. The stores were passed on to sons Emery and J.R. Shimer, then passed down to Emery's son Jim.

Bob's father and uncle Carl and John Forsberg bought the store on 29th street in 1966.

Ownership juggled back and forth between Jim Shimer, closing the old locations and the one on 29th, and opening the current location at 2720 California Ave.

Bob and Susan Forsberg took over in 1986. They opened a store on 29th in 1994, and closed it in 2006, leaving the only location on California.