A man named Walt Churchill of Perrysburg, Ohio turned 93 last week. While celebrating the birthday of someone who has surpassed nine decades is a noteworthy event, the community of Perrysburg and Maumee also celebrate the foundational consistency that Walt Churchill has brought to the community through his neighborhood markets.
In much of America, stores like Churchill’s Market are a dying breed, being replaced by conglomerate corporate chains from Target and Walmart, to Kroger and Jewel/Osco. The COVID pandemic with its categorization of “essential” and non-essential businesses put the final nail in the coffin of many local stores.
But Churchill’s Market, first founded in 1917, has weathered the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and was more than able to weather this one.
Which is why both Walt Churchill and his markets are worthy of a Feel-Good Friday story.
PERRYSBURG, Ohio (WTVG) – A local man whose family has been a cornerstone of the community for decades celebrated a special birthday this week.
Walt Churchill, Jr. turned 93-years-old. He invited his customers, friends, and employees to join him for some cake and conversation at the Perrysburg and Maumee stores. The cake was made by Cynthia Younce, who will mark 41 years working at Churchill’s this year.
“He doesn’t have to come in his store, but Walt is here every day; talks to his customers, listens to what they want, gets products in that they would like,” she said of the man who she calls a friend.
Churchill’s Market has poured into and supported the community in many ways; foremost, through employment. Many of Walt Churchill’s employees are decades-long and multi-generational, with children and grandchildren coming to work for the store.
“I first met Walt, Jr. in December of 1965. He was a part of a group of grocers starting a new program at Penta County College at that time,” Mr. Keller recalled.
Since then, two of their children and even a grandson have worked with the company.
That kind of dedication is returned by the guy whose name is on the sign, though Churchill shrugs off the compliments, crediting a simple formula for his success and lasting relationships.
“I just like people and food. And we’re always up front with the customer,” said Churchill.
Another way the market supports the community is to source through the local community of growers and food producers in Northwest Ohio as much as they can, not an easy feat in the Midwest.
Walt Churchill is a testament to the importance and resilience of our elders in shaping our communities and our world. Churchill’s Market is a testament to the power of small business in infusing life, progress, and stability in the same.