Paul Spiegelhoff was most comfortable on the sales floor

By Ed Nadolski

Editor in Chief

A. Paul Spiegelhoff

In 91 years of life, Paul Spiegelhoff saw the grocery business come a full circle.

“He was fascinated with this place,” his son, Dave, said of the store, Gooseberries Fresh Food Market, that Dave currently owns and operates in Burlington. “We’re buying from local farmers and offering home delivery, just like he did years ago.”

Through all the change, however, Paul knew that service was the key to success in the business, Dave said. Service and kindness were his hallmarks.

“He was known as a gentleman’s gentleman around the industry,” he said.

Albert Paul Spiegelhoff – known as Paul or A.P. – died Sunday at his son’s Burlington home where he had been living in recent months following a fall last March.

“On Sunday we did a family dinner and for whatever reason, everyone made it,” Dave said of the extended family that includes grandchildren and their spouses and great-grandchildren.

After enjoying a meal of pizza, wine and a Dilly Bar – “He loved all of it,” Dave said – Paul died in the warm embrace of a house full of family, including his wife of 67 years, Marion, according to Dave.

“He said he was tired and he said he wanted to go home,” Dave said.


Rolling with the changes

Known to generations of shoppers as Burlington’s grocer, Paul saw his family’s stores through the transition from corner market to supermarket. And through it all, interaction with customers remained a top priority, Dave Spiegelhoff said.

“He was all about being on the sales floor,” he said.

That commitment even extended to recent years when Paul earned the nicknames “Grandpa Skippy” and “Peter Pan” as he would grind fresh peanut butter for customers at Gooseberries.

Paul grew up as the son of a grocer, stocking shelves and living in the flat above the store on Chestnut Street. Returning home in 1946 after serving in the Navy as a ship’s radioman in World War II, he returned to his father’s grocery business.

Dave Spiegelhoff said his grandfather started the business in 1914.

“He’d always help the farmers by carrying them through the winters when times were lean,” Dave said. “And dad carried that on.”

After taking over the family business, Paul saw the store through a period of rapid change in the grocery industry.

“He was ahead of his time – buying from multiple wholesalers,” Dave said. “His goal was to have what people wanted and offer a good service.”

Paul moved Spiegelhoff’s

Super Food Market from the Chestnut Street location to the more modern Red Owl store location at 401 Milwaukee Ave. in 1977, He established a long affiliation with Roundy’s and operated under the Shop Rite and Pick ‘n Save banners.

“Dad was scared to death because he had to sign a loan for $40,000,” Dave said of the move to the Red Owl location.

Paul eventually became Roundy’s longest tenured independent owner and served a stint on the wholesaler’s board, according to Dave.

In 1987 the Pick ‘n Save store moved to the new Fox River Plaza shopping center on the north side of the city where it remained until Roundy’s bought out all of its independent owners about two decades later.


A long legacy

Dave said his father’s legacy extended beyond the aisles of his stores to his community. He was a lifelong member and generous supporter of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church and a member of the Knights of Columbus.

“Dad was always under the radar screen,” Dave said. “He seldom spoke out, but when he had something to say, it was powerful.”

That same approach extended to his military service, which included a stint aboard the USS LSM 440 from 1944 to 1946.

“He was a proud man to have served ­– he just didn’t talk about it,” Dave said.

Paul was among the veterans selected to participate in an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. He was escorted by his son, Steve.

“He called it the best day of his life,” Dave said.

A Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at St. Charles Church, 440 Kendall St., Burlington. Visitation will precede the Mass from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at the church. A burial service with military honors is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Charles Cemetery on West State Street.

A complete obituary appears on page 5.