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Ferguson & Hassler's History
It was a day when horses and buggies were more common than automobiles; a day when the general stores supplied most of the needs of the community; and a day when those stores were a gathering place for neighbors. It was 1916, the year that E. E. Ferguson and George W. Hassler, Sr. opened a business that still remains a focal point in the southern end of Lancaster County today.
Ferguson and Hassler's, or "Fergie's" as it is more familiarly known, has evolved over the years into a large supermarket, but is still under the ownership of one of the original families. When Ferguson and Hassler first opened their general store on Quarryville's State Street, their merchandise included hardware, clothing, shoes, furniture, appliances, fabrics and sewing supplies, as well as other items, in addition to groceries. The 100-foot by 40-foot building was located on the site of the present SGMC store.
Thurston A. (Wink) Hassler and George W. Hassler II, son and grandson of George W. Hassler I, respectively, both recall that there were far fewer groceries in the earlier days of the store. The only meats available at F and H then were dried or smoked. There were few canned vegetables and fruits and no produce. Both men said they started working in the store from the time they could walk. Many of the items sold came into the store in bulk, such as the barrels of molasses and vinegar. Wink recalls as a young boy one of his first jobs was to "crank the vinegar." Customers brought in glass jars and he turned the handle that released a stream of vinegar into the jar. Other products delivered in bulk were cookies (in six-pound boxes) and crackers, so Wink's jobs included packaging crackers and eggs, and wrapping bread. Sugar was another item that came in large amounts and had to be bagged, as was the oatmeal delivered in barrels. Coffee was custom ground in the store for patrons. Self-service was a thing of the future and every item was weighed or plucked from the shelves behind the counter by the sales help. The walls were lined with shelves containing the cans and boxes of food that were available in that era. Items on the top shelves were accessed by a tall stick with a clamp on top known as a "helper" or "ladies aid."
The F and H store remained at the State Street location for 61 years but continued to grow during that time with the purchase of adjoining buildings as the business expanded. In addition to selling large appliances, the store had a service department. The furniture they sold included kitchen cabinets, chairs and tables. Area farmers could purchase feed for their farm or domestic animals, as well as milk coolers. George II and Wink recall customers had to step up or down into the adjoining stores that had been added to the original facility. The buildings were remodeled several times during the years the store remained on State Street. The size of the store increased to 5,500 square feet for food and general merchandise, with an additional 6,000 square feet for clothing and a 3,000 square-foot shoe store. F and H also had a large warehouse for storage of the many supplies. Some of the customers used the barter system, exchanging eggs, lard and butter with the storeowners for their purchases. Others "ran up a tab," settling their bills once a year. Home delivery was a large part of the business with F and H vans traveling as far as Little Britain, Holtwood and Oxford. A train that ran through Quarryville near the premises of F and H at that time delivered the box carloads of cement, lime and feed that were also part of the store's merchandise.
In 1939, Wink and Bill Ferguson, E. E. Ferguson's son, opened the first self-service store in Quarryville at the intersection of Routes 472 and 372, supplementing the existing F and H. "It was 100 percent self service," Wink said, noting they sold fresh produce for the first time. The store closed in 1944 when the two men were called into the service during World War II. In 1954, the self-service store reopened on the site that is currently occupied by the Dollar General store on State Street and fresh meats were added to the groceries. By 1977 the community was growing and many more products were available, creating the need for more space. This led to the construction of a new store on Fourth Street at Route 372 that not only provided the additional room but also consolidated the merchandise in one building. The 25,000 square-foot store was divided with groceries on the largest side and general merchandise on the other. Gone were the appliances, furniture, shoes and most of the clothing as F and H became a supermarket, rather than a general store.
Then, just 11 years later, even more new products on the market requiring more shelf space, and a community that continued to grow sparked the need to build a new, even larger supermarket. This expansion took place when TownsEdge Shopping Village was constructed. Wink, George II and G. Leighton Hassler were by now sole owners of F and H. When the center opened in 1988, it included a 45,000 square-foot supermarket, now almost exclusively groceries, nearly doubling the size of the previous store and greatly increasing the variety of items offered in all departments. In 1997 another expansion took place enlarging the store to 53,000 square feet. This time the perishable foods, including produce, prepared foods, the bakery and deli departments, were the main beneficiaries of the added space.
From the time E. E. Ferguson and George W. Hassler, Sr. opened the store in 1916 until today the store has remained a family business. Except for the years they served in the United States military, Wink and George II have spent their entire working lives at F and H. George recalled his working days began in 1942, while Wink started full time in 1939. When E. E. Ferguson died in 1943, George W. Hassler, Sr. purchased his shares and sold them to his son, Hampton F. Hassler, and E. Truman Ferguson, the son of E. E. Ferguson, forming a partnership between the three men.
In the next transition, in 1951, the store became the property of Thurston (Wink) Hassler, his brother G. Leighton Hassler, E. Truman Ferguson and Hampton F. Hassler. After Hampton Hassler passed away in 1961, George II joined the partnership. Since E. Truman Ferguson retired in 1975, the business has been owned solely by members of the Hassler family. The store was incorporated in 1976 with Leighton as president; Wink as vice president; and George II as secretary/treasurer. In 1982 when Leighton retired (although he still took part in the business on a consulting basis) the third generation of Hasslers became part of the business. Chip (George W. Hassler III), and Timothy K. and James C. Hassler, Wink's sons, joined their fathers at F and H. Wink became president of the corporation, with Jim, Chip and Tim as vice presidents and George II remaining as secretary/treasurer.
In 2000 Wink and George II retired and sold the business, including the shopping center that previously had been a separate corporation, to their three sons. "A family business is a difficult, time consuming thing," George II said. "It becomes your whole life. I'm pleased to see how our sons have accepted that responsibility.
"They're very committed to the community. That's what it takes to have a small business."
"I hear comment after comment from customers that our sons are very accommodating," Wink said.
"That is the greatest satisfaction - to know that you're passing along those things that were instilled in us when we were growing up," George II added.
Both George II and Wink still come to the store most mornings, noting they enjoy the business and the people. All three sons had started working at F and H while still in high school - Jim in 1975 and Chip and Tim in 1979. Their first job was bagging groceries.
Chip and Jim advanced to stocking the grocery department and then ordering products. After bagging, Tim went into the produce department for several years and later included dairy and frozen food. While all three still oversee different departments of the store, they find themselves spending more time in the office doing administrative work, although they can still frequently be seen in one of the many aisles.
"We still try to keep our eyes and ears out in the store as much as we can," Jim said.
They feel it is a distinct advantage to have three people running the store because of the amount of time it requires. All three men agreed they don't want to make too many changes; if change comes, it will be gradually.
"We want to maintain the current level of good service and keep the store updated with new equipment and new products," Chip said.
"This is still a family owned and run business and there is still one of us on the premises at all times," Tim added. "If there are any questions, comments or problems, we are easy to get hold of."
The big transition for Chip, Tim and Jim was assuming the management of TownsEdge Shopping Village in addition to the supermarket. F&H today employs 165 people, many of who are long-time employees.
"Good employees are the key to our success," the three owners agreed. Nearly nine decades have come and gone since two young businessmen realized a dream when they opened the first Ferguson and Hassler store. Many things have changed during those years but one thing that has remained constant is the owners' commitment to the community and to providing a quality supermarket for residents of the southern end of Lancaster County.