Chappell Super Foods, owned by Leonard and Bernie Littlejohn, has been a staple in the Chappell community and surrounding areas for decades.
In 1978, Leonard came to town from Southeast Nebraska and talked to Elmo Carlson, the president of the former Deuel County Bank (now Points West) at the time. He was going to borrow money from his banker back east, but preferred to do business locally, so told Mr. Carlson to check him out.
“Believe it or not, he [Carlson] took me to a Board of Directors meeting, and to my surprise, he had the board and the guy that was selling the store present,” said Leonard. “Just so I could explain to them what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it, and that I underestimated sales and overestimated expenses.”
“They decided it’d be alright because I didn’t have cow manure on my shoes,” Leonard joked. “So, they considered giving me a loan for around $50,000 that I was requesting, with my brother’s co-signature.”
Leonard’s brother had been in the grocery business several years and had done well, although he liked to buy and sell. While Leonard was still in the restaurant business, his brother had moved from Tecumseh to Wheatland to Guernsey to Julesburg CO then Holyoke CO to Wauneta NE, and then finally to Iowa. His kids now have stores over in Iowa.
“We came to Chappell because I had seen the grocery store was up for sale,” Leonard said. “I was looking for more money and less hours.”
Leonard and his wife have remained in Chappell since his visit here in 1978. While they have four children, none are interested in moving back home to take over the family grocery – and their dad agrees with their decisions.
Leonard employs nine people on his staff and throughout the years gave jobs to high school students.
Having a grocery store in a small town like Chappell is almost rare nowadays – and Chappell residents appreciate not having to drive 20-40 miles to get groceries. Even with the necessity of groceries, Leonard has made great efforts to ensure he is supporting & participating in the community in return.
COVID-19 hit the small communities late, but hard. Like everywhere else, residents began to buy out of panic.
“I think it had the people in our community scared,” Leonard said. “For us though, it wasn’t as much of an economic struggle as it was a physical struggle, keeping up and making it happen.”
The store did the best they could, but ran out of a lot of things. Leonard jokes that they now have 4 palettes of toilet paper, trying to keep up. Some things are still hard to come by – hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes – but they’re slowly starting to come back. Packaged dry seasoning mixes were something people didn’t expect to be running low, but the packages for them are made in China, so the virus did slow down the entire supply chain.
Leonard doesn’t dwell too much on the bad things. When the farm economy is down, everybody’s down. He is thankful that they have the opportunity to be able to sell pork and beans when someone can’t buy a steak.
“I’m most proud of being a part of the community and supporting the community,” Leonard said. “It’s like integrity – doing the right thing when no one else is looking – so while some things definitely cost me monetarily, I just still had to support the economy.”
After 43 years of serving the community and surrounding areas – and serving them well – Leonard has placed Chappell Super Foods up for sale.
Points West has been proud to be a partner of Chappell Super Foods since acquiring Deuel County Bank in 2003. Leonard was at the first open house party where he played a prank on the bank’s former president, Tom Olson Sr., by dropping coins around the bank and watching Tom pick them up frantically – not wanting to give the impression that he didn’t take care of the customers’ money. Anyone who knows Leonard would not be surprised by this.
While Points West is sad to see Leonard’s ownership expire, we look forward to potentially serving the next owners.