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Celebrating 90 years in business

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 9:33 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - If you ever get the opportunity to stroll the streets of downtown Harrison, be sure to visit a clothing store there that’s been in operation for nine decades.

During our visit to Whiteaker’s Store in Harrison, we talked with the owner, Joe Whiteaker.

“My dad started this business in 1931,” Whiteaker said. “He came out here from Missouri, working for the Golden Rule stores in Crawford, Nebraska. They sent him up here to open up a Golden Rule store. The Depression hit, and they closed the store in Harrison, and he moved back to Crawford. They lowered his wages, the banks were in trouble, but he didn’t want to live in Crawford. So pulled up stake, came up here, and started his own store. The banks wouldn’t loan money on inventory or anything, but there was a fellow in the hardware store that loaned my dad $800. Then, a wholesale house in Denver told him to get what he needed and pay for it when he could. And that’s how he started. He did well. There are three of us boys, and all three of us he sent to college.”

Whiteaker said he took over for his dad in the early 1990′s.

“I was a banker here in Harrison for 20 years,” Whiteaker said. “I started in 1960, and then it changed hands, and I got out in 1980. My brother and I had a ranch. My dad was getting elderly, and I would come in and help run the store. I didn’t ever think about staying this long. He passed away in 1990. I bought my two brothers out, and then I was deciding what to do. I’ve been here ever since!”

There has been tremendous community support for this local western clothing store over the many years. “People have just supported us,” Whiteaker said. “We sell a lot of felt hats, Stetson hats, Resistol, and other American hats. Most people will come in here and buy their jeans, their Wranglers, and Levis.”

Many of the customers to Whiteaker’s store are ranchers, and they come from miles around. Whiteaker says his business has certainly changed through the years.

“We don’t sell near the volume we used to,” Whiteaker said. “We just don’t have the people.” He says running a business like his takes dedication, because you are tied down. He says people come to the store because they appreciate the one-on-one customer service.

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