Grebe’s founder, Arthur Grebe, was one of eleven children born in the Town of Stettin. He was the only one allowed to attend 8th grade and graduate. He continued to work on the family farm then moved to Milwaukee and worked at a car dealership. Upon returning to Wausau he was employed by the Jaeger Baking Company. His interest in farming continued and in 1943 he purchased a farm in the Town of Maine. Due to physical problems the farm was sold. In 1944 he purchased a small neighborhood grocery store on North 6th Avenue. This didn’t satisfy his ambitions. He noticed two vacant lots in the 700 block of North Third Avenue and decided to sell the grocery store. A friend put him in contact with the Case farm machinery company who granted him the franchise. As a result, the first 40 X 80 building opened in August of 1946 with a small assortment of hardware. A disagreement arose and Arthur decided to sell the Case farm machinery business. In 1948 the first addition was added to the original store. There were four hardware stores in downtown Wausau. With the help of Marshall Wells, a hardware distributer, Grebe’s was the most modern hardware store in Marathon County.
Charlotte Grebe Richetto (daughter) entered the business as a clerk/bookkeeper while in high school. The business continued to grow and became a force on the west side of town. Appliances and plumbing supplies were added. After completing his military service, Roger Grebe entered the business in 1956. Emil Richetto, (Steve’s father) also joined the business in 1956. He played a major role until 1982 when he died of heart complications. The adjustment was difficult for both the family and the business.
In the following years five neighboring residences were demolished or moved. This provided the opportunity to allow for needed parking and future expansions. Three more retail expansions took place in the next 16 years as well as a warehouse in the Town of Maine. Grebe’s became more than a hardware store by adding hockey, guns, archery, fishing tackle, camping gear, golf, etc. As the larger box stores arrived, Grebe’s gradually deemphasized sporting goods and with the help of Ace Hardware expanded hardware lines, power tools, appliances and plumbing.
Tim Grebe (Rogers’s son) completed a marketing degree at NTC and joined the business in 1976. In 1994 Steve Richetto (Charlotte’s son) joined the business with a CPA degree. In 1995 Grebe’s purchased the power equipment from Buch Equipment. In 1999 Suzi Richetto (Steve’s wife) became the force to creating the chef center as it is today. Debbie Grebe (Tim’s wife) manages the green house in the spring. As is very necessary, we continued to evaluate all departments of the store. The hardware business was facing challenges from “box” stores. In 2005 it had become clear the hardware department was not growing nearly as quickly as other areas so the hardware inventory was sold. This disappointed our customers because we were the last remaining hardware store in Wausau. This was the most difficult decision the business had faced in 59 years. At this time we did major remodeling and up grading of our sales floor. We also moved the power equipment sales department into the main store and converted the adjacent building to the power equipment service center.
In 2010 we reviewed our product lines, made some adjustments and as a result we added Serta brand mattresses. This has been a good decision. We will continue to evaluate our business on regular basis and make adjustments as deemed necessary. Grebe’s remains a 65 year old, three generation business in the same location. We employ 37 persons. A slogan we occasionally use to highlight our philosophy is “The Store that Service Built”. Our commitment to our valued customers is no different than we would expect as a consumer.