Before Joel Danovsky and his wife, Jen, bought the Horse Creek Store, he visited regularly as the store’s beer sales rep.
“I always liked the way it looked,” he said. “I liked the wood floors. I liked the feel — it had that throwback feel.”
Chatting with then-owner Dale Koosman one day Joel learned Koosman was thinking of selling.
“One thing led to another,” he said. “We weren’t looking for it but we decided to give it a shot anyway.”
On June 15, the Danovskys will have owned the store for a year, having moved from the Connersville area, near Boyceville, to run it.
“Our kids grew up going camping and to the lake in Birchwood,” said Jen. “We always enjoyed going to their local general store and that’s what we want to do here. On a rainy day families can come here and grab a puzzle or some snacks. I want kids to have memories here like our kids have from when we went to our cabin.
“There’s a lot of history here,” she added. “That’s what makes this store different than a regular convenience store.”
In May, Jen organized a photo with as many of the store’s former owners as she could gather. That included Dale and Maggie Koosman, the store’s owners from 2003-2018, and Gordy and Audrey Nelson, who owned the store from 1963-1997.
The former owners shared a history of the store’s continuous evolution, changing through time to ensure customers have reason to keep walking through the door.
The Koosmans put in walk-in coolers, an ATM and lottery tickets.
“We took a look around at how many mom and pop stores were left,” Dale Koosman said. “There weren’t too many, so we decided we had to come into the convenience store age.”
They also petitioned Alden Township to allow the store to sell alcohol.
“When we bought the store Alden Township was a dry township,” Maggie Koosman explained. “We were trying to make the store appealing to people now in the community.”
“The big story is how the store has evolved over the years,” said Dale Koosman. “It’s just kept changing to fit the community’s needs.”
“The store has always kept up,” agreed Gordy Nelson. “And that’s good.”
In Gordy and Audrey Nelson’s day, it was a general store in the original sense of the word, stocked with farm machinery, seed, hardware, kitchen staples and sporting goods.
“It could handle everything,” Gordy said.
It was Gordy’s grandfather, A.E. Nelson, who put in gas tanks in the early 21st century.
Today, updates mean new pumps and tanks, and adding local products to the shelves while keeping the national brands customers are familiar with. Through all the changes and all the years, the needs of the customers and community have remained front and center.
“The people of this area, I can’t say enough good about them,” Joel said. “With putting in new pumps and tanks we’ve had construction projects nonstop. The customers’ willingness to stick around is really quite humbling.”
Seeing the changes, former owners were quick with praise and wished the Danovskys well.
“We’re so happy we have such industrious people running the store,” said Audrey Nelson. “They are professional. They want everything right and they want to maintain the history. I think that’s wonderful. They’re hard workers and they’ll do well. You always get what you give to a community.”
Gordy Nelson seemed to sum it all up.
“I must say the store looks very good,” he said. “It always did. It always did.”
If you go
What: Horse Creek Store one year anniversary
When: Saturday, June 29, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Horse Creek Store (2069 County Highway X, Star Prairie)
Details: Wine tastings from Dancing Dragonfly, ice cream and hot dogs.