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  • Fairbury News staff

Steffen reflects on Dave's career

Alan Steffen stands next to a picture of his dad, Dave Steffen, in his Dave's Supermarket office.

While other kids read comic books and enjoyed a pop after school, Alan Steffen went to work.

That work ethic lead to Steffen’s success as a future partner involved with Dave’s Supermarket in Fairbury. Steffen will retire at the end of the month after many years working for the family business.

“When I was in third grade, I was bagging potatoes,” Steffen recalled. “We got paid a penny for every 10 pound bag we did.”

Steffen’s first hourly job was in 1967 putting away empty pop bottles for 60 cents an hour. When President John F. Kennedy was shot, Steffen remembers finishing his plate at Isaac Walton School during a time when he bagged potatoes for a job. He spent time doing practically everything in the grocery store.

“I worked meat and produce – you’d help out in any department.”

Steffen’s parents, Dave and Emma Lou, founded Dave’s in 1950. Steffen recalls his dad wanting to keep doing everything at the store but his mom encouraged his dad to let the kids become involved. Steffen’s brother Mark went into the marketing side of things while he did more of the buying and seasonal items.

“Growing up, I thought I wanted to do something else for a few years. It kind of grew on all of us as we made the decision to stay in it in the 70’s,” Steffen explained.

Steffen’s sister Vicki retired from the store in January while his brother Brian works with dairy and specialty foods. Mark and his son Justin remain very involved in the business. Justin is a new partner and general manager while Steffen’s nephew Matt Zehr works in maintenance, canned meats and produce. Justin’s wife Danielle and Mark’s wife Kanda also work in the office. Emma Lou, also referred to as Emmy, remains an important part of the business and family as well.

“We can’t keep up with her,” said Steffen. “She’s 92 and drives up here at least once a week.”

Spending time with kids is important to Steffen and his wife Margi so they plan to visit their youngest daughter in Arizona, their son in Denver and another daughter who will likely move to the Portland area.

Steffen believes having the store go to the third generation is what his dad would have wanted. If that generation was not involved, Steffen feels things could be much different. He says the biggest thing he will miss after retirement is working with the public, calling his time at the store a "pleasure and privilege."

A cake and ice cream celebration is planned in the Dave’s 3rd Street Deli Saturday, July 20 from 1-3:30 p.m.

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