You might as well go out on top.
Owners of Watertown’s Piggly Wiggly on the far northeast side, Jeff and Cindy Tate, were honored in late July with the Wisconsin Grocers Association Grocer of the Year Award. They follow up that honor with the announcement that they will be selling the store as they approach retirement.
The buyers of the supermarket will be their friends and colleagues in the grocery business, Brian and Rachel Wohlfeil.
“The wheels are in motion and (the sale) is happening on the 31st of December,” Tate said.
Tate is leaving his multi-award-winning store, which he founded July 11, 2007, to trusted friend Wohlfeil and the two don’t foresee much in the way of changes.
Brian Wohlfeil is general manager at the Watertown Piggly Wiggly and has worked there since the day it opened.
Tate recalled that he hired Wohlfeil after noting the younger man’s experience at the Oconomowoc Piggly Wiggly. Tate managed that store for a decade, before coming to Watertown to help open the facility here. Wohlfeil had cut his teeth, in part, in the grocery business as assistant manager at Sentry in Hartford.
“Brian had an extensive background in retail supermarket management,” Tate said, “and he now has extensive knowledge of the Watertown market and community.”
Tate said that the 27,000 square-foot Watertown Piggly Wiggly store was constructed in what was once an open field near the current Watertown Regional Medical Center. The site had been identified as promising for a grocery store and with some recommendations from a developer, the facility came into being under the ownership of the Tates.
“We did market research and, although the site was not optimum, it was the best one available,” Tate said.
Piggly Wiggly’s competition for the grocery market in Watertown includes Pick n’ Save, Breselow’s Family Market, Walmart, Aldi and Glenn’s Market. Kwik Trip is in the mix, as well, since it increased its grocery offerings in recent years.
Tate and his wife decided to sell their store here because they wish to, “ease into retirement,” Tate said. They also own the Piggly Wiggly in Waterloo and hope to sell it in two or three years, again to the Wohlfeils. The Tates have owned the Waterloo store for about four years.
“So I will be semi-retired soon,” Tate said, adding he and Cindy want to spend half the year in Florida and the other half in Wisconsin. “And guess which halves of the year will be spent where,” he said with a laugh.
Cindy added they also plan to enjoy volunteering and playing pickleball.
She also said that she and her husband have been proud of the quality products they have been able to provide to customers, as well as the good service that has been on offer.
The Tates have been involved with local charities, schools, churches and service organizations, as part of their grocery store’s operation.
“We immersed ourselves in the community and that has made it special for us. Working here — it’s been like family for us,” Tate said.
The Tates said they will miss the community involvement they have had.
“The organizations and the customers, they get to be family,” Cindy said. “And the staff we have has been great. We announced the sale to the employees and we had a party when we did. The employees, customers and community are involved with us.”
Tate is proud that Watertown’s Piggly Wiggly will continue to be a family-run business. He said Brian and Rachel Wohlfeil will be having their son, Logan, working in the store.
“And their daughter, Olivia, can’t wait to work there,” he said.
Tate stressed the fact that Brian has been with the Watertown Piggly Wiggly, “since Day One.”
Wohlfeil said he has always enjoyed working in the grocery business and is excited to be owner of a store.
“I’ve been doing this for a very long time. It’s my life and second family,” he said. “I enjoy seeing the employees growing and the happiness this can bring a community. That is what drives me. We want to provide jobs and food, and keep people happy with the things they need.
“Jeff has done an awesome job,” Wohlfeil said. “We just want to go with what we have and be a big player here and help out those in the community who need it — just continue Jeff’s legacy.”