Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Westerkamp Grocery - 5106 Washington Street

Pepsi Cola, Carlson Frink Dairy, Beef 39¢ a Pound, Fruit, Vegetables and Free Delivery! The building on 51st and Washington is still in existence, but, compared to the former Westerkamp Market, doesn't have much personality.
August Westerkamp was born in New York City in 1861, moved to Ohio and then Colorado, where he found a job with the Globe Smelter. In 1892, August married Matilda Nelson and they settled in Retreat Park, walking distance from his job, and raised seven children. Sons Francis and Ralph worked at the Globe Mercantile on nights and weekends while they were in high school.
Francis' son, Ed Westerkamp remembered, “That was the old smelter store. They got paid in cash. The grocer just wrote down what you bought and when the paymaster gave out the money, every couple of weeks, he deducted what you owed the store. About 80 percent of their business was on credit. After World War I, anti-trust legislation required the smelter to sell its company store and Francis and Ralph were able to purchase the it in 1919.
“Each customer was assigned a number, which was printed on a box. Each morning, they would take orders, fill the boxes and deliver the groceries. They had three trucks and three delivery men. There was no charge for delivery or for carrying customers until the end of the month. Many people paid their grocery bill in eggs and the store had so many eggs, they began boxing them and selling them to the Union Pacific commissary stores in Wyoming and Nebraska. The business grew and the brothers built a larger store in 1926, located a couple doors south on Washington.”
People in Globeville didn't trust banks (and there wasn't any bank located in the neighborhood) and would ask for a loan from someone they knew, like the Westerkamps. During the Depression, the Westerkamps carried people for several years. Ed recalled, “For years, people have asked me if I was related to Ralph or Francis Westerkamp and I would say ‘yes.’ They’d tell me, ‘Your dad saved our family.’”
Both the Globe Smelter and the Westerkamp Grocery are gone now. But a small grocery with free delivery and a proprietor who knows your name is just what Globeville needs.

One of the delivery trucks in front of the former Globe Smelter Store.
Photo used with written permission from Ed Westerkamp

5106-5108 Washington Street
Photo Denver Public Library

5106-5108 Washington Street, 2016
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

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