The former J.C. Penney building is now the A.H. Bernauer building.
A.H. Bernauer was the general manager of the J.C. Penney store and a major civic leader in Wadena for 23 years. His leadership and energy helped Wadena become the most vibrant regional retail center in rural Minnesota, said David Evert, owner of the building. Not everyone always agreed with his ideas, but none who knew him questioned his energy, commitment or entrepreneurial spirit.
A.H.'s son, David, grew up to become and retire as the CEO of Walgreens. In spring 2009, David and Mary pledged seed money to help a local nonprofit, Stimulating Economic Progress or STEP, build the Prairie Rivers shared-use kitchen. The purpose of this kitchen is to increase awareness and demand for locally grown foods, help local food entrepreneurs start new businesses, create new jobs and serve as a center for local food education. All of this activity is intended to help improve the business strength of local food producers as one method of strengthening local economies.
A. H. Bernauer, a native of St. Cloud, came to Wadena as manager of the J.C. Penney Store and resided in Wadena for nearly 30 years. His creativity and leadership skills plus solid business aptitude made the J.C. Penney store in Wadena one of the best run stores in rural America, Evert said. Throughout his years of business management in Wadena, he gave the community enthusiasm, persistence and determination working always to make this a bigger and better community to live and work in.
A progressive and avid supporter of the community, he served in many volunteer leadership positions including:
- President of the Civic and Commerce Association in 1944
- President of the Lions Club 1945
- President of Wadena Country Club
- Chairman and member of the Chamber of Commerce through 1962
- Chairman of the Senior Council on youth
- Chairman of 4th war bond drive
- President of the Wadena Country Club
- President Wadena Scrap Salvage committee
- Chairman Girl Scouts Finance
- Chairman Wadena Recreation
The A.H. Bernauer building now houses Harvest Thyme Bistro, a food establishment serving locally grown organic foods as much as practical; An Open Book, a bookstore; and Gracie's Clothes Closet, providing new and like new family clothing, Evert said.