Bear In Mind
"That West Bend has a good creamery; two lumber yards carrying a complete line of lumber and all kinds of building materials; a wholesale butter, egg and poultry company; two elevators; live stock buyers and feeders who always pay the highest market prices; four general stores who carry large stocks of dry goods, clothing, ladies' ready-to-wear and groceries; two blacksmith shops where good work and prompt service are always to be had; one wagon shop; four auto dealers who handle the standard makes of cars; one bakery; one jewelry store; one harness shop; one exclusive clothing store; one exclusive grocery; one meat market; two restaurants; one hotel; two hardware stores where all kinds of shelf and heavy hardware are handled; two implement dealers; two shoe repair shops; two banks whose combined deposits are $998,202.59; one music dealer; one drug store; one newspaper; one plumbing and electrical supply company; several land firms; opera house; one barber shop; two pool halls, and one exclusive shoe store. Your wants can be supplied in a satisfactory manner by the above firms who solicit a share of your valued business.
West Bend has five churches, namely: Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Apostle Christian and Catholic. We also have a large consolidated school, also a parochial school. We have two lodge halls and seven secret lodges: Masonic, Odd Fellows, Woodman, Yeoman, Eastern Stars, Rebeccas and Royal Neighbors, and a well-established American Legion Post.
Our professional list consists of a doctor, dentist, two veterinaries and an attorney."
(From the West Bend Booster - September 20, 1920)
Wow. Just, wow. When we moved here in 1989 we were impressed by the number and diversity of businesses that were here. West Bend is a small town with a population of only 900 people, yet it had a Ford dealership, a lumber yard, a grocery store, a meat market, a clothing store, a shoe store, a furniture store, two implement dealers, an office supply/liquor store, three restaurants, two bars, a florist, a drug store, two vets, two banks, a golf course, two schools (public and parochial), three or four beauty shops, one barber, one blacksmith shop, a motel, four churches, two doctors (with a full medical clinic), a realtor, a funeral parlor, a nursing home, one elevator and a part-time attorney. (DH was recruited to make that one FULL time attorney.) Even Onawa, which is the county seat for Monona County, was hard pressed to top that.
Slowly, over the course of the years, the face of the town has changed. The clothing and shoe store closed. The furniture store decided to quit selling furniture and concentrate on it's flooring business. The druggist died and the store was sold to a pharmacy in Emmetsburg. You can still get your prescriptions filled - it just takes a day to get them (delivered to your door). There is only one doctor in the clinic now (but one really good PA). Restaurants have come and gone, and come again.
And we just learned that the Catholic church will close the school after this year. They only have 23 students in it (only one kindergartner) and don't want to spend the money to keep it running. As with every small town, schools are the center pin holding the whole thing together. Our public school has consolidated and is now sharing classes and sports with surrounding small schools, but we know its a matter of time before we will have to close our doors and bus the kids to Emmetsburg or Algona. I've seen too many towns simply dry up when their schools close, so any school closing is a cause for concern.
On the "plus" side, the West Bend Elevator is still the biggest employer around having bought several elevators in surrounding towns. The town decided it needed a newer and better motel, so it raised the money and built one. The lumber yard is thriving and has ventured into building spec houses, all of which have sold. Butter Braid built a new, modern manufacturing building and is another big employer. They also bought the old Roupe Furniture building and totally renovated it to make it into three new, beautiful shops (a home decor/furniture store, a clothing store and a coffee shop). The nursing home has added assisted living apartments (that are full). Skoglund Meats built a brand-new processing facility. And this past year the city put in new sewer/drainage to expand the Industrial Park.
On the whole we've never regretted our decision to move to West Bend. I guess there's something to be said for that.