As a kid growing up here Ken Melzen would accompany his dad on rounds delivering feed to local farmers.
Sometimes, those customers paid Melzen’s dad in animals.
“I’d be on the delivery truck with my father, we’d deliver feed and bring home a turkey in a bag,” Melzen recalls. “That’s what the farmers did back then if they didn’t have money for feed. They’d barter. My grandfather would trade feed for animals quite a bit.”
It’s a fond memory Ken shares as he spoke recently about his family’s 100 years in business in Glastonbury.
In 1920, Stanley Melzen, a Polish immigrant who came here through Ellis Island, founded the Melzen Grain Co.
“At our beginnings, we had a variety of names, including Melzen Grain Co., S. Melzen Feeds, and Melzen & Durdek,” the company’s webpage says. “Our first location was Station 35 (the name for the “center” of Glastonbury at that time). We shared a building with a phone company, which was upstairs from the feed store.”
Over the years the establishment changed locations a few times and Melzen’s even opened another store in Manchester. Today the business is headquartered at 100 Oak St.
Like the town itself, Melzen’s has evolved over the years as farming in Glastonbury ceased to be the town’s main industry.
Today the store is known as Melzen’s Pet Supply, though Ken, the third generation Melzen to run the operation, says the name doesn’t really encapsulate the wide diversity of goods the store sells.
“We can’t put a proper name on it because we do so much, large animal feed, dog and cat supplies. Then we do lawn and garden products, heating products, like stove pellets and bio bricks. We do bedding products for animals, fencing products, like split rail and electric fencing. We’re not just a feed store and we’re not just a pet store.”
Melzen’s is one of several family-owned businesses that are celebrating their centennial this year, albeit in a low-key, pandemic fashion, including Katz Hardware on Main Street and Richards Service Inc., in South Glastonbury.
Their success in surviving for 100 years is their common ability to evolve to meet the town’s changing needs, says Robert Krieger, the 4th generation family operator of Katz Hardware.
“With all of us, the reason we’re still here is that we’ve adapted and we're constantly evolving.”
“At Katz, we’ve changed and done so many different things in this establishment and that’s how we’re still all in business. We used to have an Ice cream shop, we once sold auto parts, we used to do small engine repair. We used to not have paint in the hardware store, but now I’m the largest paint store in the town. We used to do lumber, but now we don’t do that because of Home Depot. Every year we’re changing.”
The store was founded by Ben Katz. His son Joe Katz ran the family business until his son, Dick Katz took over, who then handed the operation over to Bob.
Like Katz, Richards Service Inc., has also survived 100 years because the family running the business recognized when it was time to evolve, says Donna Walstedt. The changes at the business over the years have been both operational and cosmetic.
Founded by Donna’s grandfather, James Richards and his brother Johnny (Green) Richards the South Glastonbury gas station in 1920 sold fuel and offered small car repairs, such as oil and tire changes. In 1994 Donna’s dad, Francis Richards, expanded the business to include a small convenience store and waiting room for customers. About 10 years later he bought more property next to the station and expanded the fuel pumping station to include gas and diesel pumps. He also created a full convenience store, which Donna talked him into naming Fran’s Market. Donna, who has worked at her family’s station for 26 years, took over the reigns of the business when her dad died in 2012.
She started working at the station with her dad in 1994.
“I worked with him for 19 years, and for seven days a week we worked together, side by side.
He was the roots of the gas station and my dad really incorporated all of those old roots of the business in me. I still think of “How would dad do this, and how would dad do that. We were a real father-daughter team.”