The saga begins in the second decade of the 1900s, when Joseph Haddad left his home in Lebanon to come to America and then found his way to the heart of his new country— Peoria, Illinois. When Joseph Haddad first came to Peoria he worked at the Avery factory in Averyville until 1919, when he had saved enough money to open his first grocery store on South Adams Street. In 1925, Joseph moved his store to the front part of his home at 701 First Street. During their early years in Peoria before their business opened, Joseph and Mary Haddad‘s family grew. Their son Fred was born in 1915 and their daughter Frieda in 1918.
By 1937 Fred joined his father in the grocery business at the store on Nebraska and Central. They had very little time to work together because Joe died in the 1940s, leaving Fred to run the store by himself. However, Fred had learned the secret of success from his father and soon began the search for a larger site in order to expand his market.
In 1950, when Fred found that new location at 1911 Wisconsin, he was able to triple the size of his business to 2,400 square feet and to become a full service market. In 1965, Fred‘s sister, Frieda Abdnour moved next door to the Wisconsin store with her children and began working with her brother. She was the Aunt Frieda whose picture appeared in Haddad‘s Peoria Journal Star ads from the 1980s to the 1990s. Frieda continued preparing deli concoctions until she retired from Haddad‘s—by that time the store was on Rohmann. The senior Fred Haddad and his wife Mary had five children: Fred, Jr., Carol, Bob, Steve, and Patsy.
Perhaps, as might be expected, it is Fred Haddad, Jr., (born in 1938) who chose to join his father Fred, Sr., in the grocery business. In 1963, the senior Fred Haddad took his business one step further by opening a second store at a new location in West Peoria at the corner of Rohmann and Sterling (2504 W. Rohmann). When Fred, Jr. took over the management of the West Peoria store and, of course, is the person who greeted customers at the West Peoria Haddad‘s for over forty years.
This 3,600 square-foot building on Rohmann had originally been occupied by Jerry’s Supermarket, owned by a well-known West Peorian, Gerard Fahnestock. Fahnestock, a Manual graduate, had worked with his father Delmar, who managed the Lincoln Grocery, located across the street from the Lincoln Library. In 1938 Jerry opened West Peoria’s first supermarket, which was one of the first stores to feature groceries, produce, meat, and a deli in the same building. Eventually, Traub’s Market, located cattycornered from Jerry’s, became the second grocery store at this prime business spot in West Peoria. City directories indicate that from 1960-1961 the business at 2504 W. Rohmann was the Enright Super Value Grocery owned by Gordon and Bob Enright and that in 1962 the business was called Jerry’s Super Value. In 1962 Fahnestock retired and subsequently sold the building to the Haddad family. In fact, Fahnestock’s wife Joyce began working at Haddad’s when it opened in the same building where she and her husband had their grocery store for about 24 years.
By 1977, when Fred Haddad, Sr., sold the store on Wisconsin, Fred and his wife Mary joined their son Fred, Jr., to help out at the store on Rohmann. After about seventeen years of success, the store on Rohmann demanded more space for expansion. The Haddad’s had the chance to move to a new location without leaving the West Peoria area. Their current location-the 12,000 square foot building at 2407 W. Rohmann-became available.
This building was constructed in the early 1960’s as the Eisner Jewel Tea Grocery Store when the Chicago-based Jewel food stores tried to find success in central Illinois. This big chain store proved to be no match for Haddad’s (located just up the street) and closed its doors in 1970. The Haddads bought the building in 1978 and rented it to the U. S. Postal Service as a Post Office annex called the Rohmann Avenue Carrier Station. In January of 1979, a record snowfall caused the front of the building to collapse onto mail trucks parked in the front. The damaged awning was replaced with the slanted roof seen on the Haddad’s building until December 2010.
In 1981 Haddad’s moved to its new and current location with 32 full and part-time employees. To remain competitive with the bigger chain stores in the area, Fred Haddad, Jr., added a deli. In about 1991 Haddad’s added a bakery with bakers who begin their work at about 3 a.m. and work until 9 a.m. five days a week. In 1988 he added computerized scanners to its three checkout lanes. At about the same time, Haddad’s added one of its most popular deli offerings-entrees in microwavable containers.
Over the years, West Peoria has been good to Haddad’s and Haddad’s continues to be good for West Peoria. To thank his West Peoria customers, Fred Haddad, Jr., set aside one percent of the market’s January 1994 sales to give the newly formed city of West Peoria a head start. Many faithful Haddad’s employees have endeared themselves to its customers. Haddad’s has provided many West Peoria young people with not only a first job but the mentorship of caring adults who have introduced them to the world of work and a work ethic that has served them well.
In the late 1980s Fred Haddad, Jr., hired Garret Wrhel as the store’s manager. Fred thought he was just hiring a new manager; both men would have found it hard to believe that Fred had actually hired the next owner of Haddad’s Market-a man with a son Mark, who would carry on his father’s legacy as had the son and grandson of Joseph Haddad from the early 1900s. The Wrhel interest in the grocery business began in Pekin, Illinois, when 15-year-old Garret Wrhel took a job at the A & P grocery store on 2nd Street in Pekin, Illinois. That career choice stuck.
After Garret married his wife Beverly, they left Pekin to go to Colorado where Garret took a position working for Safeway, Inc., a national grocery store chain. In the 1970s Garret was given the opportunity to transfer to Austin, Texas, and then to Houston, Texas, where Garret worked until the early 1980s. However, both Garret and Beverly lost their jobs in the 1980s because of bad economic times. Learning of new job opportunities, the Wrhels headed to Phoenix, Arizona. It was not long before the family realized the Southwest was not the best fit for a couple of Midwesterners; they headed back to Pekin. Once in the area, Garret began his search for a new opportunity in the grocery business. With offers from two local grocery chains, Garret-who was a bit leery of trusting his career to yet another national chain-decided to investigate opportunities with an owner of an independent grocery store.
More by chance than by design, Garret stopped by Haddad’s Market in West Peoria and introduced himself to Fred Haddad, Jr. Chances are that Garret-like Fred’s customers-did not have to go far beyond the front door to run into the store’s owner. Not ready to make a hasty decision, Garret waited a few weeks to consider which of the offers on the table best fit his and his family’s goals. After a couple of follow-up calls to Fred, Garret was convinced that he wanted to entrust his future to one man instead of to a corporate office. Garret was thrilled with his decision and the opportunity to continue his career as a store manager at this independent grocery store in West Peoria, Illinois. Then, in the fall of 1995, Fred Haddad, Jr., presented Garret with a much different offer.
By 1993 Fred had known that there would not be a fourth generation of Haddad’s to run the store. Therefore, in 1995, when Fred was starting to consider retirement, he approached Garret Wrhel about the possibility of his buying the business. Realizing he was not a young man himself, Garret needed to discuss this unexpected opportunity with his family, especially to find out if his son Mark had the desire to continue this venture if his father chose to begin it. In February of 1996 Fred Haddad, Jr., sold this business-begun 77 years earlier by his grandfather Joseph-to another family who would begin a new legacy built on the strong Haddad foundation. Immediately joining in to help Garret with this new family business, Beverly Wrhel began working in the meat department as a meat wrapper, and Mark began as a stocker and night manager. Many Haddad’s shoppers probably did not notice the transition since Fred, Jr., stayed on until 2004, greeting customers and helping the Wrhels learn the finer points of the grocery business and the traditions of Haddad’s Market.
The Wrhels began putting their own very visible marks on their new store. In 1998, Haddad’s received its first face-lift with the remodeling of the store’s interior with fresh paint and a new graphics design throughout the store. In 2000, they expanded the grocery department to include many new specialty items with the intention of refocusing the business as a specialty grocery store. Specialty items on the shelves of the store enhanced the already-established reputation of Haddad’s as a specialty store begun earlier by its deli and bakery departments. Customers have grown used to looking for the ?New Item? signs on shelves throughout the store.
In 2002, Mark introduced the idea of a home delivery service. With a significant number of senior citizens in West Peoria, this service was well-received from its inception and continues to be a huge hit with customers who find it difficult or inconvenient to shop for themselves. The year 2003 saw the completion of several projects: an update of the office and register systems and of the heating and cooling systems. In 2004, when Fred Haddad, Jr., decided to end his forty-year attachment to Haddad’s-where he had spent his entire career in the grocery business-Mark Wrhel took over the day-to-day operations of the store.
By 2005, customers had definitely begun to expect something new to be happening at Haddad’s on a regular basis. That year Mark took the first step of his vision to revamp Haddad’s for the future. He began with a complete remodeling of the deli department. 2006-2007 saw the arrival of new freezer cases, replacing the open front cases with new upright cases with doors. At about the same time, the meat department began its transformation with a new lunchmeat case where the greeting card rack once stood. By 2008 Mark Wrhel began remodeling the meat and produce departments by introducing new larger cases in both departments. Having done so much work on the inside, Mark recognized the need for tending to the outside area of the building.
On New Year’s Eve 2010, a fire started at Haddad’s West Peoria Market. Even though a valiant effort was made by the West Peoria Fire Department and several other departments that came out as mutual aid, there was no stopping the blaze. The store lay in ruin by sunrise of a brand new year.
After the fire, Mark Wrhel has been dedicated to making sure the new Haddad’s will still have that hometown family feel West Peorians have come to know.. There have been a few improvements to the new store. The building has been increased by 4,000 feet, making the aisles wider and departments slightly bigger
The building of the new store was official started with a ground breaking ceremony on May 2, 2011 and is expected to open in November 2011.
“We provide our customers with a shopping experience that will exceed their expectations, encourage them to return, and tell their friends. This enables us to get a fair return on our investment and build a secure future for all our employees.