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Les Robinson holds a piece of Kimball's heart

A grocery store could be considered the heart of a community. You cannot live without the services it provides. People flow in and out of the store just like blood circulating through the body. After spending an afternoon talking with Lester (Les) Robinson, longtime owner of Kimball's old Red Owl store, this description seems very fitting. "My [late] wife and I opened the store in April 1946," said Robinson. "It was pretty hard work. We made it a family store." The Robinsons were dedicated to their business. To make ends meet, the young couple lived in the back of the store for five years. Their back-room home included a bedroom and a half bathroom in the rear of the building. "There was no stove, no fridge and no shower in the store," said Robinson. He re-called cooking on a hot plate for dinner.  "At the time, we [also] didn't have a car; we couldn't afford it." Les and his wife, Genevieve, lived in the store until Dec. 1950, when they built their own home in downtown Kimball. They resided in this house for close to 53 years. Les's late wife, Genevieve, served as the store's cashier and greeted the customers as they came in. Just as the heart knows the inner workings of the body, Les and Genevieve heard about everything that was going on in Kimball. Robinson said, "We knew everything that was happening in town.  My wife knew all of the customers ... she worked very well with them. We had great customer loyalty." Les stated that they family had $100 on the books when they closed the store, "The town came through for us." The Robinsons also came through for the town. They didn't take a vacation until 12 years after the store opened. "In 1958, we drove down to Florida. Fred Jacobs ran the store while we were gone," recalled Robinson. The family sold their Red Owl store to the Gohmanns who have now moved the grocery store onto Highway 55. When the Robinsons owned the store, it was located on Hazel Avenue where Gusto Graphics is now located. The family behind the store For anyone who knows Les Robinson, it is obvious that the loyalty of his customers came from his humble personality.  Les is a kind, empathetic man who is easy to respect and care for. It is possible that this is what attracted Genevieve to him. "My wife and I met in Wadena. She was working at the Red Owl the same time I was." Robinson recalled. "I went into the service ... We were married when I came back on March 1, 1946." Shortly after their marriage, the couple bought moved to Kimball. This past March marked their fifty-sixth wedding anniversary. Robinson reflected on raising his family in Kimball. "We had our oldest daughter, Mary Jo, in 1948. In 1953, Jill was born ... I think that they both enjoyed this small community."  Today, both daughters enjoy music and found careers in this field.  Mary Jo works as a music therapist in St. Paul while Jill teaches piano lessons in the Twin Cities area.   Both girls acquired a love of music from their mother. "My wife was interested in the choir, and sang in Wadena.  She got our daughters interested in this [as well]," proclaimed Robinson. The Robinsons were also dedicated to their church community at the Church of St. Anne in Kimball.  Genevieve took care of church finances, while Les worked on maintenance.  "I painted the church a couple of times since I retired - both inside and out," stated Robinson. Since his wife's passing last month, Les has decided to move to Inver Grove Heights to be closer to his children and grandchildren. There is no doubt that Kimball will greatly miss Les's kindness and gentle nature.  He will take a piece of Kimball's heart with him as he leaves this community.  We thank the Robinson family for their service and dedication to the city of Kimball over these many, many years.