Hilsabeck Sports

From The Stereoscope – 2015

The Hilsabeck family has a long history here in Phelps County.By Patti Simpson

David W. Hilsabeck was a pioneer businessman here. He and his wife, Mary Ellen Sullivan arrived in Holdrege in 1884 from his birthplace in Iowa. He opened a drug store on August 1, 1889. Their first child, Hale Hern Hilsabeck was born in 1885. While Hale attended Holdrege Schools he also worked in his father’s drug store. After graduating from Holdrege High School, Hale farmed east of Bertrand from 1906 until 1909. He then quit farming to help his father operate his pharmacy, and shortly later, they established the Hilsabeck Piano Company at 715-717 Fourth Avenue and then later on West Avenue. Hale operated the Piano Company from 1909 through 1930. Hale and his wife, Fredricka Alberta (Lundin) Hilsabeck had seven children. His father, David W. Hilsabeck passed away in 1914. In 1931, Hale went to work for Kansas-Nebraska Natural Gas Co until his retirement in 1960. He was always active in community programs, and was a Charter Member of the Phelps County Historical Society. In 1946, Hale’s son, Frank joined the Dickerson Sporting Goods Store located at 403 West Avenue as a salesman. In 1947, another of Hale’s sons, Bruce Hilsabeck joined the firm too. On April 19, 1949, Mr. Dickerson announced the sale of his interest in the business to Frank and Bruce Hilsabeck and the Hilsabeck Sporting Goods Company was born. Over the 4th of July weekend that same year, the Hilsabeck Sporting Goods moved to its current location at 408 East Avenue, which was the former home of KK Appliance. Hale Hilsabeck helped his sons in the store until he passed away in February 1978 at the age of 92. Later that same year, Frank and Bruce purchased the adjoining building to the north and expanded the business, exactly doubling its size. According to Bruce Hilsabeck, the store was originally opened from 8-5:30 p.m. except on Saturdays, when they would stay open until midnight to accommodate their customers. Frank was quoted as saying, “Saturday used to be a big grocery day. Then Saturday business kind of died out.” The Hilsabeck brothers were good at their business, because both were avid sportsmen. Originally the store sold guns, ammunition, fishing tackle, tricycles, bicycles, wagons, boats and motors plus a wide variety of sporting goods. They also did locksmithing and gunsmithing. Frank said they’d save ammunition in the basement and when they accumulated enough, they’d have a sale. He remembers customers were line up all the way down the street to buy ammunition. One time they put 50 cases of ammunition up for sale and it sold out in a day. Today, however, the business doesn’t sell guns. In 1989, brothers Frank and Bruce Hilsabeck sold the business to Brad Schneider and Dan Jensen. In 1998, 50 years after the brothers bought the sporting goods store from Charles Dickerson, and 9 years after selling it, Frank and Bruce Hilsabeck were still working part-time at the store. A 2010 news article in the Holdrege Daily Citizen reported that Hilsabeck’s sells bikes and provides bike repair services, sells clothing and shoes and can help customers with ordering specialty items. Brad has geared the store to be a modern day sporting goods store. The store carries over 100 styles of shoes, pro-line golf clubs and specializes in Nebraska apparel and accessories. They do a lot of special ordering for their customers and they provide discounts much of the time. They ask customers to compare their prices to anyone, anywhere.Today, Hilsabeck Sporting Goods is still located at 408 East Avenue in downtown Holdrege. Customers still enter through their signature, well-worn antique door and store front, and are still greeted with a friendly smile, knowledgeable clerks and great customer service. I’d like to think Frank and Bruce Hilsabeck would approve. – end

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