PRINCETON — What was once the site of a small, neighborhood convenience store will soon be a large, modern facility offering an array of attractions for those passing by on Route 6 on Princeton’s west end.
The demolition of the oldest Beck’s, which opened in 1948, began on Sept. 26 with the removal of the six gas pumps and the large awning which sheltered them. The company expects the new building to be completed in approximately 100 days, with weather permitting.
According to Woody Partain, manager of the location for 13 years, the new store will have six pumps for gasoline and two for diesel fuel. Because of safety regulations, the new pumps will be placed behind the new store on property purchased from the Bureau County Fairgrounds.
The construction will also require the fairgrounds to relocate their entrance on Gosse Boulevard.
“I expect the new entrance will be inline with the new cut-through at Orange Avenue which will cost us a few camping spaces, but we’re still in the planning stages and we won’t be losing much,” Kathy Bauer, executive secretary at the fairgrounds, said.
Bauer added there will be a new fence built, as well as some new trees planted between the new station and the fairgrounds. She also said there will be an additional gate between the grounds and the station to which their trucks will have access.
The new store will be 7,000 square feet and approximately a third larger than the Beck’s on Princeton’s North Main Street. It will also include a drive-up window, a kitchen, more convenience items, groceries, video gaming and, somewhat surprisingly, a fireplace and seating area.
“Leaving this store is kind of like leaving home, but I’m really looking forward to the electronic marquee so I don’t have to go outside to change it in the winter,” Partain said.
During the construction period, Partain will be working at a Beck’s in Chillicothe and the cashiers will be temporarily assigned to other locations in Princeton, Kewanee, LaSalle and Peru.
Longtime morning cashiers Sue and Chuck Newstrand, who are also brother and sister, are well known to their regulars and they were also feeling a little sentimental.
“It’s the small feel of it; I’ve always liked this old store, it’s home,” Sue said.
“I’ll miss the smallness of it because it seems friendlier than bigger stores. As soon as you walked through our door, we were right there greeting you,” Chuck said.
Autumn Oertel, an afternoon and night cashier for seven years, also felt some affection toward the old location.
“I’m looking forward to all of the upgrades because they were really needed, but I’ll also miss the old store because it was small, friendly and known as ‘the local Beck’s’. I’ll also miss all of my regular customers over the next few months,” she said.
One person on-site during the initial stage of demolition who didn’t have any sentimentality toward the little store was Beck’s CEO Daryl Becker.
“I have no feelings towards it, it’s just a building. It’s been remodeled several times over the years to the point that there’s nothing left of the original building,” he said.
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