Judy Doell, Bryan Hiebert and Debbie Peters have many fond memories of growing up in Martensville during its early years. The three siblings were adopted by Peter and Katherine (Kay) Hiebert in 1960 and looking back, they are proud to have parents that played a big part in Martensville becoming the community it is today.
In 1938, Peter Hiebert purchased a business, located on the old graveled Highway 12, as well as adjacent land from Dave Martens. From there, Hiebert began running the Avenue A Service Station, which was located where the Martensville Restaurant currently sits on Centennial Drive North. “We think he chose this location because of its close vicinity to the highway and he saw it as a good business opportunity,” Bryan stated. “We believe that our parents were some of the first entrepreneurs in Martensville and they provided service to the area from 1938 to 1975. Dad was 75 years old when he retired and worked right up until then,” Judy added.
Having ran the business for numerous years already, after Peter married Katherine Unger in 1946, the two worked together to create a business that provided a wide range of services to the area and became a regular stop-in location for the local families. Peter wanted to build his new wife a home, so he constructed their first home together with the wood from grain bins. This house was later sold and moved into another location in Martensville.
Not only did the Martensville Shop-Rite, formerly known as the Avenue A Service Station, provide groceries, they also provided gas, candy, ice cream, a restaurant with a take-out option, vehicle repairs and maintenance, vehicle towing, hardware, a coffee shop and more. On top of everything, they were also the first post office in Martensville. “The business was a place that everyone came. It was very important to mom and dad that the local families didn’t go hungry, so they had an honor system where families in the surrounding area could buy groceries on credit. This allowed them to still purchase groceries and put money down as they were able to,” explained Judy. At the time, Martensville was a poor community, and families couldn’t afford to pay immediately which is what they would have to do if they travelled to Saskatoon. Peter also took much pride in pricing his groceries at a comparable, if not lower rate than that of Saskatoon businesses. “He always said that he could make more money by selling a little bit less than everyone else because he would sell more and in the long run, he would be making more money. We even had people from Saskatoon coming here to shop,” Bryan stated.
The original store burned to the ground in 1958 and Peter didn’t have the funds to rebuild at the time. Being a provider of ESSO gas, the corporation saw the potential for the business and provided Peter with a loan for $5000 to rebuild. “That was a lot of money back then, but they saw that it was very important for the business to be there,” Judy explained.
As teenagers, the three children helped their parents out with the operation of the business, along with many employees and one other long-standing employee – Margorie Bendel.
“It was a very busy place. We had many customers that would come in daily to get the items they needed, and others that would just come in to sit and chat and have coffee with dad. The atmosphere of the business was an open-door, enjoyable, family-feel for many customers coming in,” Judy noted.
Initially, the store was open Monday-Saturday, and Peter would be there for 7am every day, and close at 11pm each night. Eventually, despite some backlash from the Mennonite community, the business began to open on Sundays as well.
Both Peter and Kay took great pride in their community and were involved in a number of groups and local initiatives. Both were involved with the student council, town office, Martensville naming committee, helped bring in the Mennonite Mission Church, and provided funding and volunteering towards the construction of the first indoor rink for the area, which was built in Warman at the time. Peter was involved in the Warman Curling Club and Kay was involved in many local Girls’ Clubs and as an avid seamstress, taught many of the local women how to sew. In addition, Kay was also a boisterous advocate for Martensville by responding to newspaper articles and was on the radio at one time as a voice for the community.
After adopting their three children in 1960, Peter and Kay took a small hiatus to spend time as a new family and rented their store to Pete and Herman Siemens until 1965. The family moved to Saskatoon until 1965, when they returned to Martensville and remained until 1975 when they retired. From 1969-1975 Abe and Leona Friesen rented the garage from Peter and Kay and ran Friesen’s Esso Service. “The timing of them retiring worked out perfectly. The 1960’s were the heydays for the store and once the new double-lane highway 11 was built by Warman, much of the traffic was diverted that way. Shortly after they retired, another grocery store came to Martensville, so it worked out well for them timing wise,” said Bryan.
Without the contributions of Peter and Kay, Martensville might be a very different place today. Many local families benefited from the kindness that the two entrepreneurs provided and Judy, Debbie and Bryan are happy to be able to share these stories as a way to keep their parents memories alive. Peter passed away in 2000 and Kay in 2002.
Photo: Judy Doell and Bryan Hiebert with a photo of the business their parents ran from 1938-1975 in Martensville.