After Nearly 70 Years of Showing Up to Work at the Same Place, Shawnee Grocer Takes Stock

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SHAWNEE, OKLAHOMA -- When the phone rings at Hardesty Grocery owner Frank Oliver will probably answer.

He's not a hard man to find, here at 3:30 ever morning to turn on the lights, and often till 9:00pm to turn them off again.

Oliver says, "I look around and I think, 'well Frank.' All your life you're just finishing up."

He was 13 when F.H. Hardesty hired him on to load eggs and pump gas by hand.

F.H.'s son Merle married Frank's sister and so it was a family business decade after decade.

The Hardesty store sat on this corner so long the city of Shawnee finally just went ahead and named the road after it.

Merle quit in '82.

Frank stayed on and here he is.

"You don't change the name of a landmark," he says.

The store's changed some, but Frank's oldest boy Grady still runs the best meat market in town.

Margie's been here 42 years, Judy 28.

Frank is the biggest (and only) seller of Indian corn in Oklahoma.

Regular customers can still buy on credit, he delivers, and the air pump outside is still free.

"I never thought I'd see the day when a station would charge for air," he smiles.

Store owners can line their shelves with all kinds of items to lure customers.

Frank played that game, but he also treated people like his family and so they kept coming back.

During our conversation at the counter there was a moment where emotions took over and a thought crept in than maybe he'd gotten it wrong, that in trying to give, he'd sacrificed too much for his own family.

Through tears Oliver says, "I tried to provide for my family the things I didn't have when I was growing up."

You can think that if you want, but look around the store.

Look at the family pictures that line the shelves in place of flour and cake mix now.

Frank Oliver got a lot more right that he sometimes thinks.

The businessman and the family man had plenty of love to provide, enough to feed a whole town.

Hardesty Grocery sits across the street from the Firelake Casino complex in Shawnee.

It's been on that spot since 1934.

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