Merchant, conservationist Vernon Ostrom diesPublished 10:55am Thursday, February 21, 2013
Vernon Ostrom from rural Evansville loved to buy and sell — both merchandise and businesses. Ostrom — who was keen to sell a business to people who would keep it in the community — died Monday. He was 78.
Olstrom’s family started a hardware store in Evansville back in 1901. Over time, it grew to include a variety of home goods, and eventually a motor sports equipment store.
“My Dad always said ‘Ostrom is the only guy people would drive from Minneapolis to give him $100 bill,’” said Karen Satterlie Holte. “He sold so much stuff in his store — if you needed it Vernon had it, somewhere, and only he knew exactly where it was.”
Ostrom split off the Evansville store into two businesses, and sold the motor sports portion to two of his employees, Chuck Steffenson and Shane Englund.
“He really wanted us to succeed,” said Susan Englund, who works with her husband, Shane, and Steffenson at Evansville Lawn and Sports. “He was always checking on us, making sure things were going well.”
Rick Evavold, who ultimately took over the hardware store had a similar story.
“Vern was wanting us to come in and take over and keep it in the community,” said Evavold, adding that they kept the company incorporated as Ostroms because of its long standing in the community. “People would call it Ostroms anyway, no matter what we named it.”
Ostrom then started Dalton’s Outdoors, a sporting business and gun club in Dalton, which he sold to Evavold’s brother, Mike in 2001. He then moved on to start a hardware store in Parkers Prairie, sold it, opened one in Glenwood, sold it, then went back to Parkers Prairie to start another store.
“He couldn’t stay away from buying,” said Rick Evavold. “If you called and said you had something 50 percent off he’d buy it. He’s the one that got Ron started in Ron’s Warehouse in Alexandria.”
An avid sportsman, Ostrom was one of the founders of the Pioneer Heritage Conservation Trust in 1985, along with Dean Elmer, George Larson, and Carl Madsen.
The group gathered regularly with the thought of preserving a large marsh near Evansville that belonged to Alf Thompson, a descendant of pioneer settlers in the Evansville area.
Many in the area will remember the legacy of Ostrom’s Hardware and the man who was renowned for buying and selling in Evansville.
“It was 1981, when I started hanging out at Ostroms hardware and sports,” said Brent Olson via Facebook. “A good fit for my interests. Ample opportunities to meet people and haul appliances, fix small engines and buy and sell merchandise. For the next many years I worked and learned, travelled, hunted and lived with the friendship of Vern.”