The 104 Store has been a mainstay in Pawnee since September 18 of 1983. For just shy of 40 years, the Kern family has been working with the Pawnee community both as a shop, and with the community supporting events and businesses alike. The store is located aptly along Highway 104. Don and Anita Kern were previously in business at their farm shop south of Pawnee on the Black Diamond. “We sold farm supplies and such,” Don Kern said.
They moved into town when the building they are located in now, became available. “We just opened the large sliding metal doors that were a part of the original pole building, and that’s how we opened on our first day,” Anita said.
Previously the building had been Dave Dickey’s feed store and many other uses. When trying to come up with the perfect name for their relocated business, Don said his good friend, Tom Frazee came up with the name originally and “104 Store” just seemed to fit. “When we first opened we sold livestock feed, baling wire, dog and cat food and such. As we got more customers, they started asking for soda and other miscellaneous items. So, we started adding products as people asked for them. That is why we ended up with such a variety over the years,” Anita explained.
Besides the Pawnee store, in 1997 they added a 104 sister Store in Auburn as well. The Auburn store carries pretty much the same items as the Pawnee store. This is a locally-owned family business. The Kerns have three boys Steve, who is the oldest, and who is married to Candace. They have two daughters, Avery and Ashlyn. Their middle son Mike is married to Kristin and they have Jackson and daughter Emilee. Their youngest ,Matt is married to Mandi and they have four boys, Austin, Talin, Keelin and Tatin.
Staying true to the needs of the local customers is how the Kerns have kept their business on track with the times.
At one point hardware was a large part of the merchandise that the 104 Store provided to their patrons. “We had a full hardware store for 15 year,” Don said.
They also offered a full line flower shop for 10 years. Unfortunately there was just not enough need in Pawnee and the surrounding communities to enable them to continue these services.
The same is true of videos. Many will remember during the high popularity of videos going into the 104 Store to check out videos for a busy nights entertainment! Until recently, the 104 Store was also the place o get your garden flowers and seeds. Anita said the older crowd always loved buying flowers and planting gardens, however, the locals don’t seem as inclined to follow this trend in the past few years so three years ago they ceased selling garden items. They do however, still offer grass seed as part of their stock products.
One of the main items that the 104 Store sells is buildings. They are a dealer for R.C. Buildings. “We sell pole buildings for farm and commercial buildings,” says Don.
In recent times a few of them have even been used as houses. The Kerns have been selling RC buildings since 1980. In fact selling buildings is what brought the Kern family to the Pawnee area. They moved to Pawnee from Seneca, Illinois.
Besides the buildings and other items, the 104 Store also offers LP gas with specials offered on Saturdays from 11-3.
One of the more recent items they have added is gaming and a bar. While they have sold package liquor and quality alcohol over the years they added a Gaming Room and sit down bar in 2015. This atmosphere has brought a new entertainment aspect to the 104 Store.
Community involvement has always been a big part of the Kern’s lives. They were active with the Pawnee Prairie Days and Christmas on the Square and have been backing local sports teams over the years. Anita was also a Pawnee school teacher. She taught 3rd grade for many and was also a K-8 computer teacher for the last ten years of her career. “It was the best job ever,” she added. She retired from teaching in 2009. .
Loving being part of the Pawnee scene, the 104 Store is part of the fabric of Pawnee and the local community. For more information you can find them on Facebook. You can also call 217-625-2721 for details.