Harry Opened Pieper's Feed Store in 1918

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

Today it is hard to believe that the area around the intersection of Main and D (El Camino Real) once provided one-stop shopping to the residents of Tustin and outlying areas.

A farmer could drive into town, park his truck, do his banking at the First National Bank of Tustin, buy groceries at one of the several markets, pick up needed materials such as pipe or nails at Tustin Hardware, have coffee at the Tustin Drug Store fountain, and load up a few bales of alfalfa for his animals along with a couple of sacks of chicken feed, a few packets of seeds and some seedlings at Pieper's Feed Store.

John F. Pieper opened the feed store in 1918 in a one-story building facing D on the north end of the First National Bank of Tustin, about where Kelly's gift shop is today. Pieper, known as Harry by one and all, came to Tustin in 1910 from Cincinnati, Ohio, with his fiancée Norma and her parents, Fred and Jennie Beckman.

He and Norma were married in February 1915 at a ceremony conducted by the Rev. McDougal of Tustin Presbyterian Church at the Beckmans' home. After a honeymoon in San Francisco, they set up housekeeping in a small white house on C Street and continued to work at H. Romer & Co., a general store on Main St owned by Henry Romer, Norma's uncle. Harry was general manager and Norma kept the books.

A daughter, Audrey, was born in May 1916. In 1918 the couple rented the one-story building attached to the bank and opened Pieper's Feed Store. Audrey Pieper Forney remembers that she and her brother Don, who was born in 1923, thought it was a neat place to play, with sacks of chicken feed to scramble over, bales of hay and alfalfa to climb, bins of dog biscuits, sunflower seeds, rabbit pellets, salt licks, fertilizers and insecticides, vegetable and flower seeds, trays of seedlings ready for planting – everything for the rural area Tustin was at that time. And always lots of cats and kittens.

Pieper had a truck scale constructed beneath the surface of the alley that ran north and south behind the store. One of the few licensed scales in the county, it was used by the Orange County Highway Patrol to weigh possibly overloaded trucks and trailers. Pieper was called out at all hours of the night and paid 50 cents for opening the scale as Audrey recalls.

The family moved into a larger home on D Street just south of First shortly after Audrey was born. In addition to running the store with Norma in charge of bookkeeping, Harry was active in groups working for the betterment of Tustin. He served on the city council for eight years, 1932 to 1940.

Don, his son, and David, Audrey's husband, eventually joined him in working in the store. Norma continued to operated the store after Harry died from a coronary in 1946. Don, David and Don, Audrey and Dave's son, worked with her, helped by family friends.

Great Western acquired their building when they purchased the First National Bank of Tustin  in 1959 and moved that operation into new quarters at the corner of Third and D. Soon, authorities decided the old Victorian building was not earthquake safe and the structure, including Pieper's Feed Store, was demolished in 1966, ending an era in Tustin history.


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