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It’s still going to be Breen’s

By Staff | Dec 7, 2014

While the name will still be Breen’s Hardware, for the first time in 65 years, someone other than a person with the name of Breen will be the owner.

Ken and Marlys Breen sold the hardware store located on Blue Earth’s Main Street to Scott and Kay Nemanic, effective Monday, Dec. 1.

The Nemanics own the Parts City stores in Blue Earth and Wells. While Scott will continue to manage those two businesses, Kay Nemanic will be the owner and manager of Breen’s True Value Hardware Store.

“I am very excited to take on this new opportunity,” Kay Nemanic said. “I am also very happy that Ken has agreed to stay on and work part-time while I learn everything about the hardware business.”

The Nemanics moved to Blue Earth in 2000 when they purchased the former Midwest Auto store here. The name was changed to Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts and then to Parts City.

The couple moved here from Stevens Point, Wis., where Scott had owned a Champion Auto Parts store.

“We both grew up in the Twin Cities,” says Kay Nemanic. “We wanted to move back to Minnesota, but we wanted to live in a small town.”

After five years in Wisconsin, they relocated to Blue Earth. They have three children, ranging in age from 21 to 15.

In 2006 they bought the Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts store in Wells and then changed the name of both businesses to Parts City.

They have nine employees between the two locations, and plan on having two or three at the hardware store.

“I have actually thought about this (buying Breen’s Hardware) for several years,” Scott Nemanic says. “I could see the potential with it and it just seemed like the thing to do.”

Besides, Kay Nemanic adds, they did not want to see the store close, since it has been such a fixture in the business district for so many years.

Breen’s Hardware Store was started in 1949 by Ken Breen’s parents, John and Marian.

In about 1968 or 1969, Ken Breen returned home after attending the University of Minnesota and began working at his parent’s hardware store, eventually becoming sole owner.

“My parents had moved back to Blue Earth from Illinois,” Ken Breen says. “My dad had been managing Montgomery Ward stores there.”

The senior Breen was a native of Truman.

They came to Blue Earth and bought the Western Auto Store that was in a building on the block where Juba’s Super Valu is now located.

In 1952 they moved the store to its present location on Main Street, or at least the north half of the current store.

Ken Breen says his father had a disagreement with the regional manager of Western Auto and took down the sign and changed the name to just Breen’s Hardware.

Later, the store became affiliated with Our Own Hardware Stores. Then, about 30 years ago, it dropped that name and joined with True Value Hardware stores, which it is still affiliated with.

At some point in the past the Breens purchased the building to the south of their store and expanded to their current size.

The south building had once been the post office, then a pool hall. Eventually it had become a restaurant in the front end, with a bar in the back called “The Hideaway.”

Ken Breen recalls when the wall was demolished between the two buildings. The contractor miscalculated and the whole building started to collapse.

“We had to have a beam fabricated at Tafco and installed quickly,” Breen says. “My father wanted to open up the whole wall between the two structures to make it one large open space, but that was never possible.”

Ken and Marlys Breen have been a fixture in downtown Blue Earth for many years and they say they are now ready for retirement.

“I’m glad the store will continue to serve our customers,” Breen said. “And I am going to stay and help where I can.”