Those eyes. Brr-r-r-r-rrrr. They follow you around the store.

If you lived in the Midwest in the middle part of the 20th century, you know that Red Owl Food Stores were ubiquitous. Most every town, large or small, had one; and if not, one was only a short drive away. My little town of Barnum had a “Red Owl Agency” store, which wasn’t owned and operated by the chain but still shared the marketing benefits.

I loved to go there as a kid – I wanted to be a “store man” when I grew up – but even so, the owl-face logo scared the bejesus out of me. Those eyes. They would follow you around the store. This may have had the unintended benefit of deterring five-year-old boys from lifting a roll of Life Savers or a pack of Chiclets. One did not dare vex The Owl. It would haunt you in your very kitchen, staring at you from dozens of soup can labels and brown paper shopping bags. It sees you when you’re sleeping; it knows when you’re awake.

Image from


The Red Owl chain ping-ponged back and forth among several corporate owners, until eventually it was absorbed into the Supervalu dynasty. I think there’s just one left in Green Bay. The one in my Minneapolis neighborhood was razed in 2001, replaced by a yuppie upscale Lunds store. A shame, really; part of the Midwest’s cultural landscape is no more.

Seriously, I wonder how many young’uns were spared a life of crime and debauchery because of the eyes of the all-seeing Owl. Brr-r-r-rrrr.

3 Comments on “Those eyes. Brr-r-r-r-rrrr. They follow you around the store.”

  1. We used to go to the Red Owl in Aitkin!

  2. eja2maga2 says:

    Thief River Falls and Detroit Lakes, MN for our family. I still miss those stores. Thanks for sharing your memories!

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