Swedish sausage defined Hopkins grocer

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 18, 2011 - 8:04 PM

Lifelong Hopkins resident Philip Hovander grew Hovander Foods into a widely known grocery store.

Philip Hovander spent his life in Hopkins, but his grocery store's fame, and especially its Swedish sausage, spread across the Twin Cities.

The lifetime Hopkins resident ran Hovander Foods for 35 years, growing it into a legendary family-owned store. He died April 30 at 91.

"It was a small-town grocery store back when service was important," said great-niece Michelle Kelly of Hopkins. "Among generations, the name Hovander's is very well known. It was a landmark."

Hovander graduated from Hopkins High School and Gustavus Adolphus College before serving as a Marine in World War II. When he returned to his hometown, he took over the meat market, which opened in 1893, from his father and uncle.

He expanded and renovated the 18,000-square-foot grocery store, but its reputation remained with its Swedish meatballs and sausage.

"People came from all over Minneapolis for this Swedish sausage," said daughter Brenda Hovander of Wayzata about the secret recipe, now sadly lost. "It was very authentic Swedish."

The full-service grocery store -- one of the largest in the area at that time -- housed everything from a butcher shop to a bakery.

"It was an institution," Brenda Hovander said. "People still remember it ... as the core of the community."

A 1958 Minneapolis Star article with the headline, "Hovander's customers chat, catch up on Hopkins gossip while they shop," made it clear the supermarket was more than just a store. "The customers at Hovander's seem to take time for neighborly chit-chat as they stroll the aisles," shopping for "Hovander specialities" such as sausage and boneless rolled hams, the article stated.

After Sunday church service, Brenda Hovander and her family would stock shelves at the closed store to prepare for Monday shoppers. When stores began staying open on Sundays, her father wouldn't have it. In 1971, he sold the store where he had spent "99 percent of his time" for about 35 years. Today, it's a hardware store.

However, he and his wife, Doris, (also known as Davey) didn't leave 11th Avenue in Hopkins. During their lives, they bought four houses within two blocks.

"If people think of Hopkins, they think of Phil," Brenda Hovander said. "He really embraced the town."

The Swede with a quiet humor was also generous, she said. Every year the couple picked a family or charity in town to support anonymously.

Hovander was a longtime member of Minneapolis Golf Club. He was dedicated to his church and spending time with his wife of 65 years and daughters Brenda and Deborah.

The couple's deaths were about a year apart.

Survivors include daughter Brenda, four grandchildren and great-niece Kelly. Services are at 10 a.m. Saturday in Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins.

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141

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