A look back at Weigel’s 90 years in business

After nearly going out of business, Weigel’s is celebrating 90 years in East Tennessee
Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 3:43 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - It has been passed down and evolved over three generations, this year, Weigel’s is celebrating 90 years in business.

The Weigel brothers, William Walter and Arthur Wallace used the land in Powell to grow and sell vegetables. William Sr. purchased four cows and transitioned it to a dairy farm and naming the company Broadacres Dairy. He built the original farm 1931 in the same place the company’s headquarters are today. He grew the company from 1941 to 1950 to the largest private dairy herd in Tennessee, also making ice cream and cottage cheese.

“We had 500 acres. It was all a farm. He started milking cows when he was 20 years old, he bought four cows,” said Weigel’s owner, Billy Weigel talking about his father.

But as business was booming, the world was changing.

“When the housewife went to work after the war our business fell apart. No one wanted home delivery anymore,” said Weigel.

After World War II, demand for milk deliver all but disappeared, said Weigel.

“This was our fleet and all of our trucks before we went broke,” he explained while pointing to a picture of a full lot of delivery trucks on the wall of the Weigel’s headquarters.

That’s when Billy Weigel, now in charge of the family business, shifted from delivery to drive-thru. He opened a drive-thru milk store on Sanderson Road in Knoxville.

“We didn’t make a profit for seven years because drive through milk store wasn’t going to be a good model. You just can’t sell milk and make a living. We didn’t have any income, so they were subdividing the farm. My farm just disappeared because that was survival,” he said.

That’s when the Weigel’s luck started to turn. Weigel shifted again, this time to convenience stores where people could walk in to shop for what they needed. And more luck followed. Weigel’s got an exclusive deal for Icee machines. Then it became the first self-service gas option in Knoxville. In 1998 Weigel’s was the largest gasoline retailer in Knoxville.

“This was my first two pumps in store 21 gas was 21 cents a gallon when I put those in,” said Weigel. “You’ve got to change, and I’ve always told somebody in 20 years we might sell roast duck and helium. Gasoline is going out and electric cars are coming in. We’ll be selling something.”

Weigel credits his success with evolving with the times. Over the years the stores have been recognized with local and national accolades and now has 70 convenience stores with a goal of 100 and is expanding to other cities in the Southeast.

As things change, there are a few things Weigel makes sure stay the same.

“We buy all of our milk from east Tennessee families who are still milking cows and we still only sell Tennessee milk,” he said.

The secret Billy Weigel says will be key to the company’s next 90 years is its people.

“You’ve got to take care of your people and remember that they’re the ones that keep it going,” he said.

Weigel maintains an interest in supporting the Boy Scouts of America, the Weigel’s Family Christmas, where the company takes 200 children shopping for Christmas presents every year, and Smoky Mountain Service Dogs and Wags for Warriors.

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