Leo Rader, the dry-goods king, still reigns supreme at 89 years old

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Leo Rader sits behind the cash register at the store he’s owned since 1956. 

In the age of big-box shopping and online ordering, old-fashioned dry goods stores are fast moving from Main Street to the history books. But that isn’t the case in Lockwood, where Rader’s has been in business longer than many of the town’s residents have been alive. “Some of them, (we’re) waiting on the fourth generation,” says Leo Rader, the store’s 89-year-old owner, of the customers he’s seen come through the doors.

Leo’s been around the store since 1938, when his parents moved to Lockwood and bought the business. He spent the next few years growing up: High school was followed by time in the military during World War II, after which he was graduated from Drury College with a degree in economics. But after all that, he came back to the store and purchased it from his folks in 1956. “Outside of a couple of days in the hospital, I had 36 years that I had opened and closed the store,” says Leo.

Although health issues now pull him from the day-to-day operations more often then he’d like, Leo still comes up as often as he can. And when he’s not there, the store’s still in good hands with two of his nieces, Kay Means and Janice Theurer.

Sporting a button-up shirt and tie, Leo sits behind the counter as he talks. “I said, ‘I’ve worn a tie since 1951,” says Leo of a recent conversation about his neckwear. “I hate to see the modern trend of men with suits on and no necktie. It’s kinda like seeing a woman with a tank top on in the wintertime. They’re not dressed right.”