Hawkins remembered as a quiet, tireless leader, who always had a smile
Friends and co-workers remember Jack Hawkins as the driving force behind well-known Rochester businesses, who mentored young people and whose main goal was to make his customers smile.
Friends and co-workers remember Jack Hawkins as the driving force behind well-known Rochester businesses, a mentor for young people and a person whose main goal was to make his customers smile.
Hawkins died at the age of 84 last week. He owned and operated many local businesses, such as the fondly remembered Jack’s IGA neighborhood grocery stores in the 1980s and Carousel Floral in recent years. He was a tireless worker who always scoffed at the idea of retiring.
“He was working right to the end,” said Carousel employee Andrew Sonnebend. “He was the main asset of the Carousel team. He was always working hard.”
Hawkins was known for both creating visually interesting displays and providing attentive service.
Working early in the pandemic, Hawkins added a sweet touch to Carousel customers’ shopping experience by giving chocolate candy “smiles” to shoppers as they made their purchases.
“He just wanted to make people’s days a little better,” said Sonnebend “People walked out smiling ... and Jack was smiling … People kept going back to him, because of the effect that he had on them.”
Carousel Floral Gift & Garden Center was founded in 1991 on Second Street Southwest. The business grew and evolved, with multiple Rochester stores in different locations. The sole remaining Carousel store is at 1717 41st St. NW, now under the ownership of Hawkins’ partner, Mike Zander.
After learning of his death, people turned to social media to reflected on Hawkin’s time as the owner of Jack’s IGA. In the 1980s, Hawkins’ grocery stores were known as welcoming and cheerful.
It wasn’t just his long history in retail that people remember. Hawkins was a longtime scoutmaster for a very popular Boy Scout troop based at Rochester’s Zumbro Lutheran Church.
Steve Borchardt, former Olmsted County sheriff, was a Scout in Hawkins' troop in the late 1960s.
“He made a huge impact on my life. I had a lot of respect for him,” said Borchardt who remembered Hawkins taking the troop on many trips and leading them in exciting projects that attracted many boys to the troop.
“We got to do lots of high adventure activities. We went to Chicago. We took a train to Montana to go camping,” he said.
One memorable project, building two sailboats in the church basement and later learning to sail them on Leech Lake, led to a lifelong love of sailing for Borchardt.
However, it wasn’t the activities or the trips that made the most lasting effect.
“Jack had such a strong value system … He was really committed to excellence. The details were always taken care of. That’s why our troop always won all the awards and why Jack’s stores always did so well,” he said. “That was the influence of Jack Hawkins.”
While he was a leader in the community, he wasn’t as well known as many others. Still, Borchardt saw Hawkins as an important figure who helped shape the community.
“... A quiet man, working outside of any public limelight, positively shaping many young lives. I am indebted to him and proud to be considered a friend,” he wrote of Hawkins.