Husband’s death does not deter
owner from continuing the operation
By Ben Marshall
VANDALIA, Mo.—Don and Donna Hoover have been pillars in Vandalia for decades.
The Hoovers purchased the Firestone store Jan. 1, 1977, from Herman Grafe with a small business loan from the government that was backed by the banks. For more than 40 years this Firestone store has been serving Vandalia with quality Firestone tires and General Electric appliances.
Don Hoover was born on Jan. 23, 1942, in Mexico, Mo., the son of Raymond Elmo and Alberta Mae (Day)Hoover. Don Hoover’s family moved to the area when Don was only 2-years old. His father relocated the family to work for the brick plant. Donna Bontz Hoover was born on a farm in Ralls County and went to Bridgewater school. The two met when they ended up attending Van-Far High School together.
Don and Donna married June 11, 1960, at the First Baptist Church of Vandalia.
Don worked for Elzea Egg and Poultry and the Waters Funeral Home and Furniture for William Waters. He was called to serve his country in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam Era, when he was stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska. When he returning to Vandalia, Don worked for Claude Collier of Western Auto for 17 years, and from 1971 to 1981, the Hoovers sold Kemper Life Insurance from their home.
On Jan. 1, 1977, the Hoovers purchased Vandalia Tire & Battery from Herman Grafe. Don Hoover knew Herman Grafe from being in Rotary Club together. Hoover changed the name to Vandalia Firestone & Appliance and the business moved forward.
The Hoovers were a young couple venturing out into a business of their own. Don was only 35 and Donna was 37, and the couple had a 5-year old daughter, Dea Raechelle Hoover. Donna said she had not had any retail experience before they bought the store. She previously worked seven years in the office of the brick plant, and another seven years with the Van-Far Elementary School. She now found herself in the retail business with many customers wanting to purchase items on credit. She said, G.E. Credit came through and allowed customers to do just that.
By purchasing the Goodin and Williams buildings located in downtown Vandalia in 1990, the Hoovers expanded their business to also include furniture.
The couple thrived at the location until Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, when Don passed away at the age of 76 in his home in Vandalia. Donna continues to operate Vandalia Firestone & Appliance, she says, for the community, and for the employees.
“Never forget where you come from,” she said.
The store’s emplohyees have stayed loyal to Donna and the business. Julie Picton has been working there for four years, while Travis Crump has been working there for 24 years, and Brian Carr has worked for the Hoovers for 41 years.
Donna Hoover also said that their daughter, Dea Raechelle Hoover, now owns two businesses of her own—“Are we there yet,” and “Discover St. Louis.”
One of her many reviews states, “Dea took our senior citizen travelers on a great tour of the city. She is a lot of fun, knowledgeable and has enough personality for three or four people. She is a fantastic tour guide and made our travelers feel very welcome in St. Louis. Thanks for a great time, Dea!”