La Feria News

Mercedes Ten-Ten Grocery Now History

Charles Bertholf, his cats and his Ten-Ten Grocery were a Mercedes landmark for many years. Photo: Bill Keltner/LFN

Charles Bertholf, his cats and his Ten-Ten Grocery were a Mercedes landmark for many years. Photo: Bill Keltner/LFN

Charles Bertholf locked the doors to his Ten-Ten grocery business last week for the last time. It wasn’t easy. He laughed and quipped: “after 44 years, it’s time to ‘go to the pasture.’” His light-hearted remark couldn’t mask his bitter/sweet decision to shut down a landmark known to generations of Mercedes residents. “Sometimes you just have to do what is best for yourself and your family.”

We’ll now have to adjust to not seeing Bertholf welcoming customers to his store where he was always flanked by his collection of cats on the counter or in his arms. Charles would often point out to his customers memorabilia of significant events of his life displayed on the walls of the store. Among them was included a meticulously-crafted model of a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber his father flew during World War II. There was no place in town quite like Charles Bertholf’s Ten-Ten Grocery.

You can’t miss the historical store. It’s located at 630 East 2nd Street, next door to his home. Most people would just say: “at the corner of old business 83 and Rio Rico Road.” There is a traffic light there now, but when his family took possession back in 1969, “things were pretty primitive. The Valley was just recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Beulah—everything was uphill,” he recalls. “It was a tough time with lots of ups and downs”

Berthoft relates the business had been in existence since 1946 with a number of owners before his family took over. The list begins with Mr. Maddon, then the Greenwald family, followed by the Howard Brewer family, and finally, Jessie Brothers from whom he bought the store.

“There was one more important person to be added to the list of people who are part of the store’s history,” he insisted, “I’m talking about Robert Sierra, who contributed much to our business,” he added. “He was a great man and everyone loved him.” Bertholf continued: “I still think about him every day for he was not only a great worker, but a great person with a great personality, who made Ten-Ten what it was. And I want to acknowledge that he was a big part of our success. He was the best.”

Ten-Ten Grocery known to generations of Mercedes residents.

Ten-Ten Grocery known to generations of Mercedes residents.

Then changing the subject, he stated: “People have wondered what the choice of the name, Ten-Ten, meant,” he said. “It’s not a mystery—It was just to let people know we were open from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m—nothing more.”

Bertholf described his years of owning and managing his Ten-Ten Grocery as a “wild ride” with many ups and downs.

He got to know families and watch their children grow up and find their place in the world. “I’ll always have a bit of Mercedes with me,” he said, adding, “In a small town like Mercedes, you get to meet people and know them, not just as customers, but friends.”

“We were all together in those days as the Valley experienced everything from drought, hurricanes, floods, and economic setbacks” he said. “And seeing my customers and their kids go off to colleges, to wars, to settle down here, or find a life somewhere else has been a very satisfying experience for me and my family.”

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