Yngurd Fehlau with his daughter Elizabeth inside Fehlau’s Hardware South Portland Historical Society photo

Happy New Year. We at the South Portland Historical Society would like to thank everyone who supported our organization throughout 2020. We are so grateful that we were able to continue our work of preserving local history.

Through artifact donations and our research efforts, we made some significant finds and recorded aspects of our community’s history that had never previously been documented. It’s a gift that we all give to present and future generations … and we couldn’t have done it without you.

I was pleased to connect with some members of the Fehlau family this past week. Anyone who lived or traveled through the Thornton Heights neighborhood in the 1950s will know the name well, related to the hardware store that was on Main Street for a decade. For those not familiar with the name, Fehlau is pronounced FAY-lau, where the “au” sounds like “ow” in “cow.”

Fehlau Super Center was a self-service hardware store operated by Yngurd Fehlau and his brother Martin Fehlau. The brothers opened the store around late-1951. The store was located in the left two storefronts of the building at 522-528 Main St. (that is the building where you’d find Edible Arrangements today). Fehlau’s Super Center was on the left side and Louie Nappi’s barber shop was in the storefront on the far right.

Yngurd Fehlau (pronounced ING-gurd) worked full-time in the business. He was born in 1907 in Alabama where his father served as pastor of a Lutheran church. The family later moved to Trenton, New Jersey, before ending up in Maine. He was drafted into the Army in 1942 during World War II and served for four years. He fought in combat throughout campaigns in Europe, including the invasion of southern France.

Yngurd and Martin Fehlau in front of their newly-opened Fehlau Super Center, circa 1951. South Portland Historical Society photo

Martin Fehlau was the younger of the brothers. He was born in 1916 in Alabama. He also served during World War II, enlisting in 1942 and served four years in the Army Air Corps. He was an MP, stationed in England and later in Paris, France. Martin attained the rank of temporary master sergeant.

After the war, both Yngurd and Martin went to the University of Maine at Orono where they graduated in the class of 1950 – Yngurd was the class salutatorian and Martin was ranked No. 4 in the class of 1,200 students. Both brothers then enrolled at Columbia University in New York City where they received their master’s degrees in economics in 1951. Martin decided to immediately pursue a career in teaching. In the fall of 1951, Martin became a full-time teacher at Portland High School.

Yngurd decided to follow a different path. He and Martin opened the Fehlau Super Center on Main Street. They were co-owners, but Yngurd was the one working in the store full-time with Martin helping out part-time when his teaching job allowed.

Martin was a fervent advocate of vocational education and led the effort to have a dedicated vocational high school built in Portland. He served as the first director of the Portland Regional Vocational High School, from 1969 to 1984 (in the 1990s, the school was renamed the Portland Arts and Technology High School or PATHS).

According to Yngurd’s son, John, the Fehlau Super Center failed in the early 1960s due in large part to customers traveling away from their local neighborhood to shop instead at larger stores. It was the same fate suffered by many local neighborhood stores across America.

Sign painters freshening up the Fehlau Super Center sign. South Portland Historical Society

After the hardware store closed, Yngurd Fehlau went on to a career in teaching. He taught in South Portland schools and at the University of Maine at Portland [now USM]. For a time, he also worked for the State Education Department. He was the supervisor of Civil Defense Adult Education where he set up classes for teachers who would be teaching classes on survival tactics and radiological monitoring.

If you have information, artifacts or historic photographs to share, please reach out to the South Portland Historical Society. You can reach us by mail at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106, phone, 207-767-7299, email, [email protected], or through our Facebook page. The society’s Online Museum can be found at https://sphistory.pastperfectonline.com.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society.

Fehlau’s Hardware, 562 Main St. South Portland. South Portland Historical Society photo

Martin Fehlau in Paris in 1944. South Portland Historical Society photo


Advertisement for Fehlau Super Center, 562 Main St. South Portland Historical Society image


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