If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Great Plains Bank Part 2

Grenz, Anderson & Straub. "If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Great Plains Bank Part 2." Northwest Blade, 8 September 2011.

Continuing with the story of the Great Plains Bank, we now turn our attention to the former drug store located next to the bank building, and which was incorporated into the bank building in a remodeling and expansion project in 1997. (Although the bank was a two-story building and the drug company building next to it was a 1½-story, and each had different facades, they were built of the same brick and in the same year.)

The Eureka Drug Company building was erected in 1907 by John and Edward Maag. The Maags operated a partnership until 1913, when it was purchased by Henry D. Opp. In 1915, Mr. Opp sold ½ interest to R.H. Isaak, and in 1916 Mr. Isaak purchased the remaining interest of Mr. Opp in the firm, becoming the sole owner and remaining so until the time of his death in 1957.

Dr. Richard Henry “Hank” Isaak established the business called the Eureka Drug Company. The business of the store was the retailing of sundries and the dispensing of drugs. A complete soda fountain, with big booths down the center and smaller booths down the sides, also could be found here. There were large heavy glass plates in the floor to allow light into the basement. There was a cistern in the basement which he later converted into a fall-out (bomb) shelter!

One of Eureka’s most lovable, ingenious, enterprising and ambitious personalities, Hank Isaak had a love of life and love of man. His interests were wide, including music, photography, aviation, and carpentry. A common comment was “what will Hank be tearing down next and building in its place?” He went to college in Fargo, then came home and went into the drug store business. He saw the need for a good soda fountain, and then later a restaurant, in the basement of the store When Eureka had no ice plant he went ahead and made ice, selling it in huge quantities. Another time he bought a carload of pianos and sold them throughout the countryside. When the city light system wasn’t working too well, he got busy and installed his own generator for the drug store. When the time was ripe to sell ice cream, as there was none in town, he bought his own machine and made literally hundreds of gallons.

Hank Isaak was an accomplished musician, and was a good friend of Lawrence Welk, at times performing with him. His love of music was reflected in the name of the store in the 1920’s, the Eureka Drug & Music Store.

In the early days people bought eye glasses from counter displays in the store. Isaak, realizing a need, enrolled and graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago. He then built a new office and balcony in the store, and started his optometry business. In 1930, he hired a new manager and devoted his entire time to his optometry business. Managers noted in 1936 were Edwin Schmitt and Andrew Olson, when Dr. Isaak moved his optometry business to the Farmers Investment Building (the bank.)

In 1949, a fire caused by a faulty thermostat completely gutted the building and brought about a complete renovation of the store and office. The basement was used as the store for two years while the main floor was being rebuilt. Harold (Whitey) Schaeffer was the manager at that time.
The new main floor had a complete soda fountain with a stainless steel back-bar installed. A full dining room and kitchen were also installed. There was a seating capacity of 80 guests in the dining room. In 1955, the lunch counter and dining room were removed due to shortage of space for sundries.

Dr. Isaak’s son, Dr. Richard ‘Dick’ Isaak, also known as ‘Deacon,’ continued in the optometry business. His offices were located above the drug store, reached by a stairway on the west side of the building, entering off of G Ave.

Following Dr. R.H. ‘Hank’ Isaak's death in 1957, the drugstore business was managed by Lila Schultz Kramlich, and in 1962 a corporation of Lila Kramlich, Elial Harr-Pharmacist, Audrey Schaffer, and Nadine Harr was formed. They operated the Rexall Drug until 1991 when Elial Harr moved with the inventory to Heilman Drug, known thereafter as Eureka Pharmacy & Gift Shop. The old Rexall building was leased to a ‘Dollar Store’ operator which operated a short time. The building, still owned by Dr. Dick Isaak, was empty until purchased in 1997 for expansion by the Great Plains Bank.

Built as a pair, it seems appropriate that the two buildings are now joined, and that they continue to serve Eureka as they have for over 100 years. From The German Bank and the Eureka Drug Company to the current Great Plains Bank, they maintain their presence in the heart of Eureka.

Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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