If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Ken's Food Fair (Part 1 of 2)

Anderson, Grenz & Straub. "If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Ken's Food Fair (Part 1 of 2)." Northwest Blade, 27 October 2011, 5.

Upon arrival in the pioneer town of Eureka, most of the immigrants were poor, but very self-sufficient. Their needs were small, their finances extremely limited; but their initiative was astounding and unmatched.

One of the earliest pioneer families to move to Eureka was the Johann Brandt family, who left Menno, S.D., arriving in Eureka in 1890, three years after Eureka had incorporated. Mr. Brandt recognized that as self-sufficient and independent as the early settlers were, they still needed certain necessities and also longed for some luxuries. Thus, started one of the most enduring businesses in Eureka, as Johann Brandt entered into a general merchandise store partnership with Emanuel Reiner. Brandt, great-grandfather of Henry W. Straub, along with Emanuel Reiner, and Mehlhaff Co. purchased lot number 12 of block four on April 20, 1889, from Milwaukee Land Co. (original plat of Eureka) for the sum of $625 (Original abstract furnished by Richard Vetch). They built a wooden store, with large front windows, facing east on the corner of Market and Pfeffer Streets. Mr. Brandt also built a home for his family located conveniently across the street (most recently the home of Alvin C. & Tillie Bertsch). Mr. Brandt, with his family, left Eureka in 1898 and moved near Ommeme, ND. Albina Brandt, Johann’s daughter, who had married Henry Straub, stayed in Eureka.
Fred Preszler, who inherited $100, started farming south of present day Eureka in 1885. Mr. Preszler, with his $100, built a house and a barn. In spite of farming there for 21 years, Mr. Preszler seemed to have had his heart set on owning a general merchandise store. He often praised the small Werre Store, in St. Petersburg, which had supplied essentials to the first settlers in the area in the 1880’s. It was not surprising that in 1905, Mr. Preszler bought the general merchandise store on the corner of Market and Pfeffer from Daniel Rietz (1937 Jubilee Book). Preszler owned and managed the store until 1912. An ad in the 1911 McPherson Co. Business Directory lists Fred Preszler as carrying a complete line of general merchandise.

A general merchandise store under the name of F. Honoroff is listed in the 1916 Eureka Business Directory. Early photographs of Eureka’s Market Street show the "F. Honoroff Cash Store" at the same location as the Brandt and Preszler store.

Life started improving for many of the pioneer people of Eureka, and the general merchandise stores were thriving. When Eureka was less than 30 years old, a count of the general merchandise stores in the 1916 Eureka Business Directory lists as many as seven. In spite of raising almost all of their own food, the early farmers needed salt, sugar, and coffee; and because of a continued desire to improve their lives, the general merchandise stores continued to be a place where essentials and the occasional luxury could be purchased. Some of the luxuries for sale were Sunday dresses, stylish hats, suspenders, and knickers for little boys.

A man named Frolichmann must have owned the building during the Twenties or early Thirties. The 1937 Jubilee Book states that the Red Owl franchise came to town in 1935 and was started in the old Frolichmann building on the corner of Market and Pfeffer. Little is known about Mr. Frolichmann. He was known as a good businessman who ran a first-rate store for a number of years. Although well liked, it is surmised that perhaps he moved to a city with a larger Jewish population, as he was probably the only Jewish person in Eureka at that time.

Red Owl was a grocery store chain that was headquartered in Hopkins, Minnesota. It had been founded in 1922 and was originally owned and operated by Gamble-Skogmo. Stores started opening all over the upper Midwest, one in Bismarck, ND, in 1927, and as noted, the one in Eureka in 1935. The first manager of this Red Owl store was E.R. Pfeiffer who was manager until the winter of 1936-1937. In 1937, Wallace Schimke, who shall be mentioned again later, was the manager. Page 240 of the 1937 Eureka Jubilee Book shows an ad depicting the old Red Owl logo and stating that "everyday low prices on quality foods" had been brought to Eureka by Red Owl.

John Haller bought and remodeled the store in 1942. Mr. Haller changed the way people bought their groceries. In earlier years, a great deal of the merchandise was stacked to the ceiling on shelves behind the counter where the manager would stand. John Haller introduced the "4-wheel glider" (100 year Eureka Chronology). The customer could now navigate up and down the aisles putting their desired products in the "4-wheel glider" and then present them to the manager who would then ring them up and give the bill to the customer.

Don Gross, a businessman from Bowdle, SD., bought the Red Owl store in1952 from John Haller and changed the name to Don’s Super Valu.

A couple living in Aberdeen with family ties to Eureka, named Reuben and Frieda Kusler, bought the store in 1958. Mr. and Mrs. Kusler, in conjunction with Andrew and Lena Schweigert, continued to run it under the name Kusler Super Valu. The Kuslers bought out the Schweigert interest in the fall of 1959, after which Kusler’s son, Kenneth, became a partner in the business.

Once again, fire had the upper hand when a blaze destroyed the entire Kusler Super Valu in May 1963. The Kuslers temporarily ran their business in a vacant Buick garage building. Henry Delzer, whose son was married to Reuben Kusler’s sister, financed the rebuilding of the store; and shortly, it was reopened for business in the same location on the corner of Market and Pfeffer, with the main entrance now on the southeast corner of the building. One of four grocery stores in Eureka at the time, the Kuslers employed over 10 people.

The Kuslers sold their store in August 1967 to Ervin Weishaar. The Kuslers moved back to Aberdeen, and Weishaar renamed it Weishaar Jack & Jill. Many dances for the junior high age group were held in the basement of the store, with Ervin’s son, Allen, and his friends Robert Dockter, Kenneth Schaeffer, and David Bauer (son of Reuben Bauer) playing and singing their three or four song repertoire. One young girl who attended several of these dances remembers the kids riding the large conveyer belt that was in the back of the store which hauled the foodstuffs between the basement and the upper floor.

The next owners were a young couple named Larry and JoAnn Albrecht who bought it from Ervin Weishaar in late summer 1971. The store was now called Larry’s Jack & Jill. Previously, Larry had worked as a meat cutter for Ervin Weishaar and Wesley Rueb in a Jack & Jill store located at a different Eureka location, near the east side of town (1987 Eureka Centennial Book). This business venture prospered until the owner, Larry Albrecht, at the very young age of 36, died on December 7, 1981, of Hodgkin’s Disease. JoAnn Albrecht bravely continued to run the store until August 1982 when she sold it to John and Mari Rapp of Fargo, ND.

John Rapp, originally a native of Forbes, ND, wished to move closer to his hometown. Eureka was the town that pleased both him and his wife, Mari. The store continued under the name Rapp Jack & Jill until it closed in the summer of 1987 (1987 Centennial Book).

Ken Fiedler, a grocer extraordinaire, with several stores in other towns such as Aberdeen, Groton, Ipswich & Miller, purchased the building in 1988 with Arnold Schumacher of Miller as manager. Fiedler renamed his store Ken’s Fairway. A young gentleman by the name of Richard Vetch was the meat manager at this time. In 1990, Richard Vetch became manager and is still in that capacity today. Vetch, in speaking about a later change, said that the Fairway Corporation did not go bankrupt or sell to another company; it simple closed its doors, leading Ken Fiedler to find another grocery supplier, Affiliated Foods. The name was changed to Ken’s Food Fair in 1999, which prospered and outgrew its own building. The store needed to expand and did so in 2002 by extending to the north where another original Eureka business had stood for many years. Where there was once men’s clothing, there was now going to be broccoli and onions!

Ken's Food Fair - serving the Eureka area since 1988.
Johann Brandt & Emmanuel Reiner Store, built in 1889, on the corner of Market & Pfeffer Streest (now 7thSt. & H Ave.)
Kusler's Super Valu, 1958-1967. Notice the streetlight on the corner!
Hornoff Cash Store.
East side of Martket Street in the early 1900's


Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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