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

Anderson, Grenz & Straub. "If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Ken's Food Fair (Part 2 of 2)." Northwest Blade, 3 November 2011, 5.

North of the corner store begun by Johann Brandt and Emanuel Reiner was another large building that started as a general merchandise store in 1890 after two brothers, John and Christ Doering, quit farming (1937 Jubilee Book). But John Doering was not satisfied with just running another general merchandise store—he had aspirations in the world of politics. In 1905, the Doering Brothers sold their store to the Eureka Bazaar Company. John Doering then became deputy sheriff, city alderman and commissioner. In 1914, John Doering successfully bid the job of building a highway along state lands with the goal of connecting Leola to Eureka. The state of South Dakota appropriated $2,500 and said "build as far as you can with these funds." John Doering moved to Tripp and later Dell Rapids, SD, where he died in 1935.

In 1907, the store was sold to Charles Rigler, who owned it for a few years, later selling it to Frederick Hepperle, according to the original abstracts.

Frederick Hepperle was another very enterprising man, who was referred to in an earlier "If These Walls Could Talk" article. The 1911 McPherson Co. Business Directory lists Fred Hepperle as a dealer in general merchandise. Mr. Hepperle, along with John Stoller, had formed a partnership which grew into two stores, one mainly dealing in hardware and the second store dealing in general merchandise. Mr. Hepperle ran these stores simultaneously. He also bought the store on this site which is the subject of this article—the third location he is known to have been at. The 1920 Aberdeen American News of July 11, 1920, still lists Fred Hepperle as the owner of a general merchandise store, though it is not known at which location.

In the meantime, a family by the name of Humann was forming a general merchandise dynasty of their own. In 1915, Jacob Humann and sons, Gottlieb G. and Andrew, established another general business store on the present day NWGF Mutual parking lot. But, as is the case in many father and son operations, one son, Gottlieb G, wanted to branch out on his own. In 1916, Gottlieb G., along with Fred Schanzenbach, ran the dry goods department in the Eureka Bazaar (1937 Jubilee Book).
In 1921, Gottlieb G. Humann and Fred Schanzenbach purchased the Frederick Hepperle building where they continued their business together under the name Schanzenbach and Humann until the fall of 1936, when Gottlieb G. became the sole owner and changed the name to Humann Mercantile. An ad in the 1937 Jubilee Book mentions Humann Mercantile Co. as the place where you could buy everything to eat and wear.

The early 1940’s heard the rumors of war, and a young man by the name of Walter Wenzel summoned his brother, William E. Wenzel, (not to be confused with their uncle William Wenzel) back to Eureka. Walter Wenzel asked his brother, William E. Wenzel, to look out for his business interest as Walter was certain that he was going to be drafted (1987 Centennial Book).William E. Wenzel, who was a lawyer in McIntosh, SD, conferred with his wife, Irene (Keim) Wenzel, also a native of Eureka. They decided to return to Eureka in 1944 to help Walter. Walter was never drafted, but William E. and Irene Wenzel remained in Eureka. They purchased the building known as Humann Mercantile in 1946 from Gottlieb G. Humann who moved to Waubay, SD (incorrectly listed as Henry Humann in the 1987 Centennial Book). The Wenzel’s used half of the store for men’s clothing. The other half of the store was rented to Ray Neuharth and Wallace Schimke who sold groceries.

By 1950, William E. and Irene Wenzel had clothing in the entire store. Their son-in-law, Milo Opp, was an employee and later manager of the store known as Wenzel’s Clothing. For 27 years, William E. and Irene Wenzel sold clothes that were known for their high fashion as was obvious to this author whenever the Wenzels were seen.

The years changed how things were done in the businesses of Eureka. Stores were modernized, new outdoor signs which boasted lights were added, and a much larger variety was now available to the shoppers in Eureka. One of the most formidable rivals was the mail order catalogue (100 Year Eureka Chronology).

William E. and Irene Wenzel’s only daughter, Arlene, and her husband, Milo Opp, purchased the building in 1973 and changed the name to Opp’s Clothier. In 1977, a young couple, Sandra and Glenn Opp, rented half of the store and called it The Gentry, featuring women’s and children’s clothing. Sandy Opp’s work and educational background were well suited for running a store. She had received a Home Economics degree from SDSU, with an emphasis on textiles and clothing, followed by three years as a clothing buyer for Titche-Goettinger Co. (later bought out by Dillards) in Dallas, TX.

A popular feature of The Gentry was fashion shows, ranging from salad luncheons to fund raisers to Christmas parties. Approximately 25 fashion shows were held from 1977-1987, each involving a great deal of research into fashion history. Drawing large crowds from throughout the area, they were much anticipated and enjoyed. After ten years, The Gentry closed in 1987.

Milo and Arlene Opp added ladies clothes and accessories to their men and boys clothing line after The Gentry closed. The Opp’s also incorporated a mini-mall in the building, called the Eureka Mini-Mall in 1991, with 16 shops which sold a variety of items such as candy, flowers, crafts, dolls and other novelty items. A popular shop in the mini-mall sold Jelly-Belly jelly beans in every imaginable flavor.

In 1995, Opp’s Clothier had a going out of business sale and the building was sold to Elizabeth Lytel. Lytel rented the building to Susan Opp and Patricia Vinger, who opened a business called Bloomers in Dec. 1995. Bloomers featured cut flowers of all sorts, bouquets and plants, as well as home décor, a coffee corner, tuxedo rentals, and a tanning booth. In 1998, business supplies were added. An interesting feature of the store was antiques owned by Don & Susan Fischer, used in displays but also for sale. A consignment business dealing in used clothing, called Closet to Closet, was open in the south half of the store from 1997 to 1999. Closet to Closet was a branch of an Aberdeen, S.D. consignment business. Susan Opp bought out Vinger’s interest in the business during this time and continued to operate the business.

As referred to earlier, Ken Fiedler needed more space for his ever expanding grocery store, directly to the south of Bloomers. Mr. Fiedler bought the Bloomers building from Elizabeth Lytel in 2000, thus prompting Bloomers to move to a new location (the old MDU building). The building was demolished, and a large and modern addition was added to Ken’s Food Fair, more than doubling the size of the store. The grand opening was in May 2001. Richard Vetch, along with Ivy Bossert and Greg Serr, has been employed at Ken’s since 1988. Ken’s Food Fair sells mainly food, but also has a small inventory of other needed items including medicines, school supplies, kitchen tools, hardware items, fishing and hunting supplies, and toiletries. Shoppers come from throughout the area to buy there.

If these walls could talk, we would hear, "I have been general merchandise stores, grocery stores and specialized clothing stores for over a hundred years. I can still provide the best there is, just as all of my predecessors did. No one can top me in quality or service. Come to Ken’s Food Fair and see what I mean!"

Interior of The Gentry, 1987.
Eureka Mini Mall, 1987-1995.
Outside the Eureka Mini Mall.
Ken's Food Fair, expanded in 2002.
Opp's Clothier & The Gentry.
Wenzel Clothing.
Doering Brothers General Merchandise Store, 1890-1905.

Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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