If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Eureka Fitness Center

Anderson, Grenz & Straub. "If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Eureka Fitness Center." Northwest Blade, 20 October 2011, 5.

As was so often the case in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, people died suddenly, often at a very young age. The death of Daniel Smith in 1888 was the beginning of the building we now know as The Eureka Fitness Center.

Daniel Smith and his wife, Elizabeth, moved to Eureka in 1884. This couple was originally from Ireland and had lived in Canada and North Dakota before settling in Eureka. Mr. Smith, according to his son, M.M. Smith, died after becoming ill from working election polls. Daniel Smith, only 53 years old, was the first man to be buried in Eureka. Since there was no undertaker, a coffin was shipped to Eureka. He left behind his widow, Elizabeth, and seven children. Daniel’s death precipitated a sudden change for his widow, Elizabeth. She now had to find a way to support her family.

Elizabeth Smith erected a hotel in 1890, on the east side of Market Street, adding an addition as the business prospered. Eventually, the building was purchased by John A. Smith (no relation) who had lived in the hotel until his marriage. John Smith converted part of the hotel into living quarters and moved the other part to the west side of Market Street (to the location of the current Fitness Center) in which John operated a saloon.

The Eureka 100 year Chronology states that in 1905, the first cement sidewalks were begun on Market Street in front of several buildings, including the John Smith Saloon. In 1906, street lights made their debut on Market Street. The city council had authorized the purchase of a 220 volt dynamo for street lighting purposes, a deep well pump and a 12hp gasoline engine to operate both. The windmill, which had been used to fill the water tank, was almost out of commission. The most interesting notation was that due to the expenses of the street lights, the lights were only switched on during dark nights, not ever on moonlight nights.

After these initial references to the John Smith Saloon, it was stated in the McPherson County 1911 Business Directory that John A. Smith was a dealer in wines, liquors and cigars. The 1916 Business Directory again lists John A. Smith as owning a saloon.

In September 1919, L.E. Balliet and J. M. Goehring purchased the Smith Saloon. This store sold groceries and later started to sell shoes, dry goods, sewing notions and hats. The Eureka Business Directory from the July 11, 1920 Aberdeen American News notes a grocery store owned and run by Balliet & Goehring.

January 1927 saw L.E. Balliet selling his interest in the store to John Kallenberger, and the business name was changed to Goehring and Kallenberger.

In March 1928, Reuben Beck bought out John Kallenberger’s interest, and the name was changed to Goehring and Beck. Gust Beck became a third partner in 1929. These three partners owned two stores—one in Eureka and one in Hillsview, S.D. In 1930, Reuben Beck retired from the business and sold his interest to J.M. Goehring and Gust Beck, who were the owners in 1937 during the 50 year Golden Jubilee in Eureka. (1937 Jubilee Book)

In 1946, Melvin Mettler and Alvin Opp bought the Goehring & Beck Grocery Store and remodled in 1947. It became known as Opp’s Recreation and Pool Hall. (1987 Eureka Jubilee Book)
Another ownership change occurred in 1951, when Calvin Mehlhaff, a native of Eureka who had returned from living in California, bought the Opp Recreation and Pool Hall. Mr. Mehlhaff did not run the business, but leased the building to Elmer Neuharth until 1954.

Mehlhaff sold the building and fixtures to Johnny and Martha Retzer in 1954. The name changed to Retzer’s Place. In late 1958, Mr. Retzer sold the building and fixtures to his brother-in-law, Eddy Dammel. Eddy and Darvilla Dammel named it Ed’s Tavern (1962 Jubilee Edition of the Northwest Blade). The Dammels owned it until 1964.

George Gambel was the next owner. He sold the business to Clarence and Margie Wald in 1967.
This began almost ten years of a well-loved and often frequented place known as The Silver Keg.
Margie Wald remembers running the business as a family with very little outside help. Their young daughter, Lolita (Letty), often worked as a waitress, charming the customers with her beauty and wit.
The Wald family lived in an apartment which was located above the business. The hours ran from 7:00 a.m. to midnight, although the clean-up usually meant the family did not get to bed until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m.
The Silver Keg was well known for its outstanding burgers which cost only 25 cents, 6 oz. steaks for $1.00, tap beer at 15 cents a glass, and its rotisserie ham, which was a huge hit on Thursdays. It was the place to go for teenagers, especially after games in town. The high-back wooden booths, pinball machines and friendly welcome from Clarence and Margie are all remembered fondly. Thursday was the Eureka Sales barn sale day which was hands down the busiest day of the week for the Wald’s. The Wald’s sold the business to Mark Schaefbauer in 1976.

Fire, as was so often the death of the wooden buildings in Eureka, claimed the Silver Keg in 1977. The lot was left without a building and consisted of a hole with debris in it. The grill and deep fat fryer that remained after the fire is still in use today at the Eureka Fire Hall. The owner of the business to the south, Milo Opp, decided to rebuild. Mr. Opp said as the hole was being cleaned out, the north wall of his business, Opp’s Clothier, started to buckle and part of it collapsed. The north wall was restored and a new business, named The Midway, was finished in 1979. Caroline Heinrich managed The Midway for Mr. Opp, and Phyllis Roggenkamp was the cook. Milo Opp sold The Midway to Michael and Laura Mehlhaff in 1979.

The Mehlhaff’s owned and operated The Midway until selling it to Mike and Marlene Darling in December of 1986 when the Mehlhaff family moved to Pierre, S.D.

The Darling’s ran the business until they moved to Mobridge in 1986. The business remained closed until 1995 when a group of relatives—Harley, Milbert, Howard and Calvin Neuharth—calling themselves the 4N Corporation, bought the building and in turn sold it to Stella Huber Ulrich. Stella Ulrich ran the business until 1999. The business was closed for several months when the 4N Corporation opened it in May 1999 with Jeannette Elmore as manager. Jeannette Elmore remained manager until October 2000.

The 4N Corporation sold it to a gentleman from Georgia named Claude Price late in 2000. Mr. Price had his daughter, Roxie Vetch, manage and run The Midway.

Mark Rau bought The Midway from Claude Price in October 2001. Rau had Jeannette Elmore manage and run the business now known as Rowdy’s. His mother, Meta Rau, was a waitress at this time.

June 2002 saw Jeannette Elmore buying Rowdy’s from Mark Rau and changing the name to Jan’s.
The business closed in March 2004. Eventually, Mark Rau sold the building and fixtures to Jack and Teresa Shillingstad, who renamed it T-Lazy-J. The Shillingstad’s changed the decor inside and offered a wide range of food items. The Shillingstad’s sold the business to Milbert Schick and Gary Krein in 2005.

The name was changed to City Cafe and sported a unique sign which proudly depicted a colorful pheasant on it. In 2006, Bob and Connie Jung were hired to run the cafe. After six months, the cafe was again sold, this time to a young widower, Chad Barber, who along with his in-laws, Jerry and Sherry Morgan, ran it under the name City Cafe until it was resold to Milbert Schick in 2009. For about six months, the City Cafe was managed by Heather Cincurak.

The last time this building was run as a restaurant, it was known as The Country Diner and was operated by Joy Berreth and Jessica and Carl Kaiser.

During this time period, there was a group of people consisting of Jordan Opp, Sherri Quinn Robertson, Kathy Shaw Thompson and Wanda Jundt who wanted to see a place in Eureka that was dedicated to healthy recreation. These people decided to make their dream a reality when they leased, with the possibility of buying, the building from Milbert Schick in February 2010. They opened a non-profit fitness center. A grant was obtained so that used equipment from a fitness center in Ipswich, S.D., was able to be purchased. The Fitness Center is run by a board of directors, and membership is available to anyone of high school age or older. There are single, student, and couple rates available for a month or longer. The Fitness Center also boasts the availability of a licensed massage therapist, Tawny Opp, who started her therapeutic massage business in July 2010, called True Paradise Massage.

If these walls could talk, we would hear them say, "my history has been varied and occasionally resembled a revolving door of ownership and purposes; but now please come in and see and experience for yourself what healthy recreation options I have to offer."

John A. Smith Saloon early 1900's
Goehring & Beck Store 1928-1946 Jacob M. Goehring, center; Lucas Balliet, behind counter.
Goehring & Beck Store Receipt dated 1930, for purchases by the Eureka Drug Company.
West side of 7th (Market) Street, mid-70's. Note the Silver Keg, the 2-story building in the middle.
The Midway, taken during the 1987 Centennial parade The Midway (1979-2001).
City Cafe Sign (2005-2009).
Eureke Fitness Center.
Interior of the Eureka Fitness Center.
True Paradise Massage at the Erueka Fitness Center, Tawny Opp, licensed massage therapist.

Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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