If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Second Hand Rose Thrift Store

Anderson, Grenz & Straub. "If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Second Hand Rose Thrift Store." Northwest Blade, 13 October 2011.

Clothing and food—two necessities of human existence. The building now known as Second Hand Rose has been instrumental in providing these two necessities in Eureka for ninety years.

In the early 1920’s, the building was referred to as the Kafer Clothing House, a clothing store noted for premium men’s clothing. (A.A. News, 7-11-20). Who was this person named Kafer? In the official gazette of the US patent office, vol. 139, a patent was filed on May 29, 1908, by a Karl G. Kafer, resident of Eureka, SD. The patent was for a staple driver. Karl Kafer was born May 5, 1882, and died March 24, 1925, at the age of 42 years. He was barely 26 when he applied for the patent. Mr. Kafer was elected mayor twice, dying during his second term in 1925. Karl Kafer was also listed as the builder and secretary of the Golden Rule Store, now the Sr. Citizen’s Building (1916 Eureka Business Directory).

After Karl Kafer’s death, there is no mention of his family except for a Northwest Blade article dated July 1943, which mentions Otto Kafer, son of Karl Kafer, was taken as a prisoner of war on April 9, 1942, in the Philippine Islands. An internet search revealed that Otto Kafer, although part of the Bataan death march, survived and was liberated on September 12, 1945.

The next thread of mystery reveals that the old Kafer clothing building was sold in 1928 to two sisters named Emma Schatz and Gertrude Kortan. These sisters were daughters of FG Mehlhaff and sisters of FK Mehlhaff who owned and ran the Mehlhaff Meat Market a few doors to the north of the building that the sisters now named The Luncheonette. In spite of ownership changes, the name Luncheonette stayed with the building until 2004—76 years. The Luncheonette was practically an institution in Eureka from that time on.

The two young sisters, Emma and Gertrude, were brave and liberated for their time. Emma and Gertrude took upon themselves a business in the late 1920’s which was the dawning of the drought years and the ensuing economic depression. The sisters were thankful that their father and brother would often give them credit for groceries, meat and other essentials needed to run a thriving restaurant, especially during the 1930’s, when money was very hard to come by and people did not just indiscriminately choose to eat at restaurants.

In 1930, Emma Schatz and her husband, Jake, bought Emma’s sister’s share in the business. By 1936, the Luncheonette was doing well and the Schatz’s made many improvements and added onto the building. In spite of the depressed economy, the Luncheonette was known as the place to eat and was felt by many Eurekans to be the heart of Eureka.

Willis Mehlhaff, nephew of Jake and Emma Schatz, worked at the Luncheonette on Saturday nights when he was a teenager. Willis remembers his uncle Jake saying, "Willis! Go to the basement and rock the barrel!" Mr. Schatz was referring to the large barrels of root beer and other sodas that were stored in the basement. By rocking the barrels, the pressure would increase and the soda could be pumped into the mugs upstairs. Willis remembers Saturday nights as always being busy. There were no laws against smoking as one can see by looking at the photo which advertised the Luncheonette in the 1937 Jubilee book.

After serving several harrowing years during WWII, a young veteran named Arnold Heupel returned to Eureka with the dream of settling down, making a living, and returning to his roots. Arnold, along with his twin brother, Harold, bought the Luncheonette in 1946 from Otto Weller, who had owned the Luncheonette briefly. They ran it for seven years.

On May 1, 1953, The Luncheonette was sold to Bill and Hilda Jung and Hilda’s brother, Eugene H. Fischer. This purchase started a decade’s long period of the Luncheonette being owned and operated by the Jung family. In 1955, the Jung’s bought out Eugene H. Fischer’s share in the Luncheonette.

Bill and Hilda Jung operated the Luncheonette with a lot of hard work and a great deal of love. Their hours ran from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week, and it was not unusual to see lights on until 2:00 a.m..

Wednesdays found people waiting to be served the delectable German meals that were featured. Hilda Jung daily baked all of the desserts such as pie, cakes, cookies, donuts, and the wildly popular caramel rolls. Thursday and Saturday nights were the busiest nights of the week. These nights corresponded with the Eureka Salesbarn cattle sales when the farmers and their families came to town for their weekly shopping.

The Luncheonette, as the sign advertised, became home of the Weber steak. Bob Jung, son of Bill and Hilda Jung, told this author that Martin Weber, a lifelong resident of Eureka and part of the Guaranty and 1st State Bank of Eureka, would come into the Luncheonette and order a steak with only toast as a side dish. Eventually, other Luncheonette patrons would say "give me what Weber is having," thus the Weber steak evolved.

Bill and Hilda Jung loved and trusted their customers as is epitomized in Bill giving keys to the Luncheonette to Michael Pfeifle and Ted Sackman, who would open the Luncheonette at 4:00 a.m., start the coffee and make elementary breakfasts for the very early customers. This would give the Jung’s a couple of hours of much needed rest.

January 1971 brought a tragic event to Eureka when the Luncheonette caught on fire. Bill’s brother, Julius, was not in the building, but when hearing of the fire, he ran into the Luncheonette believing that two of his nieces were still inside. The girls were not there, but Julius was not able to get out of the burning building and he died of smoke inhalation. After two months of renovation, the Luncheonette was reopened.

In June 1972, the Jung’s sold the restaurant equipment to Gary and Percy Johnson. Another Eureka culinary favorite, the Eureka Burger, was started by the Johnson’s. The burger was made of a pork patty covered by cheese. Percy Johnson Neuharth related that there was a group of Eureka businessmen who would arrive very early for breakfast and conversation. Although these men were respected, serious and successful businessmen, it was not uncommon for them to play practical jokes. One morning, all of these men came into the Luncheonette wearing fire helmets. When asked by Percy why they were wearing fire helmets, the spokesman replied, "to protect ourselves when you hit us over the head with your dish cloth." The Johnsons also kept long hours from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., although sometimes they were open as late as 2:00 a.m.. The Johnsons sold their restaurant equipment to Bob and Connie Jung on October 31, 1987.

Bob and Connie Jung continued in the tradition of the Luncheonette with long hours and outstanding food. Bob’s mother, Hilda Jung, came back to work for her son and daughter-in-law as a baker and chief cook of the German menu that was offered. Hilda continued to work until her retirement in 2003. Changes noted by Bob and Connie were there were less people eating out and grocery prices were rising.

Al Neuharth, Eureka native and founder of US Today, was quoted in the June 13, 2002, Aberdeen American News as saying, "I love to go to the Luncheonette. If I want any info, I go to the Luncheonette where the old guys talk about everything, from their arthritis to sports to politics. Go there if you want to hear the latest gossip and arguments and you’ll find out more than you ever wanted to know."

In 2004, Bob and Connie decided to retire, renting their building to The Second Hand Rose. The Second Rose was the brain child of five women: Rose Hargrove, Pastor Dianne Rood-Kiesz, Deb Mehlhaff, BJ Dais, and Cheryl Nelson. These women wanted to start a non-profit business that would help the community by providing good, used clothing for very reasonable prices. Pastor Dianne Rood-Kiesz was appointed as the spokesperson to the Eureka Ministerial Association. She asked for the churches of Eureka to give a donation from the bequethment of the Henry and Rose Blumhardt estate which had left substantial money to the Eureka churches. The churches complied with donations ranging from $500 to $1000. The store was named after the original benefactor, Rose Blumhardt. After outgrowing their first building, which was part of Lapp Insurance, the Second Hand Rose rented the much larger former Luncheonette building from Bob and Connie Jung. The Second Hand Rose is run entirely by volunteers, has a board of directors and continues to provide good quality, low priced used clothing to the community of Eureka.

If these walls could talk, I believe we would hear "I am doing my job. I have clothed and fed the people of Eureka for almost 90 years."

Connie & Bob Jung outside the Luncheonette.
Interior of the Luncheonette.
Hilda Jung inside the Luncheonette.
Outside of the Luncheonette, 1942.
Inside of the Luncheonette, 1937.
Second Hand Rose Thrift Store.

Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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