If these walls could talk: Present Day Dakota Woodworking

Grenz, Anderson, and Straub. "If These Walls Could Talk: Present Day Dakota Woodworking." Northwest Blade, 28 August 2011, 5 & 13.

If you take a walk along the Eureka business district, look up at the tops of the buildings.  They tell the stories of their origins.  One building which proudly bears testimony to its heritage is the old Eureka Bazaar building.  The beautiful brickwork at the top still reads "Eureka Bazaar 1906."

This substantial 70’x135’ building was constructed by Julius Schamber as a new home for his business, the Eureka Bazaar, a hardware, dry goods, grocery, and clothing store which was established in 1897 at another location.  He bought out his partners, incorporated in 1901, bought the site, and began building the new store in 1905.  (The site had been home to other smaller businesses, including the George Lill Restaurant, and the Hezel, Hepperle & Sauter Store.)  The Eureka Bazaar was a department store rivaling anything in larger cities, with both practical and luxury merchandise.  It had sixteen departments; including hardware, dry goods, notions, jewelry, carpets, crockery, clothing and millinery, and groceries. It was a remarkable store for a town the size of Eureka and during that time period.

As stated in the 1937 Jubilee edition of the NW Blade, "The construction of the large structure reveals a bit of the philosophy that was without a doubt a part of [Julius Schamber’s] success in business.  The business of the store had come from two states… therefore, the building…material should be…from those states. Accordingly, the walls of the basement were built from the native rocks picked from the hills around Eureka.  The walls were reared from sandstone quarried in the vicinity of Linton, ND." Built of solid stone with a brick front, it cost $23,000 to build and had 16,432 sq. feet of floor space. A barn was built behind the store for the horses and wagons belonging to the shoppers, and a lunch room was provided inside the store, as a courtesy to the farmers who would have a place to eat the lunches they had brought with them.

In the center of the store, there was a 12’x12’ raised platform, second-story height, reached by stairs, which served as Mr. Schamber’s office and observation post.  When a clerk made a sale in any of the departments, he or she put the sales ticket and money into a tin canister that was pulled to Mr. Schamber’s office with a spring-loaded cable apparatus.  Mr. Schamber would then check the purchase, make the correct change, and send it back down to the clerk! (Similar to the system at the Olwin-Angell Store in Aberdeen.) There were no cash registers in the store—he handled all the money.

Julius Schamber was one of the outstanding figures in the history of Eureka.  He served as mayor of Eureka, was a charter member of the Lutheran Church, and was the SD Senator from McPherson County in 1909.  He also had a branch store at Turtle Lake, ND, called the Eureka Bazaar. After being in business for over 60 years, he retired in 1945, when he sold his stock to Gamble Skogmo Corp. of Minneapolis, but retained ownership of the building.   

The Gambles store was variously owned or managed by Gideon Klein, Howard Polling, Jerry Rheisen, Herman Dierenfeldt, and last by Harold (Whitey) Schaeffer.  The business sold groceries, hardware, dry goods, furniture and some farm equipment, from 1947 to 1969.  The Jack & Jill grocery company were also part of this store during this time. Whitey Schaeffer and his wife, Toni, started their business, Schaeffer Furniture & Fabric, in this building, later moving to another location.

The Eureka Equity Exchange began a new venture in 1970, opening a Discount Farm Supply Store in this large building, purchased from the Schamber Estate.  It was a farm supply store second to none, with a full-service plumbing and heating department in the basement, electrical supplies, hardware inventory, small appliances, hunting equipment, and more.  Farm Store managers were Mel Geist, Robert Berndt, and Larry Schnabel

The basement held plumbing supplies and automotive parts.  One Monday morning, employees arrived to find a gunny sack full of rattlesnakes writhing on the basement floor.  It seems the store manager and a buddy had gone rattlesnake hunting over the weekend, fully protected by the stove pipe they had wrapped around their legs!  Unfortunately, others were not as excited about the hunters success.  The plumbing manager told him to "get that the *#!* out of here!!"  It is just one of many stories attributed to the EEE crew.  Another employee is remembered for riding his horse up the steps of the VFW!  Unfortunately for its patrons, the business closed in 1986. 

Dakota Woodworking, Inc. is the present occupant of this building.  The business, which began in 1988, is now owned by Greg Hoff and Dennis Schwingler, who bought out partners Stanley Schaffer and Milbert Neuharth and moved to this building in 1990.  They build custom cabinets for residential purposes, motel furniture, and furnishings for assisted living facilities.

This sandstone building has stood proudly for 105 years, serving the people of Eureka from 1906 to 2011.  If these walls could talk, they could tell of farmers eating sandwiches in a back room, mothers fingering fabrics for their next dress, children begging for candy, salesmen showing off wonderful new washing machines, ranchers buying vet supplies, and craftsmen designing beautiful cabinetry.  What a tale it would be!  

Gambles Store, taken during the 1962 Jubilee Parade
Eureka Equity Exchange Farm Store
Interior of the Eureka Bazaar
Eureka Bazaar, built in 1906
Dakota Woodworking, Inc.

Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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