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If These Walls Could Talk: Dakota Woodworking

Anderson, Grenz & Straub. "If These Walls Could Talk: Dakota Woodworking." Northwest Blade, 12 January 2012.


NOTE: This article covers two buildings: the current DWI storage building, and the former Bakery/Shoe Shop building, both built by the same business partnership.

Eureka had its own version of the KKK. It was not a political organization, but several men with the same business interests and intertwined familial connections.

Solomon Isaak, born in 1865, came to the US in 1878. Settling in North Dakota, he made his living by gathering buffalo bones, which sold for $14/ton. While gathering bones, three human skeletons were found, added to the buffalo bones, and sold (S. Isaak autobiography). Wanting better opportunities, he moved to Eureka in 1895, and by 1897 formed a partnership with John Keim Sr. This duo bought grain in a flathouse. In 1900, Jacob’s brother, John Keim Sr., joined the two and they became known as Isaak & Keim Brothers. Initially, they purchased a grain elevator and later acquired two more. In 1902, the firm purchased the William Robb Implement and Feed Store. Isaak & Keim Brothers sold flour, feed, and grain; adding implements in 1905 (1937 Jubilee Book).

Frederick Klein, the third "K," made his appearance in 1908. Frederick Klein and John P. Kiesz (John Keim Sr.’s son-in-law) bought out the original owners, John Keim Sr. and Solomon Isaak. Now, the partnership was known as the KKK: Jacob Keim, John P. Kiesz and Frederick Klein. The partnership built a large wooden building on the east side of Market Street in 1910, on Lots 3 & 4 of Block 4, Milwaukee Land Co. 2nd Addition, as shown on a 1911 Eureka plat map. A 1911 Business Directory advertisement lists Keim, Kiesz & Klein as sellers of implements, grain, flour and feed. In 1910, Jacob Keim sold his interests to his son, John J. Keim.

Frederick Klein, due to fragile health, retired from the partnership in 1913. The remaining partners, John P. Kiesz and John J. Keim, are listed in the 1916 Eureka Business Directory as sellers of farm implements. They advertised a Ford Runabout ($500), Touring Car ($550), and Town Car ($750) in 1914.

A few years later, they built another building of tile block directly to the south for a garage on lots 5 & 6. The John P. Kiesz & Keim Auto Co. opened for business in their new garage December 1917. That year, John P. Kiesz sold his business interest to his brother, Jacob, and moved to another location. (Jacob Kiesz was married to John J. Keim’s sister, Katherine, and John J. Keim was married to Jacob Kiesz’s sister, Wilhelmina.) Fred Junker, Eureka artist, painted a woodland scene on the office walls of the Kiesz & Keim garage in 1918, considered his most masterly work to date (Eureka 100-Year Chronology). The 1920 Business Directory lists the partnership of Kiesz & Keim as sellers of Ford cars, Fordson tractors and supplies. The implement business was discontinued in 1928; however, they sold Ford cars until 1935. The first electric automatic gas pump was installed by Keim and Kiesz in 1931. On opening day, gas sold for 10 cents/gallon (100-Year Chronology).
In September 1935, brothers-in-law John J. Keim and Jacob Kiesz dissolved their business. Kiesz purchased the garage building and continued under the name Eureka Motor Sales. Keim bought a building from the Wolff Co., used for housing chickens and feed, located on the east side of the wooden structure and opened the John J. Keim Repair Shop (1937 Jubilee Book). A space that could accommodate cars was between the older wooden building and the Eureka Motor Sales so cars could enter the shop from Market Street. Later, this space stored lawn mowers for the Coast-to-Coast store.

Since the 1930s, the large wooden building has housed various businesses. (The shoe shop on the north side of this building, actually a separate structure, has long been considered part of the building. Hereafter, we will refer to it as such, following the "three sections" of this building individually.) A shoe store run by Frederick Haag and later Fred’s son, Bernard, moved into the north section of the building in 1931. It is not known what was in this space before. Walter and Liz Fauth bought the inventory of Fred Haag in 1957, selling the business to Fred Jakober in 1964, who then sold it in 1977 to Ervin and Liz (Fauth) Roesler. Lona Hoff bought the inventory in 1997, moving the business to a different location, leaving the space vacant.

The (William) Blair and Mehlhaff Furniture & Undertaking Parlors occupied the middle part from 1931-1935. In 1935, Alexander Mehlhaff took over the business as Mehlhaff Furniture Store & Mortuary. An ad in the 1937 Eureka Jubilee Book states, "funeral services in every price range are available at Mehlhaff Mortuary." Later, Mel Deibert ran the Mehlhaff Mortuary. The business existed until at least 1951. Emil Weller started a bakery in this section of the building in 1955. He ran the bakery in this location for 19 years, selling it to Walt Wenzel in 1974. The next bakery owners were Larry and Linda Spitzer who bought it in 1986, later selling to Jeff and Carol Spitzer in 1992. Jeff and Carol Spitzer moved to Watertown in 2006, leaving Geneva Wickoren and her daughter, Denise, running the Eureka Bakery for a brief time.

Martha’s Beauty Parlor was opened in 1931 by Martha Roemich. In 1936, the entire shop was remodeled and modernized, including a new Gabrileen permanent waving machine. The south part of the building became a jewelry store run by Joe Fischer, previously a barber in Eureka. His store was a mainstay in Eureka from 1945-1965. Ardys Fischer remembers, "My diamond engagement ring came from Joe Fischer’s Jewelry Shop. Willis came home from college in 1955 and bought the ring from "Uncle Joe" and gave it to me for Christmas. When I had the ring cleaned here in Colorado, the jeweler said, ‘Uncle Joe knew his diamonds.’ It is still on my finger 56 years later." This part also housed Marvin Christman’s TV and Electronic Shop; and from 1976-1979 Jeffrey Busk had an electronics shop there where Zenith televisions were sold and countless barn radios were repaired (direct quote). The space eventually became a storage spot for the bakery.

The entire wooden building, owned by Elizabeth Lytle, is now vacant.

Meanwhile, the Eureka Motor Sales, owned by Jacob Kiesz, was sold to his son, Ray Kiesz, who ran it until 1974. The building was sold to Edmund and Florence Albrecht who remodeled and opened a Coast-to-Coast Store, later partnering with (daughter) Peggy and David Dohn. In 1980, the Coast-to-Coast business was purchased by Willis and Nancy Schnabel, who later had a True Value Hardware franchise. The inventory was liquidated in 2004, and the building sold to Dakota Woodworking, Inc. for storage space.

If these walls could talk, we would hear, "We are over 100 years old, but look upon us with kindness and fondly remember our former glory days."

Sayre & Robb Store. William Robb in shirt sleeves leaning against wheat sack
Coast to Coast owned by Edmund & Florence Albrecht (1974-1980), Willis & Nancy Schnabel (1980-2004).
Eureka Bakery owned by Jeff & Carol Spitzer. J. Goehring working.
East side of Market Street shows Shoe Shop beside bakery.
Eureka Bakery & former electronics, jewelry store.
Haag Shoe Shop 1923-1956.
Dakota Woodworking Storage.
True Value Hardware Store.
1911 business ads.

Reprinted with permission of the Northwest Blade

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
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