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If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Gary E. Krein Agency Inc.

Grenz, Anderson & Straub. "If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Gary E. Krein Agency Inc." Northwest Blade, 22 September 2011.


One of the most modern looking buildings in Eureka is the Gary E. Krein Insurance Agency building. The granite and stone composite façade do not even hint at what is underneath. Inside, the secrets of the old building are equally well hidden. But take a peek at what is hidden underneath!

This building is, in fact, two buildings. The northern half of the building was long known in town as a meat market and grocery store. And the southern half spent most of its life as a hardware store. In the middle of Market Street, one of the busiest streets in town, the buildings were in a desirable location for commerce.

The earliest history known about the north building dates back to 1910. It was in that year that Frederick George Mehlhaff purchased the building, known as the Hatz store, from the German Bank. The building had been used by Emil Dierenfeldt (for a meat market) and Jacob Braufman, for various purposes. Fred G. Mehlhaff had tried out several business ventures before, including grain buyer, furniture store owner, general merchandise store partner, Eureka Bazaar clerk, bookkeeper, and flour salesman. After being induced by his banker to buy a business building, he invested in this building and proceeded to lease it to others. However, his renters were unsuccessful and he was finally forced to take over the fixtures in lieu of rent. It was therefore largely by chance and with the idea in mind of making the best out of what seemed a bad investment, that Mr. Mehlhaff, der Schwartzenkopf, as he was known around town, became engaged in the meat market business.

On April 1, 1914, Fred G. Mehlhaff took over the business from Charlie Hirsch, and went into business as Mehlhaff Meat Market, together with his son, Fred K. Mehlhaff. During the first two years of business, they handled only the sale of meat. The sale of groceries, fruit and vegetables was added later, in 1916.

Mehlhaff’s replaced the original building with a 25’ x 80’ brick and tile building in 1927. The new building was affiliated with Red and White Food Stores. While the building was under construction, the business operated out of another location for four months, and was ready for occupancy on December 1927.

This building served the community as a grocery and meat center for many years. In earlier years the store handled a lot of custom butchering and many people rented a locker until the time when home freezers became popular.

Father and son, Fred G. and Fred K., ran the business together for many years. Mehlhaff family lore has it that son Fred was not given a middle name until he was older. Fred G. finally became exasperated at the name mix-ups and decided to put an end to it by giving his son a middle initial. He chose “K.” What did it stand for? Fred “the Kid” Mehlhaff!

In 1931, F.G. Mehlhaff retired, and F.K. Mehlhaff took over the management of the store. It continued to be affiliated with the same company and was known as The Red & White.
Fred K. Mehlhaff went into the bank business in 1946, after selling the family’s business, the Mehlhaff Meat Market, to O.B. Just and Theo Sackman. Later, the partnership dissolved and Ted Sackmann became the sole owner. Sometime during these years, they took on the Red Owl franchise (from another store in town) and the name became Eureka Food Market (Red Owl Agency).

Ann Wolff remembers the story told about a fussy customer years before and how O.B. Just handled it. It seems the lady wanted a pound of wieners. O.B. put some on the scale and it weighed 1.4 pounds. She reiterated that she only wanted a pound, so OB bit one wiener in half, put it back on the scale and proclaimed "Now you have a pound!"

Dean Krein bought into the business in 1959, when Ted Sackmann sold ½ interest in the store to him. Also that year, long-time employees Stanley ‘Sully’ Pfeifle and Ardella Klein began working at the store. The store was completely remodeled and modernized in 1961.

Mr. Krein purchased the business in 1972, becoming the sole owner, and changing the name to Eureka Red Owl.

In the meantime, next door, there was hardware business goin’ on…
To be continued.

Market Street in 1922: Starting from the rightside of the photo, those businesses that can be seen: Guaranty State Bank, Eureka Drug Company, Red Front Saloon, Mehlhaff Meat Market, Eureka Plumbing & Heating Co., Orthwein General Merchandise.
Bender's Eureka Hardware Store and the Krein's Red Owl Store in the 1960's.
Eureka Red Owl in 1987, after expansion and remodeling
Dean Krein celebrates the Red Owl Expansion and Grand Opening in 1976
Stanley Pfeifle stacking pop
Mary Sackman & Violet Beck greet customers
Albert Shick at the meat counter -- note the price of ham is only 27 cents/lb.!
Eberts Super Value - 1995 (Note the faded lettering on the wall of the old hardware building -- Eureka Plumbing & Heating Co.)

Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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