Swenson’s General Store in Norseland

Around the turn of the twentieth century, Nicollet County had eight rural crossroads hamlets. While all of the other small towns have removed many of the structures that marked their existence, Norseland has held onto their identity by recognizing the importance of their general store.

In 1858—the same year that Minnesota became a state—Irish immigrant John Burke moved to Nicollet County from New York City. The 29-year-old planned to buy a farm and operate a general store that would “carry everything a human or animal needed to survive and thrive.” Once a post office was established in Burke’s general store, a town was born. The community chose the name Norseland to pay homage their dominant population of Swedish and Norwegian settlers. Burke’s store became known as the Norseland General Store.

John Burke retired in approximately 1893 and left the store to his sons, Henry and George. George took more interest in farming than running a general store, but Henry enjoyed the grocery and dry goods business. In 1900, Henry virtually rebuilt the store by expanding the main level, adding a second story, and tacking on a single-story addition to the east side. A buggy sales and repair shop were established in the new, single-story addition. The main part of the store handled the grocery business on the first level and dry goods on the second floor. An elevator was also constructed to move merchandise between floors.

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Baberich Fabric Shop in St. Peter

This photo shows the interior of the Baberich Fabric Shop on Minnesota Avenue in St. Peter. Casper Baberich and his wife also operated a millinery shop on Minnesota Avenue, between Grace and Nassau Streets, and a small flower shop out of the front porch of their home on the northwest corner Third and Nassau Streets.

When this photo was taken in 1905, women either made clothing for themselves and their families, or had a seamstress make it for them. Most small-town dry goods stores carried fabric, but the selection was limited and many other women in the same town used the same fabric for their clothing. However, larger towns often had a dedicated fabric store where women could find a wider variety of type, color, and print.

Photo courtesy of the Nicollet County Historical Society.

Bailey Brothers Prove They Sell Durable Overalls

In 1902, a large crowd surrounded the Bailey Brothers Store on Main Street in Belle Plaine as the brothers demonstrated the durability of the overalls they sold in their store. The publicity stunt was advertised in the newspaper and brought out more than one hundred people. A local band played music and the crowds cheered as the brothers pulled and tugged at the pants. There is no information about whether the sales stunt was a success, but it undoubtedly brought more than a few new customers into their store on that day.

Photo courtesy of the Scott County Historical Society.

The Emporium

The Emporium opened in downtown St. Paul in 1920. It was located on the corner of Robert and Seventh Streets, which was a busy shopping district at the time. Rothschild’s, the Golden Rule, Schuneman’s, and Donaldson’s were all within a few blocks at one time or another. The Emporium’s millinery department and crystal shop rivaled those of the bigger-named stores. The Tea Room was a favorite lunch spot for shoppers and people who worked downtown. The Emporium and Tea Room closed in 1968. Although the façade has drastically changed, the building still stands and houses offices.
Photos courtesy of the Pioneer Press Archive

Kresge’s Five and Dime

A 1957 Valentine’s Day window display at Kresge’s Five and Dime in downtown Minneapolis. Kresge’s was located on Nicollet Mall, across from Donaldson’s. Kresge’s Five and Dime stores would later evolve into K-Mart.

Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

Fandel’s Department Store

Interior view of Fandel’s Department Store in St. Cloud from 1946. Fandel’s opened in 1900 on St. Germain Street, between Sixth and Seventh. The building was razed in the 1980s to make way for the new Herberger’s department store.

A. Knoblauch and Sons

Alois Knoblauch arrived in Minneapolis from Germany in 1854. The following year, Alois established the first shoe store in the city at 26 First Street N. Alois ran the store for more than 30 years with his sons Anton and Frank. After Alois’ death, Anton took over A. Knoblauch and Sons Fine Shoe Store. The brothers operated stores 41 Washington Avenue S, 121 Washington Avenue S, 239 Nicollet, and 514 Nicollet. They also operated shoe departments in several department stores. In 1911, Anton and Frank decided to dispose of their shoe business. Anton went on to a career in real estate investment.

Herdliska Jewelry Store

The Herdliska Jewelry Store was located at 101 South 10th Avenue in Princeton. Raleigh Herdliska also co-owned the hardware store just a few buildings away. Pictured here in 1900 are Mr. Herdliska, August Schlesner, Fred Mueller, and August Meyer.

Photo courtesy of the Mille Lacs County Historical Society.

Merchants’ Carnivals

Merchants’ Carnivals, like this one in Rochester in 1893, were a popular way to showcase a merchant’s wares. They were much like modern-day trade shows. Each merchant would rent a booth in an exposition hall and employees would dress up in costumes decorated only with items from their business. This carnival appears to have had a medieval theme.