By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN In a few months, all nine Dueber’s stores in Minnesota will be closing, including the one in downtown Winsted.
“We do not know the exact dates, but as soon as we run out of merchandise,” noted Chuck Dueber, the company’s CEO/president.
In Winsted, inventory is being sold at 10 percent off storewide.
Chuck said the decision to close developed years ago, contingent on selling either the Waconia store building or the Young America office/warehouse.
This spring, Freshwater Community Church plans to purchase the Waconia location, pending financing.
Dueber’s owns about half its store buildings, and rents the other half, including the Winsted and Glencoe stores.
The Dueber’s building in Winsted is owned by Robert Bayerl of Winsted and his brother, Don, of Annandale.
“We built it in the 1980s,” Don said.
In addition to Dueber’s, the building includes the Winsted Public Library, Winsted Chiropractic Clinic, and Eggert Law Office. About eight months ago, the Bayerls put the building up for sale.
“We’re both retired, and we thought we’d let somebody younger take it,” Don said.
Anyone interested in purchasing it can contact Don at (320) 274-3255 or Robert at (320) 485-4108.
Employees in Winsted
In the 60 years Dueber’s has been in Winsted, Chuck said the store has had many dedicated employees.
“It’s all about having the right people,” he said. “Bonnie Krueger and Marilyn Helmbrecht are those kind of right people. They both have been a blessing for Dueber’s.”
Eighty-one-year-old Helmbrecht said she’s been working at Dueber’s in Winsted for “about 20 years, maybe longer.”
“I hate to see it go,” she said. “A lot of retired people in town come here to buy their quilting supplies. This is where they get all their threads, needles, and yarns.”Some of the customers no longer drive, she said, and it will be difficult for them to shop elsewhere.
In the two decades Helmbrecht has been at Dueber’s, product offerings have mostly stayed the same.
“It’s more like the old dime stores; we have a little bit of everything,” she said. “After the hardware store closed, we added a few pieces of basic hardware items.”
According to Chuck, flour sack dish towels were popular 65 years ago, and they continue to be a top seller today.
The first Dueber’s store started when Chuck’s father, Leroy Dueber, purchased the Ben Franklin at 136 West Main Street in Waconia. In its heyday, Dueber’s was located in 28 cities.
“Dueber’s grand opening specials in 1946 featured ladies’ house dresses for $1.98, blouses for $1, men’s chambray shirts for 94 cents, and candy bars for a nickel or a dime,” Chuck noted. “Bulk candy was mostly 29 cents a pound, a price structure nonexistent today.”
According to Chuck, the company’s philosophy “hometown value at big city discounts” hasn’t changed, however.
Chuck’s career started at Target, but after two years, he joined the family business.
“I do not regret the decision,” he said. “Working for your own business is a privilege and opportunity.”
In addition to Winsted, Dueber’s stores will be closing in the following communities:
• Saint James
• The Dueber’s office/warehouse in Norwood Young America is also closing.