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It all started with a few letters.
In the summer of 1896, a number of South Dakota business owners began corresponding with each other. They wrote letters to each other, as well as to editorial columns in newspapers. They felt, as one wrote, that there was "a profound and just discontent with existing conditions, coupled with the desire to change and better the same."
As a result of those letters, when the spring of 1897 rolled around, an Alpena business owner decided it was time for the retail business people of South Dakota to begin doing some serious thinking about establishing a permanent organization to represent their interests.
C.C. Issenhuth called together a handful of his colleagues from across the northeastern part of the state to take the preliminary steps toward forming an association. Those nine men met at the Spink County Courthouse in Redfield on May 18, 1897. That was the beginning. Within a few months, the South Dakota Retail Merchants Association was off and running.
THE NINE FOUNDERS
T.E. Doyon, Grocer, Redfield
Michael Gorman of Cross & Gorman, Dealers in General Merchandise, Wilmot
C.C. Issenhuth, Dealer in General Merchandise, Alpena
Emil Johnson of Erlandson & Johnson, Dealers in General Merchandise, Milbank
August Mittelstaedt, Dealer in General Merchandise, Milbank
August Nottmeyer of Nottmeyer & Miller, Dealers in General Merchandise, Redfield
C.C. Peterson, of Jonathan Peterson, Dealer in General Merchandise, Newark
R.S. Vessey of Albert & Vessey, Dealers in General Merchandise, Wessington Springs (later served as Governor of South Dakota from 1909-1913)
G.A. Wood of Wood Brothers Hardware, Implement & Lumber Dealers, Milbank
A CALL IS ISSUED
The nine founders who met in Redfield on May 18, 1897 decided to take the first steps toward a goal they had been discussing for a year: to establish a permanent association for retailers in the state. They decided to call a general convention.
Eighty-five business owners gathered at the Spink County Courthouse in Redfield a month-and-a-half later to draft a constitution and bylaws for the fledgling organization. G.A. Wood of Wood Brothers Hardware, Implement and Lumber Dealers in Milbank was unanimously elected the first president of the South Dakota Retail Merchants Association. D.D. Gross of Yankton was named vice-president.
An Executive Committee was also elected: L.G. Ochsenreiter of Webster, H.R. Bartlett of Groton, S.N. Brown of Clark, R.S. Vessey of Wessington Springs, and C.C. Peterson of Newark. Peterson was named Secretary.
FIRST ASSOCIATION GOALS
The 85 charter members who gathered in Redfield on July 7, 1897 agreed that their aim was to "improve and increase the business now being done by the merchants of South Dakota; this to be accomplished by adopting such new and improved methods as will accomplish this result... By adopting these methods, we feel confident that we can make it of advantage to the purchasing public of the state not to give its patronage to concerns in distant states, but to bestow it upon local dealers, whose interests are identical with their own.
The group was also in agreement that there was a need to lobby the Legislature on behalf of business interests.
Secretary C.C. Peterson was authorized to provide himself with suitable stationery and books for the use of the Association. He was directed to make a personal canvas of the State in the interest of the Association, for which he was to be paid a salary of $50 plus expenses.
Dues were set at $3 a year. Membership was not allowed to catalog houses or anyone doing business with catalog houses. They were confident that organization would force the majority of catalog houses out of the business world for good.
A year after its inception, the fledgling organization held its first Annual Meeting at the Grand Opera House in Huron. Fifty-eight people registered for the two-day session.
The program included presentations on:
- "The Business Man"
- "Application of Sound Business Principles to Retail Merchandising"
- "The Value of Order, Display and Advertising"
- "The Cash System"
- "Credit Methods" (including a debate on the pros and cons on the matter of credit)
And there was considerable "general discussion on the question of combating the catalogue houses."
FIRST LEGISLATIVE SESSION
In 1899, the Retail Merchants Association lobbied the Legislature for the first time (in the first state Capitol Building).
That year, the organization sought a more effective law relating to druggists and doctors, an effective garnishment law, a decrease in the matter of exemptions, a pure food law, changes in the law affecting chattel mortgages, a law against fraudulent advertising, and a decrease in the interest rates to 10 percent.
W.J. Healey, a hardware dealer from Mitchell, had been hired as the Associaton's secretary in 1898, at a salary of $30 per month. He served as the first lobbyist.
The first year's legislative efforts saw only one success: passage of the Pure Food Law.
Board President Harvey J. Rice of Huron called it a good beginning. In June of 1899, at the second Annual Meeting, he stated, "Our Association is still in its infancy and we should not be discouraged if great ends are not attained at once. It is by slow earnest labor, overcoming disappointments, still pushing ahead, clinging to what we gain, that all goals are finally reached."
In May of 1899, the Executive Board authorized Secretary W.J. Healey to pay $5 per month for room in the First National Block in Mitchell, to be used as headquarters for the Association.
The first Association newsletter was published in November of 1899. It is now archived at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. Click on the cover of the newsletter at right to pull up a PDF version of the first newsletter.
More of our earliest publications and documents can be found at this link: https://www.sdra.org/Information/Historical-Documents/1897-1909.asp
Newsletters from the 1920s to the 1970s can be found at this link: https://www.sdra.org/Information/Historical-Documents/Index.asp.
AND IT CONTINUES...
The nine founders of this Association had incredible vision - but they probably could not have imagined that, more than 100 years later, their fledgling organization would be the largest South Dakota business organization, still strong, still fighting for retailers, and a model for other retail groups on a national level.
The organization that was started by a small, hopeful group of business people in 1897 has fulfilled all of their expectations, and more.
BOARD PRESIDENTS SINCE 1897
|C.C. Peterson||May-July 1897||Jonathan Peterson, Dealer in General Merchandise||Newark|
|G.A. Wood||July 1897-June 1898||G.A. Wood of Wood Brothers Hardware, Implement & Lumber Dealers||Milbank|
|Harvey J. Rice||1898-1903||Rice & Whorton, General Merchandise||Huron|
|A.F. Grimm||1904-1909||A.F. Grimm Co., general merchandise||Parkston|
|D.H. Loftus||1909-1911||General merchandise||DeSmet|
|W.L. Ware||1913-1916||McGaan, Baarsch & Ware Co.||Clark|
|J. Ray Cole||1916-1918||Redfield Mercantile Co.||Redfield|
|Otto Baarsch||1918-1921||McGaan, Baarsch & Ware Co.||Clark|
|Lars J. Fiksdal||1921-1923||Lars J. Fiksdal Co.||Webster|
|A.S. Fischer||1923-1925||Fischer Brothers||Ft. Pierre|
|John C. Hammer||1925-1926||Volga|
|Frank H. Hughes||1926-1928||Food Supply Co.||Rapid City|
|F.C. Ackley||1928-1930||Olwin Angell Co.||Aberdeen|
|Web Hill||1930-1933||Bull Hill Dry Goods Co.||Rapid City|
|Henry G. Schwartz||1933||The Schwartz Co.||Redfield|
|Herman A. Plate||1933-1934||Co-op Mercantile Co.||Cresbard|
|Arthur Svenby||1937-1939||Golden Rule Department Store||Lemmon|
|Frank E. Hilts||1939-1941||Grocer||Pierre|
|Frank West||1941-1944||Grocer||Sioux Falls|
|Ed Kehmeier||1948-1950||New Hollywood Shop||Pierre|
|B.A. Thomas||1950-1952||Thomas Food Market||Sioux Falls|
|Jack J. Verschoor||1957-1959||Mitchell|
|Carl Fischer||1959-1961||Ft. Pierre|
|Tom Abourezk||1961-1963||Abourezk's Store||Mission|
|C.M. Galloway||1966-1968||Galloway's Department Store||Madison|
|John Bonde||1968-1970||Bonde's V Store||Flandreau|
|John Trumble||1970-1973||Jack's Trading Post||Allen|
|Ep Sieler||1973-1975||Jones Drug||Gettysburg|
|Leighton Gemar||1975-1977||Gemar's Market||Scotland|
|Don Carlson||1977-1979||Diamond Shoes||Yankton|
|Helen Rasmussen||1982-1983 (1st Woman President)||DeHaan's Market||Platte|
|Chuck Chilson||1983-1984||Elevator Store||Webster|
|Lynn Feist||1984-1985||Lynn's, Inc.||Lemmon|
|George Welder||1985||Sears||Sioux Falls|
|Chuck Parks||1985-1987||Chuck's Jack & Jill||Madison|
|Howard Owens||1987-1988||Owen's Interstate Sales||Spearfish|
|Bob McCardle||July 1988-Feb. 1989 (passed away while in office)||Randall's||Mitchell|
|Roy Nyberg||April - September 1989||Ace Hardware||Sioux Falls|
|Jill Bartlett||1989-1990||Hollywood Shop||Pierre|
|Ken Fiedler||1990-1991||Ken's Super Fair Foods||Aberdeen|
|Terry Casey||1991-1992||Casey Drug & Jewelry||Chamberlain|
|Dick Beverley||1993||Sears||Sioux Falls|
|John Clarke||1994||County Fair Foods||Mitchell|
|Gary Brown||1995||Town N Country Inn||Rapid City|
|Clark Sinclair||1996||Montgomer's Furniture||Madison & Sioux Falls|
|Elmer Karl||1997||Karl's TV & Appliance||Gregory|
|Steve Hauff||1998||Dakota Sports||Sioux Falls|
|Roger Feickert||1999||Midstates Printing||Aberdeen|
|Doug Van Zee||2000||Canton Food Center||Canton|
|Brad Drake||2001||Connecting Point Computer Centers||Watertown|
|Kent Baker||2002||Sears||Rapid City|
|Phil Lampert||2003||Custer State Park Resort Co.||Custer|
|Bill Brunick||2004||Brunick Furniture||Vermillion|
|Jerry Scriver||2005||Millstone Family Restaurant||Rapid City|
|Terry Wilts||2006||Oreck Floor Care Center||Sioux Falls|
|Tom Morrison||2007||JC Penney||Rapid City|
|Tom Roberts||2008||State Publishing Company||Pierre|
|John Meyer||2009||Office Products Center||Winner|
|Mike Cole||2010||Lewis Drug||Sioux Falls|
|Jeff Jackson||2011||Wrangler Inn||Mobridge|
|Bill Anderson||2012||Anderson Furniture||Huron|
|James Siemens||2013||Hy-Vee||Sioux Falls|
|DeLon Mork||2014||Dairy Queen||Madison|
|Dan Tribby||2015 and 2016||Prairie Edge||Rapid City|
|Gary Cammack||2017 and 2018||Cammack Ranch Supply||Union Center|
|Edward J. Mannix||1902-1904||Sioux Falls|
|Nathan S. Tyler||1909-1918 (Son of L.S. Tyler)||Redfield|
|Elmer U. Berdahl||1918-1925 (First full-time executive for SDRA)||Humboldt|
|Harry L. Kyes||1925-1929||Huron|
|Richard M. Pease||1939-1945||Huron|
|George W. Chitty||1945-1947||Huron|
|Irvin L. Adams||1949-1951||Colome|
|Donald A. Caldwell||1951-1966||Sioux Falls|
|Ken Balgeman||1966-1978 (Title changed to Executive Vice President and office moved to Pierre)||Pierre|
|Dean Randall||1980-1988 (Title changed to Executive Director)||Pierre|
|Jerry Wheeler||1990-2006 (Purchased land, constructed association building)||Pierre|