“If you can’t find it at Dueber’s, you don’t need it.”
It’s a slogan that most Waconia citizens know by heart, an ode to the popular general merchandise retailer that has been a downtown fixture for almost seven decades.
Unfortunately, some things don’t last forever and Chuck Dueber, president and CEO of the family-owned business, recently confirmed that all nine Dueber’s locations — Waconia, Winsted, Glencoe, Gaylord, Fairfax, Springfield, Madelia, St. James and Tracy — are closing.
“If all goes as planned, they will all be closed sometime this summer,” said Chuck, who noted that the closing is contingent on selling either the Waconia store building or the NYA warehouse office facility. Freshwater Community Church has a purchase agreement with Dueber’s to acquire its nearly 18,000 square foot building in Waconia.
“You must realize the challenge of retail in the current marketplace,” Chuck said. “With big box retailers such as Target, Walgreens, Walmart, and internet retail, it is extremely difficult to come up with a profit at year end. No doubt it is a miracle that Dueber’s has been able to remain open the last five years.”
Chuck said it has been difficult to compete with the big box retailers.
“However, there are certain service orientated categories, such as fabric and sewing notions, that Dueber’s carried which are normally not carried by big box stores. The independent retailers would need several niche merchandise offerings to be able to compete,” noted Chuck, who said they saw the writing on the wall a decade ago and began encouraging younger members of the family to not depend on retail for their vocation.
Chuck said the future of stores like Dueber’s remains bleak.
“The days of the independent variety store are certainly limited,” Chuck said.
“Small towns throughout Minnesota are wonderful places to raise a family, but customers generally continue to demand big box retail, and they are willing to drive 30 to 40 miles if necessary for the selection of goods they want.”
The closing of Dueber’s is disappointing not just for downtown Waconia but also for the generations of shoppers who enjoyed the store’s unique variety, charming ambiance and top-rate customer service.
Creating a legend
The origin of Dueber’s is traced back to its founder, LeRoy Dueber, who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1939 with a B.A. in Business Administration. After graduation, LeRoy Dueber took a position with the W.T. Grant Company, a chain of some 800 stores, and ascended to the managerial ranks.
“As a result of this experience, he became interested in opening a store of his own,” Chuck said.
See the rest of the story in the March 7 print edition of the Waconia Patriot.