127 Years Strong: The Unlikely Survival of a Small Town Department Store

Aaron DeBee
7 min readApr 26, 2018

It had been a long time since I had seen a shoehorn performing its intended duty. It seemed right at home, though, in Schroeder’s Department Store, nestled in nostalgia and an atmosphere of intentional dedication to tradition.

Schroeder’s stands stalwart at the corner of Washington and 17th in downtown Two Rivers, Wisconsin. The facade is aged and unassuming, not yet renovated in a futile attempt to recapture the spirit of lost glory days, but instead offering an honest testament to the days it has actually seen.

(Note: There are a number of photos of this wonderful location included at the end of the article. I simply didn’t have space for them all in the body.)

Inside, it presents itself with the same proud conviction. On the main floor, the Men’s and Women’s shoe and apparel sections are separated, each respectively attended by their own dedicated salespeople. There are no headsets, no fly-by-night part-timers.

These folks tend their shelves and displays with love, and they’re familiar with every product in their permanently assigned departments. Janice doesn’t just “work at Schroeder’s”; she works “in the Women’s department in Schroeder’s”.

“Schroeder’s Department Store holds tightly to and fiercely defends a bygone shopping experience, acting as a welcoming oasis to those who long for the personal touch and proud professionalism of the past.”

Between the departments lie the alterations rooms where slacks can still be hemmed and dresses taken in. I didn’t see a tailor with straight pins held between clenched lips or with a measuring tape draped over a neck, but I bet it’s not an unfamiliar sight in those rooms.

The gentleman in the Men’s department attended to me sharply, expertly retrieving and fitting me with several suggested pairs of shoes. I’m not a demanding customer, and I tend to downplay the importance of the customer service…



Aaron DeBee

Freelance Writer/Blogger/Editor, veteran, Top Rated on Upwork, former Medium Top Writer in Humor, Feminism, Culture, Sports, NFL, etc.