ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Listen: Roth's department store in Superior was ahead of its time

Archive Dive is a monthly podcast hosted by reporter Maria Lockwood. Episodes dip into the archives of historic events, people and places in Superior and Douglas County with local historians.

Archive_Dive-2022-ART-1080x720.jpg
Archive Dive is a monthly history podcast hosted by Superior Telegram reporter Maria Lockwood.
We are part of The Trust Project.

A pre-1900 going-out-of-business sale prompted two brothers, Theodore Julius (T.J.) Roth and Alois August (A.A.) Roth to open up their department store in Superior instead of Chippewa Falls.

After opening in 1889, Roth Brothers department store offered a wide variety of items, from paint to records, while the owners wove themselves into the fabric of the community.

According to retired librarian and local historian Teddie Meronek, growing up in the area, everybody knew Roth's.

Historical photo of Roth's Department Store in Superior
The exterior of Roth's Department Store in Superior.
Contributed / Superior Public Library

“They (T.J. and A.A.) had experience in running general stores, so they knew what people wanted.”

In this month’s episode of Archive Dive, Meronek shares the origins of the Roth brothers and their experience with general stores; how the closing of the Beehive Bazaar in Superior caused a change of plans; and how a coin toss played a part in the story.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Roth brothers were innovative, offering questionnaires to customers; running unique ad campaigns; delivering purchases by sleigh; adding groceries to their inventory; and selling rose bushes, flower seeds and much more.

You could find everything at Roth's and while you were there, you could even ride an elevator, or two elevators at one of their locations. Roth’s also had the first public restroom in the area, though it’s not the kind you might think.

“I just remember going there and you could buy anything you wanted. If you needed a birthday card, it was there — or perfume or makeup and you could go upstairs and get something new to wear and you could also go get your hair done,” said Meronek. “It was such an icon, I think, and something that has totally disappeared from our small towns. Small town department stores that are independently owned.”

Historical photo of the interior of Roth's Department Store in Superior
The interior of Roth's Department Store in Superior.
Contributed / Roth Family

After the owners passed away, the store stayed in the family and remained open for many years. Its closing was announced in 1977 and the store made its final sales in 1978.

The legacy of Roth Brothers department store lives on, even inspiring the 2012 play “You’ll Find It at Roth’s” that was performed at the Douglas County Historical Society. Is a sequel a possibility?

New episodes of Archive Dive are published monthly. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered, email Maria Lockwood at  mlockwood@superiortelegram.com .

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
What To Read Next
Loretta Hall, 85, has sewn roughly 20,000 pairs of fleece mittens over the years as part of a local missions group.
Founder Summer Nitsch brings 25 years of marketing experience and the perspective of a new business owner to the agency.
“We want somebody that can represent us in the largest art project we ever had in the city,” Mayor Jim Paine said.
As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.