Editor's note: Curious about the history of the century-old structures lining Broadway Street? This series takes a closer look at the buildings around downtown Alexandria, the businesses who previously occupied the spaces and the purposes they’re being used for today.
If shoppers walking past the businesses on Broadway Street in Alexandria were wearing stilts that tripled their height, perhaps more would notice the labels lining the tops of the structures: The year 1887 above Ravnik & Co., Farmers National Bank above Now & Then Antique Mall, or Raiter and Gunderson above Magpie.
Originally built in 1867, a fire destroyed the former structure at 529 Broadway St., and a new one was constructed to replace it a few years after the 1913 fire.
That structure still stands today, and Magpie now occupies the space. Jan Teschendorf, co-owner of Magpie, said the store was started in an Osakis garage by Judy Nemo.
As the business grew, Nemo moved it to a small house before taking the spot on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Broadway Street when it opened up.
Teschendorf has been working for Magpie for 14 years, as she joined the staff the year after Nemo opened. She applied when they doubled the size of the store because she had previous retail experience.
Last fall, Teschendorf and her husband bought the business. Looking back on the time she’s worked there, Teschendorf said a few things stick out. Business slowed down significantly when a section of Broadway Street was reconstructed in 2014.
“I would say that was one of the difficult times,” Teschendorf said.
With the February fire only a block away from Magpie and the shutdown caused by COVID-19, Teschendorf said this first full year of owning the business stands out among the rest.
Over the years, she said the business has gradually progressed to accommodate customer feedback and wants.
“We have a little bit of everything here,” Teschendorf said. “We try to keep a variety of things, and we try to keep it fun.”
One of Teschendorf’s favorite parts about working at Magpie is the customers. The store contains a wide range of items from women’s clothing to jewelry, baby items and knick knacks.
Prior to Magpie using the space, here’s a closer look at the history of 529 Broadway St., according to records at the Douglas County Historical Society:
1867: The Van Dyke General Store first occupied this plot of land.
1904: Cigars and candy were sold at the street-level store Gunderson Raiter Building.
1905: Next, Prichard Mercantile Company operated in the space.
1910: After that, the clothing store E. O. Unumb stepped in and took up the main floor and basement levels, while a few independent offices were located on the second floor.
1913: The structure went up in flames on Feb. 27, 1913. The fire originated in the basement at around 11:30 p.m., and the whole building was consumed before the fire department could respond. A new building was put up on the same plot a few years later, but Unumb moved his business elsewhere.
1915: After being rebuilt after the fire, Candy Kitchen occupied the first floor space of the new structure for a short time.
1915: Then, Al Levin Barbershop entered the picture. An article in the Park Region Echo from 1954 commemorated Levin’s 40th year as a barber. Levin estimated he provided more than 200,000 haircuts during that time frame and claimed that he had the longest running local business that was managed by one individual rather than a family. He had his own shops in Thief River Falls and Austin before purchasing his brother’s business in Alexandria, which is where he stayed for the majority of his 40 years cutting hair. Levin said he was around to observe the shift in transportation from horse hitching posts to automobile parking meters.
1936: Lewis Drug Store followed after Levin. The Lewises passed through Alexandria on their way back from their honeymoon in Canada. While driving by, George Lewis commented how this building would be the ideal spot for a drug store. He and his wife discussed how nice Alexandria was, but they didn’t take action until they saw an advertisement for a different drug store for sale. They traveled back up to Alexandria and convinced the building owner to transfer ownership of the space so Lewis could start the business. After 21 years of independent ownership under Lewis, the Trumms purchased Lewis Drug Store.
1951: Trumm Drug was started by Archie and Clara Trumm in 1951, and their sons Bill and Jack took over as owners in 1963. With the business’ success came the need for expansion, so a new Trumm Drug was built at 600 Fillmore St. in 1969. Bill’s sons, Mark and Paul, joined in the early 1980s, and Jack’s son, Greg, hopped on the team in 1989. In a 2009 Echo Press article, Mark Trumm commented that it’s never been required for anyone in the family to enter the business. Rather, each family member became a natural addition to the team because their strengths and interests would align with their positions. Most recently, the business was transferred to new owners in 2018, Aaron Finley and Allan Fettig, after three generations of family ownership.
1968: Then, Peterson Snyder Drug entered the scene. C. O. Peterson started the business in 1905, and his sons Gordon and Clifford Peterson took over to co-own the drug store after their father’s passing in 1941. They expanded the store in 1977 so that it stretched into the alley to occupy space that formerly hosted four businesses.
1980: Thrifty White Drug bought out Peterson Snyder Drug in 1989. The business also purchased Williams Drug and Boston Rexall Drug after those two businesses had closed. All previous employees of Peterson Snyder continued working for Thrifty White Drug, including pharmacist Tom Peterson, a fourth generation family member who joined the store in 1981. Thrifty White Drug opened its first store in Alexandria in the Viking Plaza Mall in 1971. The business moved to its current location on 3rd Avenue East in 2008.