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The S&L department store in Sioux Falls was badly damaged by fire in 1948

On November 23, 1939, the S&L Company opened its department store at 129 N. Phillips. The store was part of a chain that began in South Dakota and grew rapidly, establishing stores in six Midwestern states.

The S&L Company got its start in Elkton, South Dakota in 1921. It was a company that founders Samuel F. Salkin and Joseph L. Linoff associated with and was named for. Both were immigrants from Russia who ended up in Sioux City. Sam worked at the Baron department store there and took evening classes to improve his English. He felt that the best way to learn the language was to fully immerse yourself in it in a small community.

Salkin and Linoff decided to look for a new business in a small town and discovered that a store had listed for sale in Elkton, east of Brookings near the Minnesota border. When they arrived to investigate, they found the shopping district of Elkton packed with people. There were carriages and horses all along the street carrying eager shoppers. The two agreed that day to buy the store. The next day the streets were empty and they discovered that the fervor of the day before was due to the celebration of Ascension Day. They got to work and were successful enough to require a move to a larger building in Elkton four months later.

In 1928, four S&L stores were opened in Minneapolis and the company’s headquarters moved there. Later expansion plans focused on smaller communities, as stores were opened in Brookings, Watertown, Flandreau, Pipestone, Minnesota, and Slayton, Minnesota, before the move was made to Sioux Falls.

The new store was announced on November 7, 1939, as workers worked to renovate the Van Eps block, formerly occupied by JCPenney. It would be the company’s 29th store.

S&L was keen to promote the local labor used not only to renovate the space, but also to staff the store. There were a few managers and department heads from out of town, but the majority of staff were recruited locally and trained quickly to handle the upcoming holiday season.

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S&L Company added to the bustling downtown shopping district that already included JC Penney, Fantle’s, Montgomery Ward and Shriver’s, but it held firm. There was, however, a major setback in 1948.

On November 16 at around 6:10 p.m., 20 minutes after assistant manager Otto Wangsness had been locked up for the day, the cashier at the Granada theater across the street noticed that the window of the S&L store had exploded on the street. . The fire department was called immediately. When building manager James Waul heard the sirens, he headed to the basement and turned off the gas to the building’s heaters.

Next door, at the Dakota Theater, patrons were interrupted while watching “Borrowed Trouble,” the latest film in the Hopalong Cassidy series. It would be the Dakota Theater’s last feature under that name. Central firefighters rushed to gather all their equipment, including a new aerial water tower truck. The company worked for three hours to extinguish the fire. The loss was estimated at $250,000. Unfortunately, the store had just received a huge amount of stock in anticipation of the holiday season.

On December 2, it was announced that the S&L would open a temporary store in Eighth and Fairfax. The first big sale offered great deals on smoke-damaged merchandise. The store would operate from this location until June 24, 1949, when the Van Eps building was ready to reopen. The building had to be completely reworked, as parts of the ceiling had collapsed. There was a ceremony to commemorate the reopening attended by Sam Salkin and Joe Linoff.

On November 7, 1950, Joe Linoff died of a heart attack he had suffered two weeks earlier. He leaves behind his wife and four children. S&L stores continued to thrive despite the loss.

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By 1954, S&L had stores in 42 locations. The company acquired 16 women’s specialty stores, called Stevensons, which will retain their names. This brought the total number of stores owned by S&L Co. to 58.

On July 29, 1968, the Sioux Falls store applied for a cease-of-business sales permit. The Van Eps building was slated for demolition the following year, a victim of urban renewal. Buyers visited the city center less and less each year.

In 1969 the Van Eps block, parts of which had existed since 1886, was demolished, with the rest of the block to follow shortly. The Wells Fargo parking ramp, which currently occupies the space, offers little history or architectural interest.

S&L Company continued under the direction of Morrey Salkin, Samuel’s son. The company grew to around 400 stores of various types in the 1980s before disbanding in 1990. Morrey died two years later.

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