These three stores, with 20 feet of frontage each, were built in 1884 by E.E. Stevens, in a style described in the newspapers of the time as “commercial Gothic.” The center store, occupied by Derksen cigar is three stories, while the other two are two stories each.
The southern section, now 415 Main Street, was occupied by August Weidner and John Thielen, retail and wholesale liquor dealers. By 1886, Weidner had left the business, while Thielen continued until about 1892, when the business passed to Harry Maxwell. The location continued to house “sample rooms” and billiard parlors until after World War I. It then became a clothing store, with various names until 1944 when it became Oshkosh Office Supply until the mid-1950s. From 1958 until recently it was part of The Exclusive Company, a renowned record store, which has moved to the southeast corner of Main and Washington where it continues to sell recorded music.
Theodore Derksen, a native of Holland, started his cigar manufacturing and sales business in the early 1870s, and it was passed down to his son Herman, and then to Herman’s sons Ernst and Oscar until his Oscar Derksen died in 1952. At its peak, the company produced 1 million cigars a year and had 50 employees hand-rolling cigars on the second floor of the shop. Prohibition, the Great Depression and World War II all contributed to the industry’s decline, and by the time the war was over cigarettes had gained popularity over cigars. After Oscar’s death, cigar production halted. Former employees Alfred Brauer and Elmer Doemel purchased the business. Elmer, who had started working for the Derksens as a boy, ran the shop on Main Street until 1987. By then the Derksen business was a tobacco shop that sold everything from cigars, pipes and tobacco, to cigarettes, lighters and card games like cribbage and backgammon. They also were wholesale dealers in tobacco products, candy and gum.
The 1876 City Directory lists Thielen Bros. (Frank and Paul Theilen) as dealers in groceries and provisions at 204 Main. By 1884, Frank was in business for himself at what was then 150 Main St. He carried “a large and choice stock of staple and fancy groceries, table delicacies, canned goods, fruits and vegetables, fresh and salt fish” and served as agent for the Anheuser Busch Brewing Co. [source: “Pen and Sunlight Sketches of the Principal Cities of Wisconsin”]. He continued to operate a grocery store at that address through 1895, but changed to a sample room by 1898. Frank X. Thielen died Aug 19, 1914.
*A William Waters Design