Ward’s Store & Bakery is for sale

The Couse Building has a long history in De Smet.

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After 39 years running Ward’s Store & Bakery, Patti Ward has made the hard decision to put the business up for sale.

“I’ve made a very difficult decision with lots of prayers and the guidance of God to sell my historic family business,” said Patti. “In my heart I know this is the best thing to do for De Smet to revitalize with new blood. I will miss my business. I have worked at this store since I could read the numbers on the cash register. Our store has been in my family for 65 years.”

HISTORY OF BUILDING

The building began with the construction of the Couse Opera House, built in 1886. Topping off the grand opening ceremony was a wedding. Edward Couse offered to present the first couple to get married a new coal stove. Had it been a year earlier, the lucky couple could have been Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder.

Upstairs was the grand opera hall with a 44’ x 79’ floor. The first floor was divided into three areas: a hardware store, a heavy hardware sales room with stoves and other large items and a small tin shop.

The basement housed a barber shop and briefly the county court house. There was an elevator in the back of the store that connected all three floors.

Edward Couse sold the building in 1917, and it became the Miller Opera House.

JCPenney closed its doors in 1957. Within seven days Tom Ward, along with his father Ed Ward, bought the Couse Building on Calumet Avenue. and 2nd Street and had it up and running.

In 1957, the Ward’s Store was a department store where many area residents remember purchasing their work clothes, fabric, shoes, hats and more. The store was named Ward’s “V” Store.

WARD’S HISTORY

Tom Ward and his wife Joy moved to De Smet along with their daughter Julie. Ed Ward remained in Bryant, S.D., along with his wife Dagmar and helped run Ward’s Store with their son Bill Ward.

Tom was a great business man and loved to be with the public. Joy stayed at home with her children: Julie, Thomas, Patricia and David until 1968, when Tom became very ill and needed open-heart surgery to replace a valve in his heart.

After, Joy began to run the store with help from family. Tom died in 1974, and Joy was left to run the business on her own. Her children helped in the store as much as possible.

Patti remembers working Friday nights with Lew Page (Dannenbring) selling the latest 45 records to youth.

“It was always fun to work with Lew!” said Patti.

By 1977, Joy’s children Tom, Patti and David were all in college in Huron. Julie was married to Dwight Gutzmer, and they lived in Lake Preston.

In 1983, Joy called Patti at college and said she was going to sell the store. She was getting married to Bob Carroll, and they were moving to Minnesota where Bob had a job.

“I want to buy the business and come back to De Smet,” Patti told her mom.

Patti had no money, so she called an old banker friend of her dad’s and told him her situation.

“No problem, we will take care of everything!” he said.

At the time Ward’s remained a department store until Walmart opened. Patti decided she needed to do something different to keep the doors open. She was dating Jay Slater at the time, and he was from the Seattle area. When he took her there to meet his family, they walked around, and on every corner, there was a coffee shop.

Patti loves coffee, so she told Jay that when she got home, she was going to put a coffee shop in her store. That was in 1997, and she ran that with a small menu until 2002 when the bakery owners across the street came in and asked her to buy them out.

Patti didn’t have the money, but knew she had to keep a bakery in her town.

One evening, while visiting with friends Doc and Jan Hof about how she wasn’t sure where she’d find the money to buy the bakery, Doc Hof said he would loan it to her at 6% interest. This was cheap compared to bank loans and would make Doc more money than investing it. So, they made a deal, and the bakery was purchased and moved into the Ward’s Store.

Patti took the old shoe department, office and dressing rooms and designed a kitchen. In 2013, Patti added South Dakota-made products to encourage people to shop locally and support other South Dakota businesses.

DECISION TO SELL

After 39 years, Patti has decided to sell the business. Patti stated,

“The business has grown so much, and I appreciate that,” she said, “but it could do more with catering, evening meals and other available venues. I am at work most days by 4 a.m. and most nights until 8 p.m., so 16-hour days have finally caught up with me.”

Patti believes if a company or family came in and ran the store, they could do more for our community. Until the business is purchased, she will continue to run it as usual.

After Patti and Jay got all the information ready, with guidance from their friend and lawyer, Todd Wilkinson, they put it up for sale last week.

what's next

Patti and Jay plan on staying in town.

“We love this community!” she said. “I will find work somewhere, and for once in many years, I will be able to attend sporting events in De Smet.”

“We appreciate everyone that has given us a chance to be a business in De Smet. I’m glad my dad and Ed Ward decided on this town. I would have never made my business what it is without so many wonderful employees over the years. I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate all of you.”

“A special thanks to Trey Karlen who has worked with me the longest, or maybe put up with me the longest!”

“I just want all of you to know I consider my customers my closest friends. You have always supported my business, and I heartfully appreciate that.”

“My hope for the future of De Smet is that everyone supports our local businesses. That’s what puts De Smet ahead of the rest, our Main Street! You will never get more personal care or appreciation than from your local merchants.”

Ward’s Store & Bakery is listed for sale on bizbuysell.com for $899,000 by Patti’s broker Scott Kranz, who is handling everything.

The listing is for the business, the beautiful living quarters upstairs in the old opera house, the back lot and the garage. It also includes $100,000 worth of furniture, fixtures and equipment and $20,000 in inventory.

For additional information please contact listing agent Scott Kranz at (605) 413-1871 or scottk@fcbb.com.

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