A Passion for All Things Winchester

SUMMER 2016 • WINCHESTERCOLLECTOR.ORG | 1 winchestercollector.org $10.00 Summer 2016 A Passion for All Things Winchester

40 | WINCHESTERCOLLECTOR.ORG • SUMMER 2016 David Kruse at his Winchester Store As Winchester collectors, we all dream of stepping back in time and going into a gun shop or a Winchester Store to peruse the variety of products offered by Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Not a bad dream, right? Well…it’s not just a dream! There is a “real” Winchester Store alive and well in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Its owner, David Kruse, set out to recreate his hometown Winchester Store and has done an excellent job of taking us back in time. Years ago, when David first started collecting Winchester rifles, he did not necessarily see down the road to where he is today. His first purchase was a Winchester Model 1892 rifle in 25-20 WCF that he bought from a neighbor over 30 years ago. Little did he know he had just planted the seed for his future grand project. As his collection expanded so did his tastes—not onlyWinchester rifles caught his eye—but all thingsWinchester. He started collecting all of the various items that Winchester made for their Winchester Store franchises. One day he found out that there had been a Winchester Store in Spirit Lake, Iowa, where he currently lives. This captured his curiosity and the rest is history. Along with his wife, Jane, who supports her husband’s passion for Winchester collecting, they began by visiting the local museum and looking through hundreds of issues of the local paper The Spirit Lake Beacon. The paper had been in business since 1870 and since it was the advertising media of choice in the 1920s, what better place to look for local ads from the Hill & Sperbeck Winchester Store? Although a daunting task, the perseverance paid off, as they found a number of advertisements. These helped in dating the store’s operation as a Winchester Store fromApril 1925 through December 1929. Just by chance, he was perusing the donated postcards at the museumwhen he found the photo postcard (seen A Passion for All Things Winchester: The David Kruse Story by Jennifer & Gary Gole

SUMMER 2016 • WINCHESTERCOLLECTOR.ORG | 41 right). It features the two owners, Hill and “Becker” (Sperbeck), admiring a Model 1890 .22 rifle. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. Now that he had found evidence of the store’s existence in the local history, he had to find out where it was and what it looked like. The more he discovered, the more he wanted to know. In trying to determine the original location of the store, David and his wife happened into what was an old bank in the 1920s. With it now a fitness center, they weren’t sure what, if anything, they might find. On the wall was a large panoramic photograph of the street view from years ago….and there it was….the Hill & Sperbeck Winchester Store. They had just found a picture (below) of the local Winchester Store taken in the late 1920s—now he was really hooked! His interest in history and love of Winchester made him determined to figure out the exact location…so it was off to the

42 | WINCHESTERCOLLECTOR.ORG • SUMMER 2016 Courthouse. He not only discovered the title deeds confirming the location, but also inadvertently found the address of one of the owners (Sperbeck) who had lived only two blocks away from the store. David imagined Sperbeck walking down the street to work at the store. Many of the local historians at the Maritime Museum, local library and beyond were instrumental in his quest for historical accuracy. They bought into the project and searched the state library in Des Moines, Iowa, where they were able to confirm the location of the original storefront through insurance company records. You may be thinking, why all of this painstaking research? Once David decided to undertake his grand quest, he wanted near historical perfection. His store had to be the most exact representation possible of an actual Winchester Store as it existed in 1928. He studied old Winchester Store photographs found in the Winchester Herald Magazines and in the Winchester Marketing Guide titled Methods of Store Arrangement (seen above). Once he had a plan, construction began in the late summer of 2013 and included the recreation of a 1928 Winchester Store front inside of his new building. In order to maintain historical accuracy, he hired local artist Jack Rees to create murals on the walls on either side of the storefront. These murals (seen opposite page, bottom) depict the 1920’s view of 104 S. Hill Avenue—the original location of the Spirit Lake Winchester Store. Wanting to add a little personal history to his project, David had a 1928 Chrysler, just like the one owned by his grandfather, painted into the intersection in one of the murals. He used tin ceiling tiles, vintage shelving and showcases, complete with lighting as seen in the Winchester literature. Some of that lighting is original, which adds to the authenticity.


44 | WINCHESTERCOLLECTOR.ORG • SUMMER 2016 After the concrete work was finished and polished, David contracted with an Arkansas artist to create six templates of Winchester Store advertising. These templates were used to paint the Winchester logos into the concrete itself. Even the bathroom has an era claw-foot tub and wall-reservoir pull chain toilet with a seat from the New Haven factory. His attention to detail was nothing short of phenomenal. After many months of overseeing construction, David needed a break. All of the boxes upon boxes of Winchester memorabilia sat unopened in the new building for three to four months while he caught his breath preparing for the daunting task of stocking his store. As he began to unpack, he used the Winchester “Methods of Arrangement” Guide. This not only helped when he was originally constructing the storefront itself inside his new building, but also guided his set-up of the store window displays. He challenged himself to make the most exact duplication possible. David has created the true feel of an actual store, as you can see from this magazine’s cover photo. He has a checkout counter with a vintage cash register from a Winchester Store filled with money dating from 1928. He has grouped his merchandise by sections the same as in an actual Winchester Store. He has a sporting goods section with everything from baseballs to basketballs, boxing to hockey, and everything else in between. He has sections for fishing equipment, garden tools, mechanics tools, radio and phonograph, Christmas and household items. He even has an original Winchester Paint display, with Winchester paints, varnish and brushes. His employee “break area” houses a Winchester Store stove and icebox. He has over 30 original five-panel store window displays in his collection. If Winchester had made tables and chairs, I am sure they would be a part of this great display. All of the five-panel window displays used are originals from the Winchester Store era. This comprehensive collection includes many Winchester rarities. The overwhelming volume of Winchester items that David has in his “Store” cannot be included in one article. Please visit the WACAwebsite for a more complete view of this great collection. We hope you will take the time to see all of the amazing items available at the “Spirit Lake Winchester Store.” Private tours are available by appointment by contacting David at [email protected] View more photos of David’s Winchester Store by visiting WinchesterCollector.org. Jennifer Gole #9526 is a PatronMember of the NRA, Past Director of WACA, Past Secretary of WCA and Member of OGCA. Email Jennifer at [email protected] Gary Gole is WACA Member #4283, Life Member of OGCA and Benefactor Member of the NRA.