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Dayton's Furniture Store
Presentation to the Annandale History Club
November 2, 2015
Blaine Barkley

Blaine Barkley’s parents, Dayton and Julia Barkley, opened Dayton’s Furniture Store in Annandale in 1950.  Blaine grew up helping in the store and after graduation from college, worked there three years before leaving for a career with the Internal Revenue Service.  He also worked at the store several years after his father died in 1978.

Dayton and Julia Barkley moved to a property on West Lake Sylvia in 1948 to work for Louis Bernstein.  Dayton was caretaker and ran the camp at the former Sutton Farm (Lake Sylvia Ranch) turned into Camp Chickamanga.  According to a 1950 brochure, Camp Chickamanga was a “healthy and fun camp for boys and girls on 868 acres including a 600 foot beachfront on Lake Sylvia.”  Dayton also tried farming and raising cattle.  It was beautiful place, but not very good farm land. 

Louis Bernstein, the camp’s owner, was in the furniture business and suggested that Dayton open a furniture store in Annandale.  The furniture store opened in November 1950, on Highway 55 where the McDonald’s complex is now located.   The Case-International tractor dealership was next door, which later became Peery’s  Grocery Store and now the McDonald’s location. 

Annandale Advocate, November 9, 1950:  “New Business to Open Doors Friday – The Case building on Hwy.55 at the west edge of Annandale was leased recently by Dayton Barkley, who lives at Camp Chickamanga, Lake Sylvia.  Mr. Barkley has redecorated the interior and will conduct a furniture and appliance business.  He will carry a full line of furniture, floor coverings, stoves, lamps and other household articles…..” 

Dayton bought an International truck with an open bed.  Painted on the truck bed’s wooden side racks were the words, “DAYTON’S -- Carpets, Furniture, Appliances -- Phone -16.”     If rain threatened when he picked up furniture in Minneapolis or delivered furniture to customers, he covered the furniture with canvasses or looked for an elevator for shelter until the rain stopped.  At that time furniture was manufactured in Minneapolis.   

Dayton’s Furniture Store was the name he chose.  After three or four years, the large Minneapolis Dayton Store lawyers contacted him to object.  It was determined that Dayton Barkley had every legal right to use his name.

At first, the big sellers were bottled gas (propane), vinyl flooring and appliances.  Dayton continued farming as well as running the furniture store.  Dayton and Julia decided that they would continue in whichever business – farming or furniture – made the most money.   Blaine found records showing that the profit from the first year of farming was $127.80.  The net profit for the furniture store in 1952 was $6,300.  Bill Roth was the first employee. 

Annandale Advocate, April 3 1952:  “An estimated crowd of well over a thousand people visited Dayton’s Furniture Store in Annandale on Saturday.   The attraction was registration for a free clothes dryer.  Each adult who came to the store was registered, and Dayton Barkley, proprietor, stated there were 989 registrations.”      

Dayton said, “After World War II, you could sell anything.”  He kept putting money back in the business, and in 1952 bought the former Buri Hardware Store on main street (Oak Avenue).  The store was built in 1887 by John H. Buri and is considered to be the oldest building in Annandale.  Blaine said that when the building was first built, stumps were left and made into chairs, and the building was built on rocks covered by plank flooring.  There was a rooming house above.  There was a structure in back that had only three sides that was used for storage of Oliver plows and other implements.  Dayton expanded the business with three additions to the Buri building.  He also purchased the next building to the south, which was empty and was probably a realty office at one time, and the next building to the south which was the Brose Barber shop.   In 1959, Dayton built a second story. There were many renovations as well.  Dayton’s Furniture Store was 14,000 sq. ft. at its largest. 

Annandale Advocate, November 6, 1952:  “Next Saturday, Nov. 8, is the date set by Dayton Barkley to open his furniture store in the new location on Main Street.  This is the former Buri building, which has been remodeled outside and inside.”   Dayton added new windows and new white aluminum siding.  The front of the building was almost all windows.

Annandale Advocate, November 13, 1952:  Dayton Barkley was very much pleased with the response he received to the Grand Opening of his furniture store on Main Street last Saturday.  It took a lot of hard work and long hours by workmen to get the furniture moved, also new shipments placed and in readiness for the big event.”  (Elof Erickson started a marine dealership at the former Highway 55 Dayton’s furniture store location. It was the first location of A-1 Marine.)

Annandale Advocate, June 19, 1952:  Dayton Barkley announces that he is now the authorized Maytag dealer for Annandale and community.   To further acquaint the public with this line, Mr. Barkley, proprietor of Dayton’s Furniture Store, is asking people to stop at the store, look over the line, also receive a ticket on a television chair to be given away on July 5.”   When Blaine visited the Smithsonian, he saw an aqua colored Maytag automatic washing machine.  Blaine said he remembered helping deliver them to customers.

Annandale Advocate, April 30, 1959:  “Dayton Barkley is in the process of building an upper story over the warehouse at the rear of the furniture store on Main Street.  The addition will be used for display purposes.  Mr. Barkley states that the addition will make the store one of the largest furniture stores in the northwest.  Construction began this week and should be completed by June.”

Dayton rented the building that became the Country Lane clothing store and two-thirds of the Annandale railroad depot for storage.    Blaine said that the second story addition gave tremendous display and storage space.  There was no elevator, so everything had to be carried up the steps.  The cement floor on the main floor wasn’t level.  The cement contractor that poured the large concrete floor intended to come back early the next morning to level the floor but overslept, leaving the floor uneven.  It was difficult to get furniture to sit level.  The addition had a rounded roof.  The last addition to the Buri building was a loading dock. 

Dayton dabbled in used furniture.  Some customers wanted to trade in their used furniture, so Dayton rented a store between the Bahr garage and Marohn Produce.  This store is now the south side of Arenson’s Drugstore.  Blaine said that there were 200-300 bottles of dandelion wine in the basement, probably left over from Prohibition years.

There wasn’t running water in the Buri building.  In 1973 Dayton purchased the Brose Barbershop building to the south in order to have a bathroom in the store.  There was a brick wall that was a floor to ceiling fire wall between the Brose building and the next building, formerly JJ’s and now the Annandale Roadhouse.  Dayton had the brick wall sand blasted and stairs and a balcony were built.  There was also a small basement in that building.  Blaine and Julia sold antiques there for awhile.

Dayton’s Furniture Store at one time had a black and white awning in front.  In 1980 the downtown canopy system was built to resemble 1890s Annandale. 

Dayton was a master at marketing.  He advertised in the Annandale Advocate, and later Dayton’s began advertising to reach more potential customers using the Drummer, direct mail pieces, postcards, and two-sided flyers.  Dayton’s Furniture won statewide awards for their advertising.  Some of his themes are still used today.  Julia Barkley had a flair for merchandising.  She rearranged displays once a month and later set up entire rooms for display.  They had track lighting installed to replace the fluorescent lighting.   Julia had a talent for interior decorating.  She worked full time at the store and attended college evenings to earn a degree in interior design and studio art.  Dayton’s furniture became a destination for people who loved wandering through the store.

Wally Gloege showed his wife Rosalie’s wood jewelry box made by Lane, which was a gift from Dayton’s Furniture Store in the early 1960s.   Dayton had a custom of giving a jewelry box with the store’s name inside the lid to every girl that graduated from Annandale High School.

Dayton was very civic minded.  He served as Annandale mayor 1956 and 1957.  He was a charter member of the Annandale Lions and was Lions president 1962 and 1963.   Someone asked about the Barkleys favorite style of furniture.  Blaine said that Dayton grew up in a very large and relatively poor family in South Dakota and had no appreciation for antiques, because that’s what he grew up with.  Julia favored French Provincial for her home.

By the 1990s, on average, a semi-load of furniture was delivered to the store every week.  Dayton purchased a big yellow van they called the “Banana Wagon.”  Deliveries were made in a 70-mile radius going a different direction every day.  On Saturdays deliveries were made around Annandale area lakes.  One day a week deliveries were made in the cities.  In the 1980s it wasn’t unusual to sell close to $10,000 on a Saturday sale day.  Dayton’s was selling over $1,000,000 a year.   $5,000 to $6,000 per month was spent in advertising.  Dayton’s had quality furniture, including Ethan Allen pieces.  Dayton did most of the buying at furniture conventions, but Julia had veto authority. 

They looked at alternatives for expanding including an Apple Valley location.  In 1982 interest rates were 18%.  There was a downturn in the economy, and they ended up buying out their agreement in Apple Valley.  They also were interested in the Pamida store in Buffalo when it closed.

After Dayton died in 1978, Julia took over the store.  Her flair was art, not the financial side of the business.  Blaine went back to the store on a temporary basis and ended up staying seven years, 1983-1990.  Blaine and Julia were good sales people, and they had good employees.   Blaine’s older brother wasn’t interested in working at the store, his younger brother tried it for a year, and his sister worked at the store for several years and was part owner.

It was the era of huge furniture stores such as Hom and Schneiderman’s.  Blaine wanted to return to his work at the IRS.  Julia (1924-2005) had other interests.  Dayton’s Furniture Store closed in December of 1997 and nine months later the store was sold to Earl.  Earl worked for Burlington Northern and was an antique hobbyist.  When he opened Grandpa Earl’s Country Store and Gallery, he had enough merchandise stored in other places to fill the store.   Grandpa Earl’s is still in business in 2015.

2010 Presentation to History Club: Julia Barkley, Artist                               

Notes by Annandale History Club secretary