They were not built on the same date nor are they identical but they do look very similar in outside appearance. So let’s call to them the “Twins”. I am referring to the two tan stone buildings on the east side of once thriving business district of Mazeppa. Together they were the location for many years of a much needed staple in the farming community of Mazeppa. The south twin, known as the Gregoire building, dealing in farm implements much of its commercial life and its north neighbor, the Noel Building, served the community as a hardware store.
John B. Gregoire, who had been in partnership with John Kingsley since 1878, bought out Kinsley’s implement business in 1882. Peter Englehart joined Gregoire in partnership and together, specialized in McCormick Harvesting Machinery, Oliver, and LaCross farm implements. Other products the business sold were Woodmanse wind mills, and Sharpless Cream Separators, plus sewing machines, pianos and Packard organs. In 1889 they also purchased a well drilling rig with Joseph Sibley as the operator. Purchasing the property and building from Kingsley in 1894, John B. Gregoire dissolved his partnership with Englehart, maintaining the business on his own. On the sudden death of J.B. at 44 years of age in Feb. of 1897, his wife, Anna Clemens Gregoire, assigned John’s brother, Joseph N Gregoire to oversee the business for a time. James J. Darcy, who had been helping Sibley with the well drilling, took over management of the business in 1900. Darcy also owned City Meat Market at the time. John’s widow, Anna, built J.J. Darcy a new 60’ x 30’ two story building in 1901, replacing the old wood structure, allowing Darcy to enlarge the farm machinery line and added the selling of J.L. Clark Buggies and Scurries among other lines. He also maintained the well drilling business. Anna Gregoire added an addition to the back of the building in 1903. James J. Darcy managed the business into the late 1920s. In 1929 Henry Gerken took over the implement business selling McCormick-Deering farm equipment and later International Harvester. In 1937 Alfred J. Gerken joined the business and at that time bought the Pioneer Hardware store next door from W.A.Munger.
John Noel, an accomplished builder in Mazeppa, purchased the property that John Christnach occupied as a shoe store and residence and built the North twin in 1906 with Pioneer Hardware Store of W.G.Kingsford as a tenant. In 1908 Pioneer Hardware Store changed ownership from Kingsford to O. Halvorson from Harmony, Mn. who soon turned it over to F.H. Scharfenberg and Sons. Walt Munger took over operation of Pioneer Hardware in 1913 from F.H Scharfenberg and Sons adding Gardner Motor Cars to his sales in 1920. Then Scharfenberg went on to open a business on Maple Street selling John Deere Machinery, Buick, Overland, and Hudson automobiles. H.E. Gerken, and his brother Alfred purchased Munger Hardware in 1938 selling Marshal-Wells brand of merchandise while also occupying the remodeled Gregoire building next door for implement sales holding the dealership for International Harvester. The Gregoire family sold their building to Henry and Alfred Gerken in 1948. In 1956 they moved their Marshall Wells line next door combining the two businesses to one location. That same year, Alfred’s son Marlyn, along with Henry’s Son- in- Law, Paul Butlin, bought the International Harvester Dealership. Butlin had already become a partner after returning from WWII. The Gerkens closed the entire hardware business in 1959 and Gil Schafer opened a restaurant in the Gerken building. Lester and Deloris Gullickson took over the restaurant in 1962. The Gerkens sold the building to the Munson family previously who sold their orchard’s apples. Henry Gerken passed away from cancer in 1968. He had operating hardware stores also located in Zumbro Falls and Goodhue for 41years.
While the new high school was being constructed in 1956, the Noel/Munger building was used to conduct agriculture and industrial arts class. Other owners or tenants of the Noel building in more recent years have been Gay Gahler’s Bakery, Joe Meyer, Carol Brekken, Kalaas Insurance Agency, Ray Vik and Larry VanDeWalker, Stephen and Juanita Robinson Antique Store, Main Attraction Barber Shop, and now Desired Image Hair Salon, with Richard Yennie as building owner.