EAHS remembers Trefz Variety Store
Green plastic soldiers, a marble, Key overalls, a tin whistle, a photo of an egg plate given by Emma Lotz to Nell and Wilfred Trefz as a wedding present, along with other articles from Trefz Variety Story were displayed March 15 at City Hall by Eudora Area Historical Society members and Trefz family members.
William Trefz, a native of Wittenberg, Germany, 59, left the milling business after 35 years to launch Trefz Variety Store in 1915 at 715 Main St. His son, Carl, joined him in the venture and later ran the downtown fixture until 1976.
Trefz studied ministry at Baker University in Baldwin before leaving school to help at the store, said Patty Trefz Yeado, the daughter of Fred "Freddie" Trefz, a nephew of Carl Trefz. "He literally raised his younger brothers after his mother died of typhoid [in 1896]."
Wire mesh baskets and oak display cases were just two ways Trefz displayed his wares. "I have one of his display cases, a cigar case," Nell Trefz said. "It has slats for shelves. In the back is a tin-lined drawer that pulls out. He used to fill the drawer with water to keep the cigars moist.
Many associated the store with the candy held in those cases. "Those oak display cases had all that candy in jars that sold for a penny or two cents," Rex Burkhardt said, remembering the licorice, hard candy, fire sticks, and waxy bottles with colored sugar water. "Carl was good to me because I was a regular customer and he gave me extra pieces."
Trefz also sold clothing and shoes.
"He took care of people so much better than they do today," Kermit Broers said. "He made sure the shoes fit you."
Nell Trefz said that store items were bought from TM James, a seven-story wholesale store in Kansas City. Fern Long, who has a collection of decorative birds given to her over the years by her husband and a row of plates above her sink, all from the Trefz Variety Store, said the store also had a photographer who came to the store to take photographs each year. "Most of my grandchildren had their pictures taken there," Long said.
After the store closed and Carl Trefz's death in 1977, Freddie Trefz "locked it up just like it was," Nell Trefz said and often added items from area sales to remaining store fixtures and items.
The building has stayed within the Freddie Trefz family who added a bathroom and running water last year. Currently, the store houses Seasons, a garden-related store.