Food and Drug Stores Business

Popcorn Booth in Fairfield, IA.

Korn Popper booth on the corner of N. Main and Broadway, in its second to last incarnation. The booth was decorated by Pamela Macey and used during Art Walk. Read comments about the popcorn stand on Facebook.

Fairfield Iowa in the Ice Age.

“Fairfield Iowa in the Ice Age” was written on the back of this postcard of the entrance to the White Brothers’ Tea Store, known as the “White T Store,” in the early 1900s.

The brothers Louis D. and Loren H. White sold tea and coffee at 107 West Broadway before moving in 1914 to the north side of the Square at 53 West Broadway, where they remained for the next thirty years. Loren’s son Paul White bought his uncle Louis’ share of the store in October 1943, and Paul’s brother Wallace bought his father Loren’s share on February 1, 1946. Paul and Wallace remodeled both the exterior and the interior in 1948, and finally left the Square for a modern store at Burlington and 6th in 1954, where they remained in the 1960s.

The White Brothers’ original store at 107 W. Broadway is now occupied by Walker’s Computer Center; their next store at 53 West Broadway is now From the Heart Scrapbooking and Custom Framing Shoppe, while their store at 507 W. Burlington was occupied in the 1970s by King’s IGA and in the 1980s by Jim’s Jack & Jill, and is now the site of the Hy-Vee Drugstore.

Sarah Arabella ("Bella") Huntzinger, wife of Fairfield IA grocer Gus Unkrich.

Sarah Arabella (“Bella”) Huntzinger (1850-1927), wife of Fairfield Iowa grocer Gus Unkrich. Captioned “Bella Huntzinger Unkrich” in Huntzinger album. Photograph inscribed on back, “To Frank & Ella, Happy New Year.” No photographer, no date, but taken after 1881, when Bella’s brother Frank married Ella Sheward. Paper blindstamped B. F. K. Rives along upper left margin.

The fourth of Sarah (Rudy) and Franklin B. Huntzinger’s eight children, Bella was born on September 16, 1850 in Pennsylvania. Her parents brought the family in 1856 to Fairfield Iowa, where her father built and operated flour-mills and helped found the local Lutheran Church.

Bella married Fairfield grocer Gustave Adolph Unkrich in about 1870, and over the next 15 years the couple had four children: Maggie Maude, who married Hurse E. Wisecarver; Charles Rudy, who married Sarah E. McKay; Clarence Adolph, and Charlotte Louisa, both of whom died in childhood.

Bella died on April 25, 1927, some eight months after her husband, and was buried with him in the Old Fairfield Cemetery. Visit the Find A Grave Memorial to Sarah Arabella Huntzinger Unkrich.


Gus and Sarah's daughter.

Charlotte Louise (or Louisa) Unkrich (1885-1889), daughter of Gustave A. and Sarah Arabella (Huntzinger) Unkrich. Captioned “Charlotte Unkrich” in Huntzinger album. No photographer, no date, but ca. 1888.

The youngest of the four children of Fairfield grocer Gus A. Unkrich and his wife Bella, Charlotte was born on March 24, 1885 in Fairfield, Iowa. She died on October 25, 1889. The Fairfield Ledger commented, “A sad affliction has fallen upon the family of Mr. and Mrs. G. A. Unkrich of this city in the death of their youngest daughter, Charlotte Louise, which occurred Friday. She was a bright little child in the fifth year of her age, and her death resulted after an illness of two weeks from diphtheria. The funeral occurred Saturday afternoon, services being conducted by Rev. Chatham, pastor of the Lutheran church. (Fairfield Ledger, Oct. 30, 1889, p. 3, col. 3; in vol. 4 of Jefferson County Records.)

Charlotte was buried in the Old Fairfield City Cemetery; her Find A Grave Memorial is here.


Sarah and Gus Unkrich's daughter.

Maggie Maude Unkrich (1871-1942), daughter of Gustave A. and Sarah Arabella (Huntzinger) Unkrich. Captioned “Maude Unkrich Wisecarver” in Huntzinger album. Photograph inscribed on back, “[To] Aunt Ella.” No photographer, no date, but ca. 1895.

Maude was born on September 2, 1871 in Fairfield, Iowa, the oldest of the four children of Fairfield grocer Gus A. Unkrich and his wife Bella, On September 6, 1893, four days after her twenty-second birthday, she married Fairfield clothier Hurse (also spelled Hirsh) E. Wisecarver. In about 1903 Hurse partnered with William H. Mohr in the firm of Wisecarver & Mohr, selling clothes on the west side of the Square at 54 North Main St. until about 1916. Hurse then became a real-estate agent upstairs at 60 South Main St., while Mohr continued tailoring at the old location with Harry O. Crow, who later carried on the business there by himself.

Maggie and Hurse had two children: Ruth (born July 1894), who evidently married Walter H. Johnson, and Harold E. (born September 5, 1907), who married Elsie C. Schulz in 1939. Maggie, Hurse and Harold lived at 202 West Madison during the 1920s and 1930s.

Maude died on June 27, 1942, and was buried in the Old Fairfield Cemetery. Her Find A Grave Memorial is here. Hurse died in 1952, and was buried with Maude.


son of Gua and Sarah Unkrich of Fairfield Iowa.

Charles Rudy Unkrich (1874-1949), son of Gustave A. and Sarah Arabella (Huntzinger) Unkrich. Captioned “Rudy Unkrich” in Huntzinger album. Photograph inscribed on back, “C. R. Unkrich age 15 years.” No photographer, no date, but ca. 1889-1890.

The second of the four children of Fairfield grocer Gus A. Unkrich and his wife Bella, Rudy was born on May 1, 1874 in Fairfield, Iowa. He spent three years at the University of Iowa, where he was a member of the Hahnemannian Literary Society, and became a homeopathic doctor after graduating from the Hering Medical College in Chicago in 1899.

Rudy then moved to Delavan in Walworth County, Wisconsin, where he practiced medicine and boarded with Harriet M. Folts, her son William, and her granddaughter Sarah Elizabeth McKay, a dry-goods saleswoman whom Rudy married on October 10, 1900. “The happy couple will be at home after November 1st, 1900, Delavan, where the doctor has a splendid practice….” (Wilson A. Smith, ed., “The Medical Visitor,” Chicago: Halsey Bros., 1900, Vol. 16, p. 684.) Rudy and Sarah’s son Donald McKay Unkrich was born in Iowa around October of 1905.

By January 1906, Rudy and his family had moved to Monmouth, Warren Co., Illinois, where Rudy specialized in diseases of the eye, ear, nose, and throat, treating patients at his office at No. 87, south side of the public square, and living at 317 N. 3rd St. Their daughter Sarah E. was born in Illinois about 1910.

Around 1919 Rudy and his family moved to Whitewater, Walworth Co., Wisconsin, where Rudy remained for the rest of his life. He died in the Lakeland Hospital in Elkhorn on Nov. 29, 1949, aged 75, of uremia, fracture of the left hip due to a fall and arteriosclerosis.


son of Gus and Sarah Unkrich of Fairfield IA.

Clarence Adolph Unkrich (1877-1896), son of Gustave A. and Sarah Arabella (Huntzinger) Unkrich. Captioned “Clarence Unkrich” in Huntzinger album. Photograph inscribed on back, “[To?] Ralph.” Photographed by J. B. Myers, Fairfield. No date, but Jesse B. Myers was active in Fairfield 1892-1896; photo taken ca. 1894.

The third of the four children of Fairfield grocer Gus A. Unkrich and his wife Bella, Clarence was born on April 17, 1877 in Fairfield, Iowa. He died on February 2, 1896, evidently of “La Grippe,” now known as influenza or the flu. Clarence was buried in the Old Fairfield Cemetery; his Find A Grave Memorial is here.

Gustave Adolph Unkrich, prominent Fairfield Iowa grocer.

Gustave Adolph Unkrich (1845-1926), prominent Fairfield grocer. Captioned “G. A. Unkrich” in Huntzinger album. No photographer, no date.

Born in Germany on April 21, 1845 to John H. and Fredericka L. (Gerson) Unkrich, Gus immigrated with his parents to the U.S. in 1859. His father was a government officer in Europe who came to America for his health, but died in Round Prairie Township the following year. Gus was living in Albia, Iowa in 1864 when he enlisted in the Civil War and served for 100 days in Co. G of the 46th Iowa Infantry. After the war he moved to Fairfield and opened a grocery store on the west side of the Park. His stock of “Family Groceries” included coffee, tea, sugar, molasses, candies, cheese, crackers, spices, soaps, tobacco, cigars, pipes, oysters, sardines and other fish, and fruit both canned and dried.

Gus moved his assortment of groceries, wooden and earthen ware, tobacco and fruit into J. W. Gilchrist’s new store at 56 S. Main in 1867; two years later he bought the property on the south side of the Square at 54 W. Burlington, where he remained for some 20 years.

Around 1870 Gus married Sarah Arabella (“Bella”) Huntzinger, a daughter of Sarah and Franklin B. Huntzinger, and Gus sold his miller father-in-law’s flour at his store. Over the next 15 years Gus and Bella had four children: Maggie Maude, Charles Rudy, Clarence Adolph, and Charlotte Louisa. Maggie Maude married Hurse E. Wisecarver and Charles Rudy married Sarah E. McKay; the younger two children died in childhood.

The 1870s were evidently creative years for Gus, who played Festus in the cantata “Belshazzar” when it premiered in 1875 at Semon’s beautiful new Opera House, built that year at 50-52 W. Burlington, right next door to Gus’s grocery. The inventive grocer also patented an oil-cabinet in 1876 and an improved ventilator in 1877.

In 1876 Bella’s next-younger sister Elizabeth Katherine married Frank A. Jones, who then went into business with Gus until 1880. Jones succeeded Robert Rudy Huntzinger, Sarah and Elizabeth’s younger brother, who had partnered with Gus until June 1876. His health ever precarious. R. R. Huntzinger died in January 1884 at the age of 29.

Here is a photo of Gus Unrich’s grocery store on the south side of the Square in 1876, together with an advertisement of his from 1888.

Gus was a prominent member of Jefferson Lodge No. 4, I.O.O.F., and was on the Odd Fellows’ building committee which in 1882 planned to build a three-story brick block and lodge at 51 E. Broadway. Finally deciding that the block would be too expensive, they purchased Semon’s Opera House at 50-52 W. Burlington the following year and rebuilt it for their lodge upstairs, next door east of Gus’s grocery.

Gus, his wife Belle, and their children Maud, Rudy and Clarence were living at the west end of “2nd South St,” now Washington St., in the 1885 Iowa State Census. In 1886, Gus circulated a subscription paper to raise money for a new bandstand in the Park. Octagonal in shape and measuring 16 x 20 feet, the new bandstand was dedicated that August with a memorable concert by the C. B. & Q. Band.

On November 20, 1888 the Fairfield Ledger praised Gus thus: “To successfully conduct a first-class grocery establishment requires not only ability and energy, and a knowledge of the varying influences that affect the trade, but also the faculty of anticipating the ever changing tastes in food products in the community… Mr. Unkrich’s stock is … one of the most complete and extensive in the city, and his business methods are such as to entice trade from less liberal dealers. Personally Mr. Unkrich is an affable and pleasant gentleman, with whom it is a pleasure to do business…[He enjoys] wide popularity and yearly increasing prosperity[, is] prominent alike in business and social circles, and highly esteemed by all classes of citizens.”

Sometime between 1900 and 1910 Gus and his wife moved to Des Moines, where Gus again sold groceries, but by 1920 they had returned to Fairfield, where they resided at 204 S. Main St. Gus died on August 17, 1926; Bella died eight months later. The couple are buried together in the Old Cemetery in Fairfield.

Find A Grave Memorial to Gustave A. Unkrich…

Louis Thomas, Thoma building in Fairfield IA.

Louis Thoma (1861-1940)
Pharmacist, Proprietor and Manager of the Grand Opera House, Fairfield, Iowa.

A man who built several landmark buildings around the square, one of which still carries his name atop all its original splendor; a man whose stately Italianate brick house still stands well-preserved at the northeast corner of Washington and B Streets; a man who was a respected druggist, paint and wallpaper dealer, and the last owner of the Grand Opera House – in short, a man who was a prominent member of Fairfield’s turn-of-the-century notables, was Louis Thoma.

Louis was born in Atchinson, Kansas to German immigrants David and Theresa (Irrer) Thoma on April 23, 1861, while his father was fighting in the Third Kansas Cavalry in the Civil War. After the war David moved his family to Fairfield, and though he was primarily a stonecutter, in 1867 he purchased Henry Semon’s property at 54 West Burlington and briefly opened a grocery store where Goddard & Pratt had formerly kept a meat market. This property was purchased by fellow-grocer and fellow-German Gustave A. Unkrich in 1869.

David’s son Louis attended the local schools; at sixteen he went to work at the drugstore of Drs. Rollin H. Hufford & Augustus C. D. Bradshaw, and on March 1, 1882, when not yet twenty-one, he became their partner in the new firm of Hufford, Bradshaw & Thoma. For five years the trio sold drugs and sodas in Dr. Hufford’s building at 52 East Burlington. Select here for a picture of the Hufford Building in 1876. (Dr. Hufford had come from Washington, Pennsylvania to Fairfield, where he married Bernhart Henn’s daughter Mary Josephine.)

On September 24, 1884, Louis married Antoinette Petzinger of Des Moines County, Iowa; over the next five years they had three sons: Roscoe Petzinger, Leo David, and Clifford Irrer Thoma, all born in Fairfield.

Augustus C. D. Bradshaw and Louis Thoma left Dr. Hufford’s firm in 1887, when they went into business for themselves and built the Bradshaw & Thoma building at 58 South Main. Select here for a picture of their new building in 1888.
Here Bradshaw & Thoma sold drugs, medicines, books, stationery, perfumery, toilet and fancy articles, paints, oils, and wallpaper for about ten years. The partners leased their drugstore at 58 South Main to John D. McDowell in 1897, to A. C. D. Bradshaw and Fred W. Jericho by 1904, and to F. W. Jericho and Percy J. Easton by 1910. The Benteco Kash Store sold groceries here in 1922, followed by the F. W. Woolworth Co. from 1925 to 1940.

In 1893 Louis built the Thoma Building, still standing in all its Victorian exuberance at 104-106 W. Burlington. The east half of the lot had been vacant, while the west half had been the site of the notorious Green Shade saloon. After first leasing the building to a grocer and a restaurateur, from around 1905 Louis occupied it with his son Clifford as Thoma & Son, selling wholesale paint, glass, and wallpaper at No. 104 and keeping their pharmacy in No. 106. Here is a picture of the Thoma Building, ca. 1906.

Dr. Bradshaw and Louis Thoma bought the five-year-old Fairfield Opera House in 1895; Louis bought Dr. Bradshaw’s half in 1902, when he also bought out Dr. Bradshaw’s share of the drugstore at 58 South Main, and a harness shop at 107-111 West Burlington which the pair had purchased the previous year. Louis Thoma called the Opera House “the goose that laid the golden egg,” as it helped pay for the Harvard educations of his sons Roscoe and Leo, both of whom became lawyers after graduating in 1910 — the year after the Opera House burned down in an electrical fire. Louis reportedly said the only thing he saved from the fire was the key to the front door. Select here for a picture of the Grand Opera House.

In 1910 Louis and his son Clifford Thoma bought Dr. Hufford’s old building at 52 East Burlington, which was then being leased as a drugstore to Leland Stanford Bradshaw, A. C. D. Bradshaw’s son. After they graduated from Harvard, Leo and Roscoe Thoma had their first law-offices upstairs in this building. By 1917 L. S. Bradshaw had joined the firm of Thoma & Son at 104-106 W. Burlington, selling paint, glass, and wallpaper, and Gaumer Brothers (G.W., O. Cleveland, and Harvey E.) were offering drugs, jewelry, paint, glass and wallpaper here at 52 East Burlington. When Gaumer Brothers moved to West Broadway by the early 1920s, Oliver & Anderson sold paints here, followed by Brown’s Meat Market from the later 1920s into the 1940s.

Louis died in Fairfield on the last day of November 1940, following his wife Antoinette, who had predeceased him in 1924 at their home on South B. Street.

Gus Unkrich's Grocery at 54 W. Burlington Ave., Fairfield, IA.

Gus Unkrich’s Grocery at 54 W. Burlington in 1876, with advertisement from the Fairfield Weekly Journal, 1888 (advertisement courtesy of Janet Roberts). For about 20 years Gus sold groceries, including his father-in-law’s flour, at this spot. Select here for a photo and brief bio of Gus Unkrich on Facebook by Rory Goff.
Select here to meet Gus Unkrich’s brother-in-law, Frank Huntzinger and family and see a video of the south side.