West-central Minn. community losing downtown anchor with upcoming closure of 110-year-old furniture store – InForum

OLIVIA, Minn.

— The community of Olivia is losing an anchor of its retail sector and a four-generation, family owned business that has been an icon for 110 years.

Last week, “clearance” and “going out of business” signs were placed on the windows of Dirks Furniture and the 523 Trading Post at its location facing U.S. Highway 212 in the central business district.

The “going out of business” sale follows the death June 10 of Steve Dirks at age 71. The fourth-generation family member had led the business since he returned to Olivia in 1988 with his wife, Judy.

Judy Dirks told the West Central Tribune that the decision to close the business has been very difficult. The business was a passion for her late husband, who continued to oversee its operations despite being legally blind. He had only 1% of vision in one eye remaining due to retinitis pigmentosa.

Dirks Furniture June 19 2023.JPG

The Dirks Furniture building encompasses nearly a quarter of a very visible city block at the corner of U.S. Highway 212 and Ninth Street in Olivia.

Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Although he had not been able to drive since he was 48 years old, he kept the business going and expanded it. “He never stumbled, just focused on keeping Dirks alive and all of Olivia,” said Judy Dirks.

There are no heirs for the business, and a previous effort to transfer the business to an employee-owned operation did not work, Judy Dirks explained.

She is a retired flight attendant and has no experience or desire at this point in life to oversee a retail operation. She and Steve’s 94-year-old mother are the only remaining family members.

She said the plan is to hold the “going out of business” sale and close the operation while seeking a buyer for the buildings. There is approximately 26,000 square feet of space, according to a 2016 article in the West Central Tribune on the business.

August Dirks had started in the business in 1913, two years after arriving in Olivia in a covered wagon. Steve worked alongside his grandfather, Harold, and father, Ben, when returning to take over the business.

Olivia Mayor Jon Hawkinson said the store has long been a pillar for retail traffic in downtown Olivia. It’s not just the business the community of about 2,500 is losing.

He said Steve Dirks “had the kind of attitude you could never stop him or bring him down,” and that energy was a benefit to the community. He believes Steve continued with the business as long as he did due to its importance to the community.

Steve Dirks

Fourth-generation family member Steve Dirks discussed plans for the store with the West Central Tribune on Jan. 19, 2016.

Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune file photo

He pointed out that Steve generally worked six days a week at the business. He walked to the store every day, no matter the weather.

The mayor is not aware of any prospective buyer for the property at this point. He said Susan Lange, the community’s economic development director, is working on helping find a new owner for the property. Any inquiries about the business should be made to her, he said.

The mayor said that despite the loss of the furniture store, there is some good news for the retail area. The Corncade, an arcade, and Next Step Creativity, which offers vinyl printing on clothing and 3D printing services, have announced plans to move their operations into the former drug store at the intersection facing the Dirks store.

Judy Dirks said the store’s closing will mean the loss of work for two store employees with 26 years of experience. She said there is not a timeline for the closing, but the plans are to close the operations as soon as the inventory is sold.

Inside Dirks Furniture June 19 2023.JPG

Everything at Dirks Furniture is being discounted — from the furniture to the home decor items hanging on the walls. The Olivia store is already starting to feel a bit empty as purchases are loaded up into customers’ vehicles and trailers.

Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 320-214-4335.


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