For much of the last century, the place to shop in La Crosse was the Doerflinger’s department store at Fourth and Main.
The familiar four-story Doerflinger building came into being a year after fire destroyed William Doerflinger’s original store in 1903. His daughter, Viola Doerflinger Fellows, and then grandson Samuel Fellows II continued the family’s long involvement in the store.
Doerflinger’s harkened back to the days before malls and big-box stores, offering a wide mix of merchandise such as furniture, casual and dress apparel, housewares, appliances. The Halfway Tea Room on the mezzanine allowed patrons to get a bite to eat. Area residents during those decades fondly remembered the store’s elaborate Christmas displays and decorations.
“I think it was the historic anchor to the downtown,” current building owner Mike Keil said.
But as with most such department stores, Doerflinger’s fell out of fashion and closed in 1984. It went through a number of tenants and owners before the city sold the building to Keil in 2004.
“I just thought it’s a wonderful building with good bones,” Keil said, “and I felt it was worth saving, worth restoring.” With retail on the first floor and office space above, the Doerflinger building now is fully occupied again, housing about 200 employees for companies such as Authenticom and Michaels Energy. Duluth Trading Co. occupies the entire first floor.