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Charles Fischer & Son

1895 - 2007

106 W Main

2-6 E Main

 

The business was started in 1895 on Main Street west of the Rock River.  It was first known as Fellermann & Fischer, named after the original owners Eli Fischer, who was in his early 20s, and John Fellermann.  However, the store closed about 90 days after it opened because customers were skeptical about shopping there after Fellermann was involved in a suspicious shooting accident.

 

Adjustments were promptly made after Fellermann left the company and Eli's father, Charles, was brought in as a partner to add a note of stability.  The name of the business was then changed to Chas. Fischer & Son.

 

Fischer's was incorporated on Nov. 20, 1901, with family members Charles, Eli, Otto, Hugo and Julius as stockholders.

 

The business relocated in 1917 to 2 E. Main St. after the building was renovated following a fire.

 

1895

The Charles Fischer and Sons store was started in March, 1895, on Main Street, west of the Rock River.  It was originally located in West Main Street, in the building which houses the Savoy Theater. It was for many years known as Watertown’s Greater West Side Store.  It was first known as Fellermann & Fischer, named after the original owners Eli Fischer, who was in his early 20s, and John Fellermann.

 

07 03       After July 15, 1895, the firm of Fellerman & Fischer, 106 West Main Street, will be dissolved and the business conducted under the style of Charles Fischer & Son, the senior member of which purchases Mr. Fellerman's interest.  We wish the new firm every success in the mercantile world.    Wr

 

1902

01 10       The Lake Mills Leader reports that Frank C. Smith of that city has sold out his stock of goods to Charles Fisher & Son of Watertown, and will retire from the business the first of February next, just six years from the date of the opening of Smith Brothers on the 1st of February, 1896.  The business was started by Frank and his brother Theodore, who finally sold his interest to Frank who made a trip to the Klondike.   WG

 

03 07       Charles Fischer & Son Company, the new firm now occupying the old stand of Frank C. Smith, had their opening last Friday and Saturday and were crowded with customers.  The store is beautifully fitted up, the show windows have an artistic, city style appearance, and the stock is invitingly arranged, giving evidence of experience and care.  We are assured that the company will be large and well-stocked of such things as belong to the trade and are in demand, for those individual and family use, in groceries and dry goods, giving special care to keeping a high grade of ladies' dress good, silks, and other high classed articles while not neglecting the finer grades of goods so much needed by the public. In every way they expect to merit a fair share of public patronage. —Lake Mills Leader / WG

 

1906      New Masonic Temple building dedicated; Fischers moved to later, previously site had been that of Watertown Steam Laundry.

 

1906      Despite the inclement weather yesterday, the fall opening of Watertown's greater and remodeled west side store, was a decided success and throughout the day the store was visited by a steady stream of purchasers and the force of clerks, together with the proprietors, were kept busy all day showing and disposing of their wares.

 

10 06       Chas. Fischer & Son Co. never do things by halves.  When they announce a special sale of any kind they invariably back up all claims and the opening of their three day's sale yesterday morning was no exception to the rule.  Hundreds of people visited the store to take advantage of the special offerings and admire the decided change in the way of enlargement in the store that has taken place during the past few weeks.  Had the weather been at all favorable, there is no doubt but that it would have been impossible to have handled the crowds of anxious buyers and with favorable weather today and Monday, there is no doubt but that the newly remodeled and enlarged store will present a lively scene . . . 

 

1908

Charles Fischer attends provincial synod of the Moravian church.   09 04 1908

 

1909      Fischer's 1909, 106 W Main, Charles and son, dry goods

09 17          Plate glass show window   WG

06 25       Extensive improvements to be made; Reduction sale prior to   WG

09 24       Opening of enlarged and remodeled store; 1250 sq ft added to salesroom   WG

12 31       BETHLEHEM IN MINIATURE:  The finest window decoration ever seen in Watertown is that of Charles Fischer & Son Co, the West Main Street merchants.  It represents the ancient town of Bethlehem—the stable, manger, cattle, etc., and all the scenes surrounding the birth of Christ, with angels hovering overhead.  It is a very impressive looking scene, especially so at night, when illuminated by colored electric lights.  Thousands of our people have gone to admire it the past week.  If you have not see it, do not fail to do.   WG

 

1910

04 01          WEARBETTTER COMBINATION SUITS

[advertisement]  Award has been made to this establishment for the exclusive sale of the time-tested Wearbettter Combination Suits, consisting of a double-breasted jacket and two pairs of Knickerbocker knee pants.  These suits are practically indestructible; the material will retain its new aspect and the garments will give good service until the boy outgrows them.  The Wearbetter Young Men’s Suits and other styles of children’s suits are on sale at Charles Fischer & Son Co., greater west side store.   WG

 

1911

03 02        1895-1911 / 16TH ANNIVERSARY SALE / MARCH 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 / Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

Anniversaries are a time when it is customary and when it is right and wise for individuals or corporations to look back over their history and to look ahead into their future, thereby gaining a comprehensive view of mistakes and successes.  The sixteen years time during which this store has grown from one floor containing 2500 square feet of selling space to the present three floors containing 7500 square feet has been filled with experiences of a fruitful kind.

 

If any one thing has had more to do with the building up of this business than any other one thing, it is that we sell Merchandise of Quality instead of merchandise without quality.

 

The idea of courteous service, of bargains without bluster or bluff, the desire to be known above all things as reliable, are the things that stand out strong in the minds of the people of Watertown and vicinity.  When we fail to give our customers complete satisfaction, then this store will fail to longer be a success—but until then we'll continue to strive from day to day to give each individual customer that perfect satisfaction that is each customer's proper due.

 

Until then—we'll continue to grow—as we have done in the past.

 

Charles Fischer & Sons Co., Watertown’s Greater West Side Store   WG

 

11 16       FINE ELECTRIC SIGN

Charles Fischer & Son Co. have placed an elegant electric sign fronting their place of business on [106] West Main Street.  It is one of the finest in the city and is an indication of the very enterprising spirit of that popular firm.   WG

 

1912

03 07       FISCHER'S LAKE MILLS NEW DOUBLE STORE

 

The formal opening of C. Fischer & Son Co.’s new store last Thursday evening was an occasion when people turned out to hear and see something which they could not buy.  Preparations for the opening had been going on for several days and most nights to get all in readiness for the public, who had been cordially invited to attend the opening, hear the music, get a souvenir, and a desire to call the next day or soon and have an opportunity to buy goods.

 

It is estimated that at least five hundred people visited the store that evening, saw the fine arrangements of the goods in the various departments, observed the methods of illumination for day and evening, and heard the delightful music furnished by the Wilson orchestra.

 

The store was built by Mr. C. F. Greenwood to order for the company and is 40 feet wide and 100 feet long.  This affords room for four different counters and leaves two good aisles for customers.  There are two front entrances and two very large show windows which are nicely decorated.  The ceiling is made of steel and is painted a light color.  The front of the store presents a fine appearance with its pressed brick work and the large plate glass windows. A very fine basement under the entire store adds greatly to its capacity.

 

This new double store will add greatly to Lake Mills as a trading point and it ought to keep many dollars at home and attract many dollars from neighboring places and farms.

 

The builder and the proprietors of the new store are entitled to great praise for their efforts to keep Lake Mills on the map as a central trading point. — [Lake Mills Leader] / WG

 

1913

01 30       Death of Charles Fischer, 1840-1913

One of Watertown's Most Esteemed and Progressive Business Men

 

Wednesday morning our people were somewhat startled when the announcement was made of Charles Fischer's death, who passed away Tuesday evening, January 28, 1913, at his home, 1025 Main Street.  Mr. Fischer had been confined to his home since the first of January, but his illness was not considered serious until about one week before he died, when his suffering became quite intense, from which he could get no relief till death claimed him. 

 

Mr. Fischer was born on December 6, 1840, in Germany, and when quite a young boy came to America and engaged in farming in the town of Farmington, at which he was engaged until 1895, when he entered the general merchandise business in West Main Street, under the firm name of Chas. Fischer & Sons Co., of which he was president.  While a resident of Farmington he was married to Augusta Yaeck, four children being born to them, three of whom and his wife survive him, his children being Otto A. Fischer of Lake Mills, Eli Fischer and George Fischer of this city.  One brother, Julius Fischer of Kiel, Wis., and two sisters, Mrs. Amanda Ohm of Ebenezer, and Mrs. G. Koch of Milwaukee, also survive him. 

 

In the death of Mr. Fischer Watertown loses one of her most enterprising and most popular businessmen.  He possessed a genial, whole-souled disposition and his happy greetings always made his friends feel the better for his meeting them.  He had a joyful, happy way of meeting his fellow man and usually had a pleasant and kind word to say to everybody and in his business transactions.  He was the soul of honor and scrupulously honest in all his dealings.  His death is universally regretted in Watertown.

 

The funeral arrangements have been made for Friday afternoon at 1:30 o'clock.  Services will be held in the Moravian Church at 2 o'clock.  Friends wishing to view the remains may do so on Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.  The casket will not be opened at the church.    WG

 

1914

02 26       FISCHER’S 19TH ANNIVERSARY SALE

Begins Wednesday morning, March 4, and continues until Tuesday evening, March 10.  Six days of big value giving.  Never would we seem unmindful of the fact that our merchandising success is to be attributed in large measure to the constant support of our patrons – and at this time we would renew our assurance that in the future, as in the past, the greatest effort of our organization shall be directed toward this end:  “TO PLEASE THE CUSTOMER.”

 

And that is the kind of policy we shall stick to as long as this is a store. We must deserve your patronage and we appreciate it.  The volume of sales during the past year was the greatest in the history of the store – we realize that the prosperity of the people has a great deal to do with the business increase – and, of course, this store’s increasing popularity has had something to do with it also.  These two elements together are going to make the Fischer store grow in 1914 as it has never grown before.   WG

 

10 24       FARE-REFUNDING SALE, full page Weltburger ad 

 

1915

106 WEST MAIN LOCATION

Fischer’s 1915, Ad, 106 W Main

 

c.1915

WEST MAIN LOCATION

           

 

Watertown City Directory, 1899-1900

 

1934      EAST MAIN

Fischer's 1934, 2-6 E Main / Fischer's 1950, 2-6 E Main

 

1936      Exterior and interior improvements made to store

Recently completed fine improvements have been made at the Charles Fischer and Sons Dry Goods store on Main Street, exterior as well as interior.  It’s exterior has a wonderfully fine citified front which cannot but invite people to the inside thereof, which is even more gratifying that the outside, which is beautifully arranged with a fine stock of clothing for both men and women, and all lines of dry goods and household goods, the equal of any on sale in larger cities which cannot fail to attract a large line of customers to the store to be waited on by the many experienced and affable clerks therein.   The Fischer store with its fine three new fronts and newly remodeled interior together with a complete line of merchandise certainly deserves the patronage of residents of Watertown and surrounding county.  Boost Fischers, who are boosting for Watertown.”

 

1943      PRICES TO KEEP PACE WITH YOUR WAR BOND-BUYING BUDGET 

     Christmas shopping ad

 

1952

03 13       FISCHERS COMPLETE REMODELING PROGRAM

Store Presents New Appearance On First Floor

 

Chas. Fischer and Sons Co. yesterday completed work on a vast remodeling program at its Main Street store which has become the “At the Bridge” landmark in Watertown.

 

The store is observing its 57th anniversary this month and the work of remodeling the entire main floor has been underway since Jan. 7.  The Jaeger Manufacturing Co. of this city had the general contract for the work.

 

The entire main floor has been, rearranged, complete new fixtures and display cases have been built and installed, all according to individual specifications and the result is a store that offers the latest in merchandising displays, with wide aisles and so attractively and suitably arranged that it gives the store a completely new look.

 

New indirect lighting has also been provided and the store has been newly redecorated, all of this adding to its new beauty.  There is an inviting air about the remodeled store and shoppers will find it arranged for greater convenience and comfort.

 

DEPARTMENTS EXPANDED

 

A new separate men’s department has been installed on the main floor and the infants’ wear department has been moved from the second floor to the main floor.  The piece goods department has been greatly expanded and provided with a new full view display system.  A new linen department is another feature and the 1adies accessories department has been greatly enlarged.

 

The radio and television department has also been given new quarters on the main floor.

 

In addition to the new display cases, there are various wall display areas which lend distinction to articles exhibited.  Goods is now in full view of shoppers.

 

The new fixtures and other wood parts are made of limed oak, with a medium blond shade.  It makes a most attractive setting.

 

A new overhead wire cash system has been installed and will eventually be changed to a pneumatic tube system for greater speed and convenience.

 

BEGAN IN 1895

 

The Fischer store, which is headed by Eli E. Fischer, for many years its president, takes pride in this latest step forward in its 57 year history as a shopping center in Watertown.

 

The store, which is home owned, home managed and home staffed, has, in its more than half century of service to the community, become a shopping center of people from far and near.

 

The original store was opened in March of 1895 and was located in West Main Street, in the building which, is now the Savoy theatre.

 

The present store, which is located in the Masonic Temple building, occupies three floors and has 17,250 square feet of floor space.

 

ENJOYED STEADY GROWTH

 

  

Eli E. Fischer

 

Under the leadership of its president, Eli E. Fischer, it has grown steadily and has been a vigorous factor in the progress of this community.  Over the years it has kept pace with progress and has undergone many changes and improvements.  Under Mr. Fischer’s leadership it has never been content to stand still, but has introduced many innovations and has undergone numerous alterations and remodelings and has expanded on various occasions.  The latest change is one of the most complete and most unique in its long history, another step forward in the field of merchandising.

 

Not many business places which were in operation in Watertown before the turn of this century are still in the hands of the same family and people, but the Chas. Fischer and Sons Co. is one of these exceptions.  In many instances it has enjoyed the loyal patronage of three and four generations of Watertown families and families outside the city.

 

Eli E. Fischer is still active in the business and is at the store daily, greeting customers and waiting on the public.

 

INCORPORATED IN 1902

 

The business was incorporated on Jan. 3. 1902 with the late Charles Fischer as its president, Julius Fischer as vice president, Eli E. Fischer as secretary and Otto Fischer as the other incorporator.

 

In 1902 a branch of the store was opened in Lake Mills and this is still in operation under the direction of Otto Fischer.

 

Eli E. Fischer, one of the original officers, has been president for many years. His brother, George M. Fischer, is secretary; Otto Fischer, Lake Mills, is vice' president; and Karl Fischer is treasurer. Joseph Donahue, for many years a member of the store staff, is director.

 

The management invites the public to drop in at the store during tomorrow and Saturday and see the changes that have been carried out during the past two months.

 

1956

Image of exterior

 

1961

04 18       66th ANNIVERSARY

One of Watertown’s most widely known business establishments, Fischer and Sons, the store “at the bridge,” is celebrating its 66th anniversary and will observe the event with a special storewide sale which begins tomorrow.  The store, now the oldest of its kind in the city and one of the best known business establishments in this part of the state, will hold a 10 day storewide sale in connection with the anniversary, officials of the store announced today.   WDT

 

1964

04 19       69th ANNIVERSARY

Chas. Fischer and Sons Co. department store, “At the Bridge in Watertown,” is approaching its 70th birthday — with one more year to go.  The company will observe its 69th anniversary with a storewide sale this weekend.  The sale will begin Thursday, and continue through Friday and Saturday.  The business, now the oldest of its kind in the city, is one of the best known business establishments in this part of the state.   WDT

 

11 25       Plans to dispose of a number of items which are still housed in the old city hall building are expected to be discussed and acted on at Tuesday night’s meeting of the common council, Mayor Robert P. White said today.  He said the council must set a date for auctioning off a number of tables, desks, a refrigerator and other articles for which no use has been found in the new municipal building.  There isn’t too much remaining to be sold, the mayor said, but some people may be interested in buying what there is.  The auction is planned to clear the building and prepare for turning over possession to the Fischer and Sons Co. department store which recently bid $22,500 for the property.    WDT

 

1965

03 31       JOSEPH DONAHUE, 50TH ANNIVERSARY

One of Watertown’s most widely known residents today observed his 50th anniversary with Charles Fischer and Son, “at the bridge” in Watertown.  The individual is Joseph Donahue who began working for the store in 1915 when he was 14 years of age.  WDT

 

04 03       PURCHASED OLD CITY HALL / TO BE CLEARED FOR PARKING LOT

The Charles Fischer and Son Co. which purchased Watertown’s old city hall last year, is expected to assume possession shortly, now that legal matters involving the transfer of the property have been completed.  That information was given common council members by Mayor Robert P. White at the council's committee meeting last night.  The mayor said the deed has been signed and that City Attorney David J. Fries had worked on the legal aspects of the sale.  The mayor said that the new owners expect to begin demolishing the building, constructed in 1861- 62, this spring to clear the site for a parking area for the store's customers.  WDT

 

 

04 29       70th ANNIVERSARY

Chas. Fischer and Sons Co. department store, located “at the bridge in Watertown,” will observe its 70th anniversary this weekend, with a sale that begins tomorrow and continues Friday and Saturday. Watertown’s oldest and completely home owned and home operated department store over the years has become one of the best known business establishments in this section of Wisconsin. For the 70th anniversary, the store management has gone “all out” to assemble the largest array of first class merchandise at lowest prices in its long history.   WDT

 

12 10       NEGOTIATING PURCHASE OF MASONIC TEMPLE

Fischer’s and Sons Department Store, located in the Masonic Temple at No. 2 Main Street, is  negotiating for the purchase of the Masonic Temple and the transaction is expected to be finalized shortly, as soon as approval is received from the Grand Lodge of the Masons.  Karl Fischer confirmed the report this morning.  The Fischer Store has been occupying the major portion of the Masonic Temple for many years.  It is the oldest locally owned department store in the city, dating back to 1895.  Before moving to the Masonic Temple the business was located on the city’s west side.  WDT

 

1966

01 06       The announcement in the Daily Times on Dec. 9 that the Fischer and Sons Co. department store was purchasing the Masonic Temple has now been confirmed and the deal has been finalized.  The Masonic Temple was sold by the trustees of the Masonic Lodge in Watertown and the awaited confirmation and approval by the Grand Lodge has been obtained.  Under terms of the sale the Masons will have the privilege to continue occupying their quarters on the third floor of the building for two years.  Meanwhile, the Masons are due to name a special committee empowered to seek or locate a new Masonic headquarters in the city.  WDT

 

09 26       Construction of a new Masonic Temple, plans for which were announced months ago, is due to get underway shortly.  It will be constructed on a site in Madison Street, just east of Otto’s Inn.  The Masons purchased the site at the time the Daily Times announced the plans for the new building.  It was disclosed today that a building permit has been issued for the new temple.  The estimated cost of construction, as listed in the permit, is $77,790.  Furnishings and equipment will be extra.  Sale of the present Masonic Temple to the Chas. Fischer and Sons Co. department store, which has for many years occupied the major portion of the building, was announced earlier.

 

1967

04 27       WOLF AND MEYER PROPERTIES / TO BE CLEARED FOR PARKING LOT

A project which was launched during the administration of former Mayor Robert P. White, namely a proposal calling for the extension of the North First Street parking lot, by acquiring of the Wolf and Meyer properties, is due to be brought up for discussion at Monday night’s common council committee meeting.  Karl Fischer of Chas. Fischer and Sons Co. department store, purchasers of the old city hall which the company offered to turn over to the city with the provision that the city acquire the Wolf and Meyer properties in order to carry out the overall plans for expanding the present parking facilities in North First Street, will be present at Monday night’s meeting to discuss the issue with the aldermen.   WDT

 

1975

     North side (back) entrance

 

1992

06 27       MAJOR FACELIFT PLANNED

Fischer’s Department Store is planning a major facelift for its clothing, interior design and tailoring departments.  The changes are designed to improve the appearance of the store, make room for more retail displays and improve the overall shopping experience for customers.  “We’ll be giving customers a better flow area,” said Todd Fischer.  “It will get them through the store easier and we’ll have better displays.”  Some of the biggest improvements will be found on the second floor, where the interior design and tailoring departments are located.  The interior design area will be opened up so that customers will have an easier time browsing for design materials such as wallpaper, vinyl-floor coverings and draperies.   WDT

 

1993

Fischer's 1975, 2-6 E Main, WHS_005_274 Fischer's 1993

 

2005

07 03       DOWNSIZING AND SALE OF HISTORICAL BUILDING

Over the past 110 years Fischer’s Department Store has surpassed the Great Depression and lasted through World War II all while adjusting to the trends of the time.  Today, the Fischer family is making another adjustment and is selling the historical building, downsizing and will now rent a smaller portion of the building from the new owner.  “We love what we do in retail and we love Watertown,” Lynn Fischer-Mallach said.  “That’s why we want to continue to offer our services to the community.”  Fischer’s has been family-owned and family-run since it was formed in 1895 and has been in business in the present building since 1917.  Lynn said the business has changed over the past few years and now 50 percent of sales are made through their Web site on the Internet and 10 percent of sales are made on walk-ins.   WDT

 

08 03       STILL PROVIDING GIFT BOXES

Fischer’s retail store is still providing gift boxes for customers, but now most of its boxes are being shipped UPS rather than carried under the arm.  The 110-year-old family business is downsizing its space while heading in a new direction via the Internet.  Being able to adapt to current trends has kept the Fischer family in business through its fifth generation.  Marketing trends ebb and flow, but the family has managed to keep afloat by trying numerous marketing techniques over the years.   WDT

 

2007

04 12       GOING OUT OF BUSINESS

The last family-run department store in the state will close its doors later this year after serving the Watertown community for over a century. WDTimes story [WHS_005_547]

 

The last family-run department store in the state will close its doors later this year after serving the Watertown community for over a century.  According to Todd Fischer, vice president and general manager of Fischer’s Department Store in Watertown, the company is expected to close for good sometime in June of this year.  The fifth generation family-owned business has been open for 112 years.  Although the company survived through the Great Depression and both world wars, Fischer said the store is closing because management could not come up with a profitable business plan over the past couple years.

 

July 4, 2007

 

 

2012

12 22       2 Rivers Bicycle and Outdoor to open / former Fischer’s building

The heart of downtown Watertown will soon see the addition of a cutting-edge cycling business that is already a popular entity in Fort Atkinson — 2 Rivers Bicycle and Outdoor.  To be located at 2 E. Main St. in the former Fischer’s Department Store building, the business is on target to open in early March according to co-owners John Raub and Scott Thomas.  The business is a full-service independent Trek Bicycle dealer that services all makes and models of bicycles.  The facility is expected to encompass approximately 3,800 square feet and most of the space will be dedicated to bicycle retail.  Image portfolio.   2 Rivers Bicycle and Outdoor website

 

 

Cross References:

Fischer's 1956, 2-6 E Main, 1950s-70s city assessor form, image included, WHS_006_090

Fischer's 1971, 2 E Main

Fischer, George, Mrs

Fischer, Todd & Debbie

 

 

 

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