Danielson's, April 1922 photo courtesy of Richard Boardman
Deroy Danielson, Sr., the Master of Marketing
Written by Penny Raile, August 2019
In 1895, Deroy Danielson established an implement and hardware store in St. Francis, Kansas. Originally from Bishop, Illinois, Deroy arrived in Cheyenne County from Clay Center, Kansas in 1887 with plans to be a cattle rancher. He quickly learned that the days of big cattle ranches were weaning with the rapid arrival of settlers.
With $200 in his pocket, he took the cattle train to Kansas City to buy inventory for his new store. He returned home with a train-car-load of merchandise and placed it in the small building he rented for $10 a year. Initially, the store had neither glass in the windows nor a lock on the door. Within a year, he made repairs and continued operating his business at that location for 25 years.
Mr. Danielson told a reporter from The Merchants Journal of Topeka when his gross sales grew to $5,000 a year within the first three years of business, he felt he had reached “the pinnacle of human achievement in that latitude and longitude.”
Around 1920, Mr. Danielson bought 4 lots directly across from his old store to build his new store. In 1922, he described his new store in the August 26 edition of The Merchants Journal.
The new store is built in L-shape. I let the Citizens State Bank have 25x80 feet on the corner and I have built around the bank building. The store is 126 feet long with the L fronting east. The main front is south. There is a basement under the whole and it is steam heated. The fixtures are all modern Warren shelving. Scales, show cases and office fixtures are all new and modern. We have a rest room for ladies, furnished with rockers, desk, etc. The building is modern in every way and cost $25,000.
To promote his business, Mr. Danielson had come up with a unique advertising idea. He ran a column of news in the local paper along with his regular advertising. The column, written by Mr. Danielson, carried news about local happenings and what various people were doing in the community. Wherever possible, he would link his merchandise to the story. He would also use harmless gossip by telling an amusing story about local merchants or residents.
An example of one of the Danielson’s columns can be found in the April 1, 1909 edition of the Cheyenne County Citizen. The headline read, “Handling Manure on the Farm.” The article talked about the important uses of manure on the farm, something most of the readers of this particular paper would have been interested in. It ended with four methods of spreading manure which included the use of a manure spreader which could be purchased at Danielson’s. The article went on to say that few tools on the farm pay a better investment.
In his “advertising article”, he would list his larger sales in an interesting way with a little story that had the greatest advertising benefit. He would mention new items and invite customers to inspect the inventory. After he sold 94 safety razors in two weeks to a town of 500, he told the inhabitants that he still had 50 left and to hurry in to get their razors. Sometimes he would close an article reminding husbands to see that their wives had everything they needed to make house cleaning time less burdensome.
Mr. Danielson made an effort to know his customers or would-be-customers by spending time talking to them in the store, visiting with them on the street or stopping for a quick chat in their homes. He managed to learn the birthday of each child of a customer and send them birthday cards. He was generous and thoughtful of those with less means. He insisted his elderly female customers return to their homes in his buggy.
Before moving into his new store at 202 Washington, the Danielson sales had reached $165,000. Many of his sons had joined him in the business over the years.
Deroy married Sarah Campbell of Wayne, Kansas in 1885 two years before the couple moved to Cheyenne County. They had seven sons, Wayne, Frank, D.C., Arlie, William Bryan, Deroy Jr. and Paul. Frank died in infancy. The only daughter was Ruth. Mr. Danielson died January 1, 1929. His son Deroy, Jr. had just taken over the business in 1928. Deroy Jr. and his wife Alice ran the business another 40 years until Deroy Jr. died in 1968. Alice then sold the inventory to Howard and Grace Faulkender.
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