store John Knoebel & Sons
closes after 98 years
Knoebel served 56 years
in the familys business
Lela Jane Bradshaw
(August 2010) When a store has been in business
for almost a century, it is only natural that some traditions will spring
up over the years. For the Madison menswear store John Knoebel &
Son, one of those traditions was the fact that the shop was handed down
from father to son for four generations.
courtesy of Wanda Hertz
Knoebel was the
member of his family
to work in the shop
founded by his
98 years ago.
Other traditions are more lighthearted. Wanda Hertz happily
recalls a running joke she often pulled on Joe Knoebel who until recently
owned the store. Each day on her way to work downtown, Hertz would pass
Knoebel & Son and, I would always stop and say hi to Joe.
One day when she paused in front of the store window she used it as
a mirror to touch up her lipstick. He kept that window so shiny
and clean, Hertz said.
On a whim, she pressed her lips to the glass, leaving a perfect kiss
mark on the gleaming window. That quickly became a favorite prank. I
would kiss his window and he would know it was me, Hertz said,
When she heard about Knoebels retirement party, she knew she had
to attend in order to kiss that window one more time.
On July 14, family, friends and many who had worked on Main Street for
years gathered to commemorate the end of the 98-year-old business and
the beginning of Knoebels retirement. Knoebel isnt one to
share his own age but will only confess that his twin brother
Knoebel was the fourth member of his family to work in the shop founded
by his great-grandfather. Knoebel said that closing the family store
will give him the chance to spend more time with his family members.
Throughout his 56 years at the businesses, Knoebel asserts that while
minor changes occurred, such as accepting credit cards at the store,
the fundamentals remained the same. And even though the building is
moving on to new hands with Todd Calvert, not everything is going to
change. While different merchandise will take the place of the shirts
and slacks that for years were found at 228 E. Main St., Hes
going to preserve the building the way it is, Knoebel says of
the new owner.
Knoebel plans to stay active with the Fair Play Fire Co., and this year
he celebrated his 50th year as a member. He points to the Companys
motto of Help one another as the inspiration for his continued
involvement as a volunteer.
Our motto speaks for itself, he says simply. He highlights
the good members of Fair Play, noting that its very
enjoyable to go down there.
He never begrudged the time his duties with the fire company took away
from his store. Up until 1985 he would simply leave an employee in charge
of business and head out to deal with the fire. When he began working
by himself he simply locked the door and left and people knew
it. It didnt bother me a bit.
Knoebel was one of the first on the scene of the May 2009 Jefferson
County Courthouse fire. He had gone down to the firehouse and was visiting
with some of the other members when word came that the courthouse was
burning. Heading outside and looking down the street it became immediately
apparent that this was going to prove no quick task, it was really
on fire, stressed Knoebel. As a retired member, so to speak,
he did not suit up to fight the blaze; rather, his role came in assisting
with the equipment for his fellow firefighters and laying hose.
Now that hes retired, Knoebel says he will have the chance to
spend more time focusing on family traditions that dont involve
Back to August 2010 Articles.