Johnson's Furniture

314 S. Main
Johnson’s Furniture was once one of the finest furniture stores in Sioux Falls. The business was founded in Mitchell in 1907 by Frederick M. Johnson and his brother William. In 1912 Frederick bought William’s interest in the company. That same year, Frederick’s son Orwin was born. Orwin, most often called Orv, went to school in Mitchell, and after graduation, went on to graduate from the Frances Harrington School of Professional Interior Decorating in Chicago.
The Mitchell store at 3rd and Lawler.
In 1936, Orv married Dorothy Jane Fredericks, who had grown up in Mitchell as well. Her travels took her into music. She was in All State Chorus in each year of high school, attended Stevens College, and completed her bachelor of music degree at the Cincinnati Conservatory. She became a staff soloist with “Hymns of All Churches” at WLW radio in Cincinnati, continuing until 1936, when she returned to Mitchell. Dorothy was often a featured soloist at the Corn Palace.

Orv worked in his father’s store with his older brother, Harold, and when Frederick retired in 1939, the sons bought the business. The business grew and soon the brothers decided to open a location in Sioux Falls. In the fall of 1943, Orv and Dorothy made the move while Harold continued with the original store in Mitchell.
The Grand opening of Johnson’s Furniture was on September 23, 1943. The store was in the Denton Building at 314 S. Main, across from Washington High. The building had been home to Denton Furniture before. The Johnsons bought the building, Denton’s stock, and the stock of another furniture company located in the Wilson Terminal building which was also called Johnson Furniture, but the two were not related. This building had two floors, but it quickly became evident that this space was not enough for the level of business enjoyed by the store. In October of 1945, Johnson’s Furniture began expanding the building, taking it from two floors, including the basement, to three full floors and a basement. The square footage expanded from 5,280 to 26,400.

The grand opening of the improved space was in mid January of 1947. The architect was Harold Spitznagel, who’d also designed city hall and the Hollywood Theater. There were no windows in the building beyond the first floor entry. According to Orv, “Windows have no value in any retail store because you can’t control the intensity of illumination”. The lighting within was controlled and much of it was for sale, so perhaps his perspective has merit. The electric sign on the front was made part of the building to avoid unsightly guy wires and visible electrical connections. The three-foot marquee eliminated the necessity of awnings. At the time of the opening, the business used the top floor for storage, but could opt to use it for showroom space if the necessity presented itself. The first floor had a mezzanine at the rear of the store, which allowed for a loading dock that led to the basement and interesting showroom space for the carpet department.

Johnson’s Furniture operated for years, selling carpeting, tile, furniture and appliances for the home. “See Johnson’s before buying anything for the home” was the store’s slogan.

In 1957, Orv retired from the furniture business. He closed the store and focused his business interests elsewhere including Midland Distributing and Suburban Lanes. Orv died in 1975 at 63. Dorothy continued her interest in music until her death in 1995.

The distinctive Johnson’s building was utilized to good effect when, for many years, Video Mania occupied the space. It retained its shape until 2008, when renovations added windows and removed the worn marquee. The metal-clad sign area remains, the only thing that suggests its former self. It is wanting of neon, but remains signless.