ROSHEK BROTHERS DEPARTMENT STORE
In 1893 John J. Roshek, a buyer for Siegel and Cooper of Chicago; his brother Frank H. Roshek, a traveling salesman for a Philadelphia wholesale house; and A.E. Rubash, a dress good buyer for Denneck Yetter of Cedar Rapids, established a dry goods business in Dubuque. The Roshek, Rubash & Company located in the Horr Building at 556 Main. Rubash sold out and a Mr. Aimann joined the business. On April 6, 1896 the firm’s name became Roshek, Aimann & Company.
Mr. Aimann sold out around 1900 and the Roshek Brothers Dry Goods firm was established. A store was constructed at the corner of 8th and Main.
With a growing business, the company purchased the Rider-Wallis store on 7th and Locust, constructed a larger store at 8th and Main, and then built a skywalk between the two sites. Somewhere in this transition, the Roshek Bros. lost the apostrophe, and Roshek’s became Rosheks. Rosheks moved from the 8th and Main store resulted in the building and land reverting to the Archdiocese of Dubuque. This building later became the Nesler Centre.
Rosheks purchased the property north of their 7th and Locust location, demolished the buildings, and constructed a new store. The store was built in two halves with construction starting in 1929 and was completed in 1931.
The building represented a $1 million investment for the Roshek Bros. The building offered six floors of retail space, mezzanine, basement, three floors of offices, sub-basement, and storage space. Customers were serviced by six elevators with white-gloved attendants. In its prime, Rosheks was the primary shopping destination in Dubuque and claimed to be the largest department store in the state of Iowa. The Roshek Brothers were instrumental in expanding transportation to the area, as “Rosheks trains” brought shoppers into Dubuque from surrounding communities and frequent stops were made by waterway to bring in goods that were previously unavailable in the area. At Christmas, children (and adults) stood amazed at the outside windows, which featured moving figures of Santa, his elves, and the reindeer. A long lineage of Roshek’s window designs garnered several international awards.
Family ties to the company ended in 1964 when the firm was sold to the Chicago mail-order house, Aldens. The store left what became known as the Dubuque Building in 1969, when the company relocated to the Kennedy Mall.
Aldens merged with Gamble Skogmo, Inc. the same year. In 1980 Gamble-Skogmo was purchased by Wickes.
Wickes’ financial difficulties led to the company selling off its department stores including Rosheks. In 1982 Rosheks was purchased by Armstrong’s Department Store, the giant Cedar Rapids clothing store. Ironically, when S.G. Armstrong was just beginning his own operation in Cedar Rapids, one of his original staff was John Roshek who four years later started his own Dubuque store.
Armstrong’s announced its intention to increase the business volume at the Rosheks store by 50 percent in three years. The Rosheks retail name went away. In 1989–90 Armstrong’s, a powerful marketing draw, joined with other Mall merchants in massive renovation activities at Kennedy Mall. In late 1990, however, the financial collapse of the Cedar Rapids operation led to the announcement that the Dubuque store, although a profitable operation, would be closed. Armstrong’s at Kennedy Mall closed permanently in January 1991.