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Reuman's Clothing open for 140 years of business

May 24, 2018
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

When John Steffen came to Traer in 1878, he rented the only available store room in town, located on the 400 block of 2nd Street. The building itself had been used for manufacturing hog medicine before, but a little cleaning and painting by the landlord, Fred Hintz, transformed it into a suitable workplace for a clothing store.

One location and numerous ownership changes occured over the next 140 years, but the business always remained a clothing store, as it is today as Reuman's Clothing. Current owners Mike and Joan took over the historic business in 1989 after the untimely passing of his Mike's brother, Reg. He had been assisting in the store since 1968 with his brother and father John.

"I was working at a mean's store in Mason City when my dad called me asking if I would ever think about coming back to Traer," Mike said. "Back in 1968, the business was in good shape and the farm economy was in good shape. The place was always busy and I came back to help keep the business continue."

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The 1980s were a hard time for farmers as the economy tanked, leaving stores like Reuman's that provided farmers with clothes and gear in a tough situation. John had retired in December of 1984, leaving Mike in charge of the business with the help of Joan.

"If I had left, the place would have closed," Mike said. "We didn't want to do that to the community, so we've stayed in business over the years. From a financial standpoint, I should have locked the doors and done something else. From a satisfaction standpoint, it was the best thing I could have ever done in my life."

As malls in larger cities drew away business in the 90s and 2000s and now online shopping keeping customers indoors, Mike identified the main reason people in Traer and surrounding communities still continue to come to him and Joan for their clothing needs: ersonal service.

"Personal service has kept this business alive over these many years," Mike said. "As long as I can remember, people could come in here on a Saturday to get a suit, which back then they wore suits all the time. They got alterations and were ready for church the very next day. You won't find that in city stores."

Joan still does alterations on suits, pants and other itmes for customers.The couple have customers also from Des Moines thanks to Mike's connections to the Iowa Firefighter's Association and as far away as Kansas, Arizona, Florida and California because of demand for products they cannot find in their states. Residents can still rent out tuxedos, buy Redwing shoes, grab North Tama Redhawk apparel and work wear.

"Things have certainly changed over the years," Mike said. "We used to be sell cases of work gloves, but now you don't have as many farmers in the area to buy them."

If 50 years ago someone came up to Mike and told him he'd still be working at Reuman's Clothing, he'd say that nuts.

"I love being able to provide a service to the community and items at reasonable prices," Mike said. "We don't play games with marking up prices like they do in the cities. We don't have big overhead because we're not in some big, fancy mall. We can survive on less."

In 10 years, the store will reach 150 years, a milestone Mike hopes to see one way or another.

"10 years still running the business might be a stretch," Mike said. "Would it be great to be here for 10 years and be in relatively good health? That would be fantastic."

Still, Mike happily wakes up every work morning to open the store, visit with customers and continuing to keep Reuman's Clothing a staple of Traer.

"You have to have a purpose in life," Mike said. "If all you do is get up and shave, what else do you look forward to? I enjoy getting up and coming over here to the store, helping people and I want to do this for as long as our health allows us to."



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