Lemcke Market

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Lemcke Meat Market late 1930s
The Thomas Block, c.1928. The three stores showing to the left of the car were added to Thomas Block in 1924-25. The stores, left to right, are Lemcke's Meat Market, George Bancroft's Community Cash Grocery Store and Charles Guis' Clothing Co. The automobile is a Model-T Ford.

Rudolph Lemcke and his market were fixtures in downtown Littleton for sixty-two years. His enterprise was a more or less movable feast, as he occupied at least four or five locations. In October 1922 at the tender age of twenty, he first entered the meat market business by buying a half interest in Ed Fuller's Meats. Six months later he bought out his boss and became the 100 per cent owner. "Rudy" had been saving the earnings from his teen-age odd jobs and investing in the stock market.

That first location was in a frame building at the southwest corner of Main and Prince streets. A later building at the site housed Littleton Stationers.

Lemcke said that Fuller then bought him out. So he moved to the east end of Main Street in 1923 to sell meats at George Bancroft's Grocery.

A photograph taken about 1928 shows his market in the Thomas Block on Main Street. That block was just west of Rio Grande Park-now Bega Park. His shop later became the site of Workman Photographic Studios. He later described those early days: "We used to waste a lot of time building coal fires in our two stoves, and it took about an hour to shave ice and fix up our show case. In 1927 I bought my first Frigidaire equipment, so we could start cutting meat when we came to work instead of messing with coal stoves and ice."

The Lemcke Meat Market's third location is revealed in his advertisements in the Littleton Independent. In 1929 the market was "next door to Piggly Wiggly." (Ground beef was twenty-five cents per pound.) In 1931 he was "with Piggly Wiggly." Piggly Wiggly grocery was at the southwest corner of Curtis and Main streets, with Lemcke's Meat Market in the east (corner) storefront. The building was known as the Lon Post Block.

In 1938 he was "with Safeway, corner, Main and Curtis." The grocery had changed hands, but Lemcke had not moved.

Came April 1939, and the Littleton Independent announced, "As the Safeway store at South Curtis and Main Street is closing, Rudolph Lemcke, C. L. Moore and Louis Moore are opening their own place of business in the location formerly used by Clyde A. Rice." It was in the two-story building known as the Kauer Block, at the southwest corner of Main and Nevada streets, built by August Kauer in 1899. George Malcolm had bought the building in 1935. He redecorated it and put in new flooring for the new occupants.

The 1939 city directory verifies that the C. L. Moore Grocery and Lemcke Meat Market shared the west storefront (now 2510 West Main Street) while Service Drug occupied the east corner of the building (now 2500 West Main Street.) This marked Lemcke Market's fourth location.

There has been some confusion about when Lemcke's Market arrived at its final location in the one-story building now numbered 2516 West Main Street. The following sequence of events helps to clarify this. Although Rudy Lemcke and the Moores leased the space in the two-story corner building from George Malcolm for their shared market in 1939, Lemcke had bought the one-story building next door west (now 2516 West Main) in 1938. It had been built in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

In 1940 or 1941 he added a frozen food locker plant to the rear of the one-story building. It was only the second or third frozen food plant in the state. He apparently rented out the storefronts to other merchants.

Lemcke's Market remained in the west side of the Kauer/Malcolm Building for twenty-seven years, until 1966. He changed its name to "Rudy's Grocery" in June 1961 when he bought out Louis Moore's grocery that had been in the same building.

In May 1966 Lemcke established his market at its final location by closing Rudy's Grocery in the west half of the Kauer/Malcolm building and moving one door west into the one-story building that he already owned. There he continued his meat market and locker storage plant.

Verification of this time frame comes from Macy Dorf of the original Two Potters. He has said that he and Larry Wright moved into the west front side of the two-story Kauer building, where Lemcke had been, in the fall of 1967. A shop offering leather and beads had been there just before Dorf and Wright, the "Two Potters."

Lemcke's Market remained at its final location at 2516 West Main for eighteen and one half more years, until Rudy retired and closed shop on November 1, 1984. He sold his one-story building to potter Sarah Molyneaux.

The Denver Post described Lemcke's Market and his reputation in a September 3, 2000 issue by saying that he built up a popular business that brought customers from four counties. "Lemcke began relationships with many customers in hard times, giving them meat on credit, dropping a few extra soup bones or meat cuts in at no cost, trusting they wouldn't forget him. Few did."

He told of one incident during the Depression of the 1930s: "A man with a pair of pliers walked into the shop about 4:30 p.m. one day. He said that the pliers were all that he had left in the world, but he had a family-two or three kids-and needed some food. I gave him some meat."

When other meat became scarce during the war years, Lemcke sold chickens from the Red Bird Farms located south of Sterne Park on Lincoln (now Spotswood) Street, sometimes as many as 800 chickens per week.

Through the years in his market, Rudy Lemcke not only cut and sold premium meats, but processed game brought in by local hunters, made many varieties of sausage, sold seafood, bulk cheeses, homemade foods and made pizza. Customers also liked his free home delivery service.

One of Lemcke's most popular features for years was the weekly "Golden Jackpot" drawing. Winners collected from $25 to $500. No purchase was necessary, but a person had to fill out a new entry blank every week. The drawing was every Tuesday, and winners' names were announced in the newspaper.

Rudolph Lemcke was born in Baltimore February 12, 1902 to Alexander Rudolph and Gertrude Alma (Dotterway) Lemcke. In 1903 infant Rudy was left with his grandparents in Baltimore when his father brought his mother to Colorado in hopes of restoring her health. She had tuberculosis and was given six months to live. She recovered and lived to age ninety-three, dying in May 1972.

His grandfather brought Rudy west on the train to join his parents in Littleton in 1903. Rudy attended the old Rapp Street Elementary School and Littleton High School. He said that his mother told him, "If you want to have money, you'll have to work at it. They don't just hand out money." He told how he earned his first wages, "... by herding dairy cows for neighbors...Jim Wilson and I would go from house to house each summer morning, get the cows and drive them to pasture where Broadway Estates was later built. The owners paid $1 per month per cow. We spent hours swimming in the Highline Canal, and the cows drank from the Canal." When in high school he rose before dawn daily to buy produce for the Coffin Grocery in Littleton. Another early job was building bridge abutments for the county. Then he worked at the Marston Lake filters. When a friend advised him go to Barnes Business School, Lemcke took the "Uncle Sam" train back and forth to Denver for two years to do just that.

Rudolph Lemcke and Miss Quette Pistole were married December 21, 1929 at the bride's home on South Rapp Street. She was born January 13, 1907 at Alma, Nebraska. Her parents were Clarence Monroe Pistole and Lola Etta (Ferguson) Pistole. Rudy and Quette first lived at 136 North Lincoln (now 5662 South Spotswood.) Later their home was at 5794 South Prescott Street, near Sterne Park. In 2003 both these houses still stand.

In an interview with the couple two years after they had retired, Rudy said, "My wife is my helper. She takes care of all the details. I get an idea, and she's the one who follows through. She's maintained our office all through the years. And she's fun to live with." Quette felt the same way: "He's so interesting to live with. Even when he was working, he always took time off so we could do things." The things they did were travel by car, entertain guests, play bridge, go to restaurants, handle their investments and gardening. Roses were her specialty; vegetables were his.

During his business years Rudy Lemcke was president of the Littleton Chamber of Commerce several times, helped write the city charter in 1959 and teamed up yearly with Forrest Hammes to conduct Homecoming-now called Western Welcome Week. In 1990 he rode in the Western Welcome Week parade as one of its marshals, along with other long-time businessmen, John Dawson, Paul Sutton, Jose Trujillo and Richard Valore. He was a charter member of Littleton Lions and belonged to Elks and Littleton Rotary. Quette Lemcke died December 5, 1997 at age ninety. Rudy survived her and died July 20, 2000 at ninety-eight. Both are buried in the Littleton Cemetery.

Rudy had one brother, John H. "Skip" Lemcke, born November 11, 1905 in Littleton. He graduated from the Greeley State College (now the University of Northern Colorado), taught at the elementary school on Rapp Street and became principal there. Later he worked at Gano-Downs men's clothing store in Denver. He survived his wife, Willa Rudd, whom he married in 1935, and who died in October 1978.

The old Lemcke Market is now the Ancient Art Health Center, a business dedicated to health and balance through holistic medicine.

Bibliography

The Denver (Colo.) Post. Denver Post Publishers, 1895-.

Dorf, Macy. Littleton, Colorado. Interview, July 20, 1997.

Gray, Frank. Littleton, Colorado. Interview, January 26, 2001.

Littleton (Colo.) Independent. Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888-.

Littleton, Colorado, City Directory. Denver: XL Publishers, 1932, 1939.

Littleton Museum. Card file: Lemcke and Lemcke Market; Photographic archives; Vertical file: Lemcke papers.

Mount Rosa Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Littleton Cemetery, Littleton, Colorado. Littleton: Mount Rosa Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1983.

Rocky Mountain News. Denver, Colorado: The Rocky Mountain News Publishers, 1859-

Simmons, R. Laurie and Thomas H. Simmons. "Historic Buildings Survey, Littleton, Colorado, Littleton Townsite of 1890." Survey Forms. Three volumes. Denver: Front Range Research Associates, Inc., 1997, 1998.

Todd, Ellen (Seifert). Littleton, Colorado. Interview, January 27, 2001

Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum unless otherwise noted. To order copies, contact the museum at 303-795-3950.

 

Compiled by Doris Farmer Hulse

Updated May 2017