At 165 years old, Bradley's Department Store gets a face-lift

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Xavier Ward
Sunday, February 12, 2017

DELAVAN—Life has an odd way of working things out, and that's especially true for Lois Stritt, owner of Bradley's Department Store in Delavan.

Bradley's is celebrating its 165th year of business and is receiving a bit of a face-lift as a birthday present, Stritt said.

The historic department store will be closed Sundays and Mondays to accommodate renovations, but they're still open for business the rest of the week, Stritt said.

Dale Bradley, the building owner and financier of the renovations, bought the building in 2010 because he saw it had been put up for sale and had fond memories of the store growing up in the area, he said.

It was one of his father's favorite stores, he said.

“There's a special place in my heart,” Bradley said. It didn't hurt that his name was already on the building.

Bradley said he wanted to renovate the store because it had aged a bit.

“It needed what they (Stritt and store employees) called a face-lift, and I liked that” as opposed to calling it a renovation, Bradley said.

“We want it to look like we're going to be in business for another 165 years,” Bradley said.

There are two phases of renovations. The first, already underway, should be finished by summer and will refurbish the men's and jewelry departments, Bradley said. Phase two, which should start next winter, will take care of the women's department.

Once renovations are done, the store is going to have a “never, ever going out of business sale,” Bradley said.

Bradley just owns the building; he doesn't control how the business is run and wouldn't if he could, he said.

“Just let Lois and the ladies do their thing because they're good at it,” Bradley said of his approach.

“I haven't been here all 165 years,” Stritt said with a laugh. She bought the store a few years ago.

Stritt never worked much but did a lot of volunteering and was a full-time mother, she said. Once all the kids were out of the house, she wanted something to do, so she applied for a part-time job.

When she first applied in 2000 she remembered the women at the store telling her she doesn't want to go to work, she said. Her only response: “Try me.”

When the store went up for sale in 2010, she thought they were out of business, she said.

She remembers sitting in the store with other saleswomen wrought with emotion because they thought they were about to lose their jobs.

The previous owners, Bill and Diane McKoy, were retiring, and Jack suggested Lois buy the place, she said.

Stritt never dreamed of owning the store, but she remembers her late husband saying “Lois, you love it; buy it.”

She hasn't looked back since.

Jack died the Monday before they were supposed to take over, Stritt said, so she considers the store her late husband's parting gift to her—something to look after when he was gone.

Stritt said she always wanted grandchildren, but none of her kids gave her any, so when they all came into town for the funeral, she told them, “I bought myself a grandbaby because no one gave me one.”

And that's exactly what Bradley's is to her: a piece of her family.

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