Huerfano County, Colorado
Unfug Hardware

Contributed by Louise Adams.
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The new Unfug True Value Hardware store currently having its grand re-opening at 424 Main also has a grand history, having served Walsenburg and Huerfano County as a hardware store for 95 years.

The original owner was Paul Frohlich, a native of Poland who came to Huerfano County in 1892 and worked as a blacksmith in Gardner and Walsenburg. Before he moved to California in 1913, he co-founded Guaranty State Bank and the Walsenburg Independent newspaper, built the Oxford Hotel (better known as Hotel Kirkpatrick) and the new hardware building.

Frohlich opened a hardware store in "the old Mazzone building" on South Main Street in 1899. That same year he sold his blacksmith shop on West Seventh to Baxter and Kearns Hardware and Trading Company, and dedicated himself to the hardware business.

In September 1903 he bought the property at Fifth and Main for $17,000. He announced he would build a two-story brick hardware store 60 by 60 feet in size with a 60 by 50 foot addition on the rear. Ground was broken around the first of October. The estimated cost of the structure was $7,000. The brick was brought by train from Pueblo. An older structure built of corrugated iron was moved to the rear of the lots to make way for the new building.

Frohlich opened for business in 1904, carrying not just hardware but also farm equipment, buggies and carriages, furniture, stoves and ranges.

In 1908 Frohlich sold to Neelley and Caldwell who incorporated in 1910. These men were brothers-in-law, married to sisters, and also formerly lived in Gardner. Egbert Lee Neelley (called E.L. for obvious reasons) was elected county sheriff in 1916 and dropped out of the business, but George Rice Caldwell (called Rice) continued until 1926.

Neelley-Caldwell Hardware boasted of their 10,000 feet of floor space, plus a warehouse. Here were exhibited and stored hardware, stoves, sportsmen's supplies and licenses, farm wagons and implements, and Overland, Rambler and Case automobiles.

It is said in the early days the farm equipment and vehicles were housed on the second floor. A large door in the west wall, facing Main Street, allowed the raising and lowering of these heavy machines from and to the sidewalk below.

Caldwell sold the business to Adolph Unfug Sr. in 1926. His son Frederick William, called Will or Bill, ran the business and bought out his father's interest in 1935.

Of course, the Unfugs had a long history of merchandising in Huerfano County. The first member of the family came here to run the Ferd Meyer branch store in Badito in 1869. A native of Prussia, Charles Otto Unfug had moved to Colorado some time before and found employment with Meyer at his store in Fort Garland. In 1872 he moved to Walsenburg. He married Alice Arnold, daughter of pioneer Benjamin Arnold, here. He later served as county clerk.

Charles' siblings also emigrated to Colorado and in 1882 the brothers Charles, Fred and Adolph established Unfug General Merchandise at Sixth and Main in Walsenburg. After this Unfug sons and grandsons became involved in many occupations, including banking, a Chevrolet agency, apparel shop, "Pickle Works," grocery store, filling station and mortuary.

Will Unfug and his wife had no children. When he died in 1958 the store went to his sister Gretchen Unfug Summers.

In 1998 the Dotter family purchased the store from George Summers. Co-owners are Clay and Sandi Dotter and Chris and Tara Dotter who will be operating the business.

During the Summers' ownership, Joe Nardine spent some 50 years as store manager, assisted by his wife Verniece. El Sandoval, another longtime employee, remains on the sales staff, joined by Randy Hall and Joe Montez.

Unfug's has a new look, but a long tradition of service to the community.

Grand Re-Opening - Huerfano World - July 29, 1999

A grand re-opening will be held at Unfug True Value Hardware at 424 Main Street in Walsenburg. The event will go from Saturday, July 31 to Saturday, Aug. 7 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, including Sunday, Aug. Owners and operators are Chris and Tara Dotter who have recently placed an addition to the back of the building, stuccoed and last weekend, placed an awning across the front of the structure and added merchandise. Clay and Sandi Dotter are co-owners of the hardware.

Refreshments and door prizes will be offered all seven days. Employees of the emporium are Randy Hall, Joe Montez, and El Sandoval.

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