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Mainstay in downtown Cloquet takes on new life

This weekend will mark the latest chapter in a saga that has spanned over half a century in downtown Cloquet. Daugherty Appliance Sales and Service will hold its grand opening in the historic building on the corner of Cloquet Avenue and 11th Street that once housed Stewart's Furniture, The Johnson Company department store and most recently, CJ's Clothing and Gift Boutique.

The location held a pivotal spot in the Cloquet business scene since 1956 but sat unoccupied since former CJ's owners Carl and Judy Dahlman announced their decision to retire and close their business in 2011.

Enter Scott Boedigheimer, owner of Daugherty's Appliance Sales and Service since spring 2008. Before that he worked for the previous owners of the Duluth-based business for 30 years, until they announced they were planning to go out of business.

"It was a matter of, 'Geez, where am I going to go to get a job at my age?'" Boedigheimer confessed. "I told the owners that maybe I'd like to have my own store, and they offered to put me in contact with the right people and helped me immensely."

It took him about eight months to find a location on 40th Avenue West in Duluth, and that's where he first opened his own business. Even then, he said he never once thought of buying or building a house anywhere other than Cloquet because he'd lived there nearly all his life.

"Cloquet is a community. It's not like Duluth -- that's a city," he said. "Everybody takes care of everybody in this town."

He added that at no time did he consider changing the name of the business to Boedigheimer Appliance, either.

"It took me until first grade to learn how to spell it myself," he joked, "so I decided to pass! Daugherty's is a name that has been around since the beginning of the last century, so with 100-some years of name recognition, you just can't pass that up."

In July 2010, Boedigheimer decided to expand the increasingly successful business to space he leased in downtown Cloquet, next to the Mail Station. To him, being in business in Cloquet was something he'd long considered.

"At an early age my goal was actually to work for Jack Carter after I got out of vocational school, but that never materialized because Daugherty's hired me while I was still going to school," said Boedigheimer. "Later, when Jack Carter closed his appliance store [in Cloquet], and then the Appliance Connection closed," he said, "I saw a window of opportunity and that's when I moved in."

In fall 2012, with the help of the city, county and Members Cooperative Credit Union, Boedigheimer decided to purchase and renovate the 13,000-square-foot former CJ's building just down the street. The move wasn't without its share of blood, sweat and tears, however. They gutted the old building wall to wall and put in all new furnishings and fixtures, including new paint and carpeting and energy efficient fixtures. It took them slightly over six months to get the building to the point where it was ready to move in.

"It was a painstaking adventure!" Boedigheimer admitted. "We did everything ourselves except for the electrical and the carpeting, and I have an entire list of people who helped out. I don't know how I would ever repay them because of the work they put in on this building with me, every night and every weekend. It was unreal, but it was fun, and it was a good learning curve for my boys."

Boedigheimer's two sons, Scotty, 22, and Tom, 19, decided to join him in the business after honing their retail skills during summer jobs at both Outdoor Advantage and Daugherty's and discovering a love for business. Now Scotty works in the Duluth store, and Tom helps out Cloquet manager Pentti Anttila at the local store.

Though Daugherty's has its own web page and Facebook page, Boedigheimer said he has no intention of getting into online sales.

"When you're selling online, you can't provide customer service like you can here in the store," he said. "We're finding that trends are changing from the big box stores and coming back to the smaller, independent stores."

Daugherty's carries all the major lines of appliances at their new Cloquet store and they've added a full-line mattress store as well, with Denise Midbrod managing that part of the business. Arrowhead Water is also leasing space in the back of the store.

When the grand opening of the new Daugherty's store takes place this Friday and Saturday, featuring prize giveaways, refreshments and manufacturers' reps on site, it will be the culmination of not only all that hard work, but of a lifelong dream as well.

"Look out there," Boedigheimer said as he gazed out on Cloquet Avenue this week. "There are cars parked all up and down the street so people can go to places like Goodwill, WKLK and Mexico Lindo. When you can say there's no parking here because of all the business, that's great, when you stop to think about it. Hey, they're downtown, and that's all that matters. Not many small towns can say that anymore."