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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published February 13 2011

Halgrimson: Catherine’s a downtown mainstay

Remembering the stores that were in downtown Fargo before the malls were built is not such an exercise in nostalgia now that the downtown area is revived and is full of small, locally owned shops – just as it used to be.

But one of the old stores that has been on my mind is McShane’s, a gift shop that eventually carried crystal, china, silverware and items for home décor.

McShane’s Gift and Accessory shop was opened in September 1942 by Catherine McShane, a widow who had operated stores in several North Dakota towns. Her Fargo business was at 605 1st Ave. N. She stocked housecoats, bags, neckwear, handkerchiefs, hosiery and novelty gift items.

In 1951, a second shop was opened at 629 1st Ave. N. by McShane and her two sons, Robert W. and Charles R. The new shop featured more substantial gift items, including floor lamps, occasional furniture, wrought-iron furniture, table linens, decorative pictures, Swedish crystal and a gourmet shop with cast-iron and copper utensils, herbs and spices.

In 1953, McShane’s First Avenue Shop, 629 1st Ave. N., and McShane’s Gifts and Accessories, 605 1st Ave. N., were incorporated, with McShane, her sons Charles and Robert, Mable Farr and Florence Smith as directors.

In 1956, McShane’s at 629 1st Ave. N. was sold to Wayne W. Meyers. The store handled gifts and accessories for the home. McShane and her son Charles retained the store at 605 and named it Catherine’s. Catherine’s handled jewelry, accessories and personal gifts. McShane died in 1957.

In 1961, McShane’s expanded to the space next door, which had been occupied by Rose Shop, a women’s clothing store. This doubled McShane’s space, allowing for new lines of china and gifts. The store was expanded again in 1967, giving it 3,300 square feet. At that time, Meyers said it was one of the largest china and gift stores in this part of the country.

I remember going into both stores, and I remember how kind and helpful Meyers and his wife, Ruth, who often worked with him, were. The store was full of beautiful things, and just looking at them was a delight. Opening my china closet brings back memories of McShane’s.

McShane’s moved into the old Kresge building at 54 Broadway in 1971. Five years later, Meyers sold the store to Marvin A. Vens. Meyers and Vens were natives of Watertown, S.D.

A Forum advertisement in September 1978 announced a going-out-of-business sale, and McShane’s closed. Catherine’s, located at 609 NP Ave., survives. It is now owned by Jeanne Anderson of Hallock, Minn.

Readers can contact Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com