Living History: Goodman’s Department Store Carries on 100 Years of Tradition
by Norm Vance
Goodman’s Department Store sits in downtown Pagosa Springs. It has been there for over 100 years and is closely identified with Pagosa Springs as no other business is. It is the longest single-family owned and operated business in town.
Today Bob and Valerie Goodman are the proprietors, but the store began with Bob’s great grandfather, David Lowenstein, who came from Germany during the 1880s, at the invitation of his sister who lived in New York City.
David didn’t take to the big city, so moved to Denver, Colorado, not a big city at the time. First he opened a store in Denver. He found a market and traveled to the San Luis Valley, selling supplies to sheep ranchers. He tired of that and moved to Lake City. There he opened a cigar and tobacco shop. A man lent him money to open a pool room that later became a liquor store.
Lowenstein’s friendship with Dr. Sam Rapp led to his meeting Rapp’s sister, Fannie. They married in Lake City. Fannie didn’t like the liquor business, so, they sold it and moved to Silverton. Then on to Durango where they opened a grocery store, located one block from the Strater Hotel.
After losing their first child the Lowensteins moved to Pagosa Springs and opened a business called “Gent’s Furnishings,” housed in a 12′ by 35′ building on land where the west side of the present store is. This was in 1900. They built a separate building on the corner about 1920. At about this time their daughter Hortense was born.
When David and Fannie passed away, Hortense ran the store. She met Louis Goodman on a business trip to St. Louis, and they married. Hortense now had someone to share running the store with. One day, when Louie was in Denver, an Indian trader that he knew from Dulce hailed him as, “Hello Mr. Lowenstein’s Store.” That was enough for Louie. He changed the name to Goodman’s Department Store.
Dave, Hortense and Louie gave the public what they wanted and needed. They swapped clothing for pots and other items with the Indians. Some of these traded items are now a collection belonging to Bob’s sister. It occupies the top shelf in the store.
The sawmills in the area were big businesses. The loggers were from Finland, Sweden and Norway and spoke little English, probably only had one pair of boots and one pair of socks (and had been wearing them all week). When they visited the store, they seemed to always be eating limburger cheese. When they took off their shoes, it was hard to distinguish between the odors of the socks and the cheese. Dave would sell them socks. He advertised his socks as “Dave Goodman’s odorless socks” and added this poem:
The longer you wear them
The stronger they get.
You put’ em in water
And they don’t get wet.
Dave and Louie’s flair for finding companies that could provide quality merchandise was their special gift; they were among the first to carry Stetson Hats, Tony Lama boots, Levis and Pendleton blankets.
Hortense was very popular in town. A concert-quality pianist, she used to play the piano in Town Park’s gazebo. She was well educated (having attended Wolfe Hall, a girl’s finishing school in Denver), and she was daring, being the first woman to drive a car over Wolf Creek Pass.
The store was enlarged in 1963 – taking in the building next door, which was the first store. By this time Hortense, Dave (Louie and Hortense’s son) and his wife, Dorothy, were running the store. The merchandise was that of a well-stocked western store. When it was remodeled in 1995, it took on a big change. Some now call it the Neimann Marcus of Pagosa Springs.
The antique metal-embossed ceiling in the main store is the original one, as is the 3-way mirror at the back of the store.
Today, Bob and Valerie Goodman are the proprietors. Bob has been with the store for 20-plus years. Goodman’s has thrived on providing quality merchandise for the public. It is just as Bob says, “We’ve learned to change with the times and look to the community’s needs.”