Mullin Furniture Then and Now

601 North Second Avenue

This is one of those downtown buildings which had been absolutely ravaged by “modernists” and tortured into submission. It served the same purpose for about 100 years and has recently made a glorious comeback.

The 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map is the earliest available to show this lot. At that time, a wood frame millinery store was located at the northwest corner of Walnut Street and Second Avenue. The street address was 723 Second Avenue. That block was renumbered by 1892 and the structure, then at 721 Second Avenue, reverted to a dwelling.

Clyde Zimmerman and a gentleman with the last name of Hayes opened a furniture store across the street at the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Walnut Street in March of 1904.

The Dodge City Democrat, February 19, 1904

Hayes retired the following month and Zimmerman continued the business. The store was sometimes referred to as Zimmerman Furniture but the name that stuck was City Furniture Store.

The Dodge City Democrat, January 6, 1905

The county website says the current structure was built in 1900 but the 1905 Sanborn shows the same frame structure listed as a plumbing business. You can see the furniture store across Walnut where the Eckles Building is now.

By March of 1906, City Furniture was apparently operated by the new partnership Zimmerman between and Keplinger but I never found another reference to a Keplinger being associated with the store.

The Journal-Democrat, March 23, 1906

Thomas H Traynor and George B Doolittle bought the lot on the northwest corner for $3,500 in July of 1906. Traynor bought an interest in City Furniture in August of 1906 and it appears Doolittle had done the same but I wasn’t able to find the announcement. Clyde Zimmerman continued his undertaking business, which was associated with City Furniture and continued advertising for Clyde Zimmerman & Co separately well into 1907.

Construction of the new furniture store on the northwest corner began in the spring of 1907.

The Globe-Republican, March 14, 1907

Doolittle and Traynor successfully bid for the new Post Office location, which was to occupy the corner room of the new building. The furniture store was to take up the north room on the main floor plus the entire basement and second floor. They expected to occupy the new quarters by July 1 but of course, construction was delayed.

George Doolittle had suffered a paralytic stroke in May of 1907 and W. J. Davies bought out his interest in the store in August.

The Globe-Republican, September 5, 1907

The building was finally ready for occupancy around the first part of September.

The giant painted sign that wrapped around the south and east sides of the building was added in November of 1907.

The Journal-Democrat, January 17, 1908

Jerome Daniel Mullin, formerly of Walnut, accepted a funeral director position at City Furniture in 1908 after Clyde Zimmerman resigned to become the funeral director at Fort Dodge. Mullin was also a licensed embalmer and former teacher who moved to Ford County in 1903 to help his older sister with her homestead about 11 miles southeast of Dodge.

Sometime around the end of 1910 or beginning of 1911, Traynor directed his attention toward his restaurant leaving Davies and Mullin to operate the store.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, April 21, 1911

The block was renumbered again and the 1911 Sanborn shows the furniture store at 601 Second Avenue.

Traynor had relocated to Oregon but returned in early 1912, at which time he became active in store operations once again. I believe this was about the time Mullin had moved away from Dodge the first time, which left Davies as the sole undertaker.

S. H. Herrin announced he was buying the store in February of 1916 and the sale was finalized in April. Herrin did not purchase the building at this time. The Post Office had already outgrown its space and was preparing to move to the new building on the east side of Second Avenue.

Dodge City Daily Globe, February 15, 1916

J. D. Mullin had returned to City Furniture by this time. Traynor and Davies had also stuck around to ensure a smooth transition.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, June 7, 1916

By November of 1916, the Post Office had moved into the new building on Second Avenue and the partition on the main floor of the furniture building had been removed to accommodate the store’s expansion.

In June of 1918, J. D. Mullin moved away from Dodge again, this time to Omaha, to work as a traveling salesman for the Beebe and Runyon Furniture Company.

Herrin finally purchased the City Furniture building in August of 1921 and made way for The Dodge City Music Company to occupy the south half.

Brothers Maurice and J. D. Mullin bought City Furniture at the end of 1924 and had their grand opening in March of 1925.

The Southwest News, March 12, 1925

They immediately got to work updating the storefronts for the furniture and music stores.

The Southwest News, May 7, 1925

The 1926 Sanborn shows other stores carved out of the north end of the building. An elevator was installed in 1928.

The Dodge City Journal, June 27, 1929

Take a look at this glorious ad! You will notice the photo of Austin C Fowler was included as one of the “courteous young folks” employed at Mullin Bros. It’s all coming together now.

Dodge City Journal, January 1, 1930

A second location was added at 609 West Chestnut Street in the summer of 1930.

The Dodge City Journal, May 29, 1930

After Dodge City Music Company vacated their space, the furniture store was remodeled again with a new mezzanine level and double the floor space.

The Dodge City Journal, November 6, 1930

The 1932 Sanborn shows the newly added building to the west, which I wrote about here.

Around this time, the store became known as Mullin Furniture Company. In March of 1937, the Mullin brothers leased the T. L. Gray furniture store building in Liberal and opened up shop with Homer Hopkins as Manager. By 1938, there was also a store in Kinsley.

The Catholic Advance, July 9, 1938

The photo below was taken during the parade for the world premiere of “Dodge City” on April 1, 1939.

Photographer Unknown

By 1939, the Mullin brothers had added a location in Meade and then in Great Bend and Larned by 1940. Mullin Furniture, Inc. was formed on December 27, 1946.

Dodge City’s Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 1947, Published by the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce

Austin Fowler started Fowler Furniture in 1948, the same year that J. D. Mullin died. By that time, Mullin Furniture had stores in Pratt and Lamar, Colorado with Maurice as President of the company.

The Advance Register, September 7, 1951

In the early 1950s, R. Wells was listed as Vice President of Mullin Furniture. I believe this was Rene Wells, who later founded Wells Discount Furniture. Maurice and J. D.’s widow, Olive, both had residential listings at 605 1/2 North Second Avenue during this time. That would be the building directly north of the original store. Olive stayed there for quite a while but Maurice and his wife, Lula, relocated to 800 Central Avenue by 1955. That’s the place with the super cute cottages behind it at the Corner of Central and Vine.

The Advance Register, January 27, 1961

Maurice retired in the early 1960s. Fowler Furniture moved into the spot at Second and Gunsmoke after the fire at their store at 309 West Wyatt Earp Boulevard in 1964. The Mullin family retained ownership of the corner building as well as the adjacent structures to the west on Gunsmoke and to the north on Second. I’m blaming the Fowler family for adding the infamous metal slipcover.

It’s impossible for me to untangle all of the various entities here but Wells-Robinson Furniture, Inc. was formed on February 23, 1959. There were different store names in different towns.

Great Bend Sunday Tribune, April 4, 1971

There was a time when you could shop for furniture from the door just east of the Fidelity drive-through branch all the way to Second Avenue. Wells Discount Furniture was one of the entities with frontage on Gunsmoke.

That’s Jack!

Austin Fowler died in 1977. Leonard and his wife, Dori, became the faces of Fowler’s but Austin’s widow, Allie was still involved as well as Leonard’s son, Paul.

Garden City Telegram, August 8, 1977

Fowler Furniture Company, Inc. was formed on December 29, 1980. Articles of incorporation showed Leonard, Dori, and Paul as officers.

Photo by Troy Robinson

Entities merged and dissolved over time. Robinson Discount Furniture was formed on August 9, 1985 by Greg Hahn and was formerly Hahn Discount Furniture in Garden. The last annual report for Fowler’s was filed in December of 1994 but it seems like the store was open for a while after that.

After Fowler’s closed, Robinson’s took over the space and they stayed until the mid-2000s when they moved to a new spot on the bypass. The building at Second and Gunsmoke was left vacant for some time.

The Google Street View images go back to October of 2007, when the building was vacant but the Robinson’s sign was still hanging on the corner and the windows hadn’t been reinstalled. Interestingly, the awful metal slipcover was removed from this building before the same was done with the Eckles building across the street.

By 2012, the empty showroom windows had been covered up with storyboards. By 2018, the building had been renamed West Coast Plaza and housed several businesses but the upstairs windows were still covered. I believe this is when the Mullin Brothers Foundation finally sold the building.

The West Coast Plaza was remodeled in 2020 and it looks so good!

West Coast Plaza Property Management has interior photos on their Facebook page and I’m a big fan. You can also see the interior of the martial arts studio here. This building was in such bad shape just a few short years ago. It’s wonderful to see a place with such history receiving the care it deserves.

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