After nearly five decades of serving as Mitchell’s one-stop clothing shop, Michael’s Toggery will be closing its doors and bringing an end to an era in downtown Mitchell.
Since 1975, Lee and Renee Michael have provided the Mitchell community with an array of clothing and apparel out of their Main Street store. While the local couple say business has been great the past few years, they are ready to enter the next chapter of their life — retirement.
“The decision is bittersweet because we’re slowing down as the business has grown,” Renee said. “We’re sad to be closing, but we know it’s the right decision at the right time.”
For Ashley Endres, executive director of Mitchell Main Street and Beyond, the loss of Michael’s Toggery will leave a big void in the downtown business district.
“We’re sad to see a business that had such longevity of success closing, but you understand they are ready to retire,” Endres said. “We just don’t have a men’s clothing store that carries a variety of tuxedos and the type of business attire they had.”
Endres has fond memories of shopping at the Main Street staple. As a Mitchell native, Endres was among many former MHS students who went to Michael’s Toggery for all their prom needs and back to school shopping.
“It’s where I purchased my first prom dress in high school. As a kid and a mom, I always loved shopping at Michael’s. You were always greeted with big smiles when you walked in the door,” she said.
Becoming local business owners has brought the Mitchell couple plenty of joy and memories through the years of running the store, but the opportunity to become one came by pure chance.
“My mom lived here so I’d come back all the time to visit her and I just happened to run into a friend who was a realtor and city councilman who told me that the store was not listed for sale, but Bernie wanted to retire. Six months later, I owned the store,” Lee said.
Prior to purchasing the business in 1975 from Bernie Schultz, Lee was the director of a mental health facility in Dickinson, North Dakota. As he took a leap into becoming a business owner, Lee’s passion for the apparel industry drove the clothing store to new heights over the next decade.
For the first 15 years of operating the Michael's Toggery, Renee was running a children’s clothing store at another location. But the couple combined their stores into one at the 211 N. Main St. location in the early 1990s, which proved to be a wise move.
Although hard work and the ability to adapt to the changing retail climate have helped drive their business, the couple attribute their success to the loyal customers they served for over 40 years.
Susan Tjarks was among the customers who said the closing of Michael’s will be a “such loss” for the community.
As Tjarks put it, Michael’s was the only store in Mitchell where “you could buy men’s wear, rent a tuxedo and buy kid’s clothing.”
“I’m super sad to see them go, and I wish them the best,” she said. “Lee and Renee have run a quality business and have served our community well. Their absence will absolutely be felt, and I hope there will be someone who will step up to fill those shoes because we need it.”
While online shopping and retail giants like Amazon have led to the demise of many small businesses in recent years, Michael’s Toggery wasn’t one as it managed to keep its doors open through it all.
While the loss of Michael’s Toggery will have a big impact on the community, Endres is optimistic a budding entrepreneur may fill the void in the near future.
She pointed to Dakota Wesleyan University’s growing business program as a potential key to attract an entrepreneur who could open another clothing store that offers both men’s and women’s business attire and tuxedos.
“We’re hoping to get a new business in that location or attract a business that carries the type of clothing items they did. I know DWU and Mitchell Technical College have great programs for that,” Endres said.
To bring their business journey to a close, Michael’s is holding a sale and will stay open until the remaining inventory is sold.
“We’ve really enjoyed being part of that positivity and can’t thank our customers enough for their support over the years,” Lee said.