Thursday, September 6, 2012




Press Release


After more than a century, local business continues to thrive.  Strauss Skates & Bicycles attributes customer loyalty among keys to success. 

Maplewood, Minnesota-August 27, 2012:   

On a warm morning in Mid-August owner Liz Charbonneau walks into the office of Strauss Skates & Bicycles and announces to her daughter and son-in-law “I have some great news, I just got a tweet and the Gopher Hockey Season starts in 50 days!”  This kind of enthusiasm and true love of the game of hockey may explain why Strauss continues to thrive in today’s world of shiny big box stores and internet sales.  As spoken by a customer “Guys that work there remember my name, know my coaches, pay attention to local hockey and just flat out are hockey guys. It's nice to go somewhere that has employees who actually know what they're talking about not because they read it in some magazine or catalog but because they've experienced it.”  And from another “They have everything you could want and their staff is hilarious and extremely knowledgeable. They even got a dog named Boogaard!”

German immigrant John E. Strauss began his business in the 1880s as a safe and lock company.  Soon rumors of his skills as a master of steel spread and he began taking requests to both repair bicycles and manufacture lightweight steel racing bikes.  One day, a Minneapolis boy said “Mr. Strauss, why don’t you begin making skates?” Strauss said, “This set me to thinking.  The bicycle fad was dying out and it kept me busy only during the summer, so I decided to try my hand at wooden-top skates.”  It was a natural fit as Strauss applied techniques he learned while making swords at an arsenal in Naples, Italy.  In 1887, Strauss Skate Shop was founded and became known throughout the world.  In 1914 Strauss revolutionized skating when he invented the first closed toe blade made from a single piece of steel making skates stronger and lighter in weight.  Sonja Henie won Olympic Gold on Strauss’s blades and wrote in a letter to him “I would not even dream of going into the championships unless I was wearing your skates” dated 11-8-1935.  Other customers included the Queen of Spain, Olympic speed skaters and hockey teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks, the New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins and the old St. Paul Fighting Saints.

Liz and her husband, Richard, purchased Strauss Skates & Bicycles in 1983 along with their business partner Don Eyinck, grandson of founder John E. Strauss.  Each of the 5 generations have seen their share of challenges ranging from steel rationing during World Wars to being forced from their long time home in downtown St. Paul due to the construction of the St. Paul Civic Center, current site of the Xcel Energy Center, to the trials and tribulations of producing quality American made goods and services in a society that wants lower prices.  A Minneapolis Daily Times article printed in May of 1942 mentions the WPB’s order to halt the production of figure skates during WWII.  Strauss is quoted saying “Funny isn’t it, how one government department talks about the need of sport for morale and how another says we must cut down.”  After the war, the tradition continued strong into the next several decades.  The forced relocation in 1970 allowed them to move into a larger custom built space where the retail portion of the business flourished along side manufacturing.  An article published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on May 4, 1975 states that “By late summer there’ll be 10,000 [hockey] sticks in inventory.” After an unsuccessful attempt in the 1970s at outsourcing a portion of the secret blade making process with the goal of bringing a less expensive blade to market, manufacturing was discontinued in 1981.  “This outsourcing was a big risk and almost sunk the business after nearly a century of being known for only producing blades of the utmost quality” recalls Don Eyinck.  Today Strauss Skates & Bicycles prides itself on its knowledgeable and experienced staff, most of whom have been involved for over 25 years and the hand selection of every single product carried in the store. 

Today Strauss Skates and Bicycles continues to be a hub of activity when it comes to the local skating scene. General Manager Steven “Moose” Younghans has over 20 years experience as the head hockey coach at St. Paul Johnson, service manager Scott Hambly has been the Bantam A coach in White Bear Lake for just as long, and Sales Manager Bill Rhody has been wearing the stripes (he is a referee) at local high school and college games for the last 2 decades.  Each of them started at Strauss in the 70s or 80s. Strauss truly is hockey.  

Strauss will celebrate its 125
th anniversary with a customer appreciation event and first time ever tent sale the weekend of September 7th, 8th & 9th featuring reps from all the top brands, $1 dinner Friday, $1 lunch Saturday and Sunday, cash grab machine, prizes, shooting games, a bounce house and more.  

For additional information or supporting documents please contact Shaun Hastings at Strauss Skates & Bicycles 651-770-1344 or at Store Address:  Strauss Skates & Bicycles, 1751 E. Cope Ave.  Maplewood, MN 55109



Shop front in 1938 at 165 W Kellogg in downtown St. Paul


       John Strauss with a customer in 1939

Letter from Sonja Henie to John E. Strauss in 1935

John Strauss Jr.

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