The cornerstone of the community

After decades working in the western wear sales industry, Pete and Alberta Krush are set to close on the sale of Pete’s Clothing Friday. Pioneer photo by Lacey Peterson

BELLE FOURCHE ––Pete Krush and his western wear store, Pete’s Clothing, have long been mainstays in the Belle Fourche community, helping glue the downtown business area together for over half a century.

Pete and Alberta Krush have been mainstays in the Belle Fourche community for decades, making the recent sale of Pete’s Clothing a bittersweet moment.

Pete has been selling western wear in Belle Fourche for the last 54 years.

“It was fun,” he said.

The pair was married in 1967.

In 1980, after working in western wear for some years, Pete ventured out on his own aiming to make his mark on Belle Fourche’s State Street, selling T-shirts and caps. Then, in 1985, it became the Pete’s Clothing that the community has come to know and love.

In those 54 years, Alberta said Pete’s has sold western wear to at least three generations of families.

In 1985, Alberta went back to teaching, leaving Pete to handle the store on his own.

“I helped on the weekends … it was his store,” she said. “Pete is Pete’s Clothing.”

Alberta taught for 24 years before she retired.

The Krush’s have two grown sons, aged 45 and 48, and four grandchildren ranging in age from six to 14.

Pete said his favorite memory of Belle Fourche will be the wonderful

people he’s met over the years, “It’s unbelievable.”

“A lot of them are almost like your family because you know all of

them,” Alberta said.

Just as Pete’s Clothing has been woven into the fabric of the Belle

Fourche community, selling western wear has been forever engrained

into Pete’s life.

“You’re buying a boot or something and something goes wrong with it,

you come here, we look at it, we fix it,” he said.

Pete was the type of person who took care of his customers and added

the personal touch to each customer’s needs.

“He was the type that if it didn’t look good on you, he told you,”

Alberta said. “And they appreciated it. Part of the reason he was so

successful was because of the customer service he gave.”

Alberta said that the store’s customer base, mainly ranchers, spreads widely across a tristate region. For Pete, the customers make

all the work worthwhile.

“Around here, you cannot believe (how wonderful) the people are,” he said.

Pete’s Clothing is located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and State Street, the town’s Main Street. The area has changed a lot in 54 years.

“There used to be so many stores down here,” Alberta said, naming Sears, JCPenny, Montgomery Ward, Gambles, and Coast-to- Coast as a few that used to be in the area.

“It’s just completely different.”

Crazy Days was a fun event in the downtown business area the pair will remember fondly. Details and events have come and gone through the evolution of the annual sidewalk sale, but Alberta said the event’s

purpose and community impact has remained the same.

“I can remember our girls ... they all dressed up hoping they were going to (win the costume contest),” she said. “And the prize was you were going to get your picture in the paper.”

Pete helped put on minnow and frog races, wooden horse races, outhouse races, and other activities during Crazy Days.

“That was fun; the kids just loved them,” Alberta said.

Sometimes the downtown businesses would hold bed races where people would fasten mattresses to wheels and race them in a route up and down State Street.

“If the wheels really weren’t working, those kids would just practically pick it up (and run it to the finish line),” Alberta said. “Oh, they were fun.”

The businesses were really friendly with one another, too, having regular get-togethers to discuss how to bolster the downtown business area to benefit everyone.

“It was just really active,” Alberta said. “Every (building) was full.”

Over the decades, Pete was active in the Center of the Nation Sportsman Club, teaching gun safety to children and adults for over 25 years; the Center of the Nation Business Association; the Belle Fourche Masonic Lodge; the Optimist Club; the Lions Club; the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce, which Alberta said, honored Pete’s with awards many times over; and even being honored as the state retailer of the year. On top of that and more, Pete coached many children’s sports teams.

Pete enjoyed working with the public and for the community.The business has been for sale for three years. And tomorrow, the pair will close on the sale.

The sale is a bittersweet thing for the couple. For decades, six days

a week, Pete had been downtown no matter the weather, by 8:30 a.m. and

staying through dinnertime, investing much of his life into serving his

customers and the community.

“It’s kind of sad,” Alberta said with tears welling up in her eyes. “(When) you have done something for 54 years; it’s almost like losing a spouse or something. You know you have to do it, but it’s going to be hard to give that key away.”

For Pete, the business was really his first child.

“He’s had this job longer than anything, really,” Alberta said of her husband.

The Krushs plan to enjoy retirement, spending more time with their sons and

grandchildren.

Lee and Sheila Hodge will be the new owners of Pete’s Clothing. Alberta said they plan to keep the business’ name and style the same.

Clark Sowers, a business owner in downtown Belle Fourche, had nothing but good things to say about the Krushs.

“If we had a businessman’s hall of fame, (Pete’s) would be one of the businesses inducted into it,” he said. “He’s got a flare, a (style) that drew customers into him.”

Pete has been around when the Belle Fourche main street was having its most

difficult times, Sowers said, “He was a spark plug. I’m glad he did business in Belle Fourche.”

Another local business owner, Vern Bills, shared Sowers’ sentiments.

“That store has been with us through our young years and always was an example of what it takes to be a business owner,” he said. “A very important part of keeping Belle Fourche main street alive.”

Bills said he worked in a clothing store two doors down from Pete’s prior to Pete purchasing the business.

“It’s one of those businesses that has been a backbone of the business community,” he said. “It’s been a nice run for him.”

Ellis Tripp, who’s been a Belle Fourche businessman for 55 years, said Pete was a mainstay of the town for many, many years.

“He’s been one of the big promoters of (Belle Fourche),” he said. “He's going to be sorely missed."

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