Its end was hardly worthy of how much of Cokato's life it had seen. Then again, sometimes it is far too easy to dispense with our past.

In October 1996, the building that stood near the corner of Third Street West and Millard Avenue came down. For most, it was a welcome end to what had become an eyesore. For others, it was a sad end to what had been one of Cokato's foremost businesses, run by one of the community's pioneer families.

The family name was Mabusth; and their long-time business, The Big Store.

For almost six decades, the Mabusth family and The Big Store served three generations of Cokato people and those who resided in the countryside.

In an era when people shopped in their own towns, The Big Store provided quality clothing-suits, hats, pants, boots, caps, shirts-and other dry goods typical of the time. Its merchandise displayed in a spacious show area, customers were recipients of nothing less than first-class service.


Upstairs from the store, there was a dance hall, meeting room, the home of the local Masonic lodge, and a small apart- ment. Certainly this fixture of Cokato's business district was a hub of activity.

At the time of his retirement in 1948, Big Store owner John J. Mabusth, was the oldest active member of the business community in Cokato, having entered that realm in 1889. Mabusth's obituary (July 9, 1953) noted that: "Many also recall that [he] showed personal interest in each customer, and was anxious that the patron be completely satisfied as to fit and quality of garments and footwear."

John J. Mabusth is buried in the Cokato Village Cemetery, along with his wife, parents, brother, and other community pioneers that helped transform Cokato from a small stop along the Great Northern Railroad into a thriving agricultural and retail center.

While no descendants of the Mabusth family reside in the Cokato area, many of them make regular visits to Cokato and the museum.

With so much of Cokato's downtown retail district a distant memory, the legacy of the Big Store and the Mabusth family is certainly worth noting.

©Cokato Historical Society, 2002