Elizabeth Quinlan is a name synonymous with the Young-Quinlan Department Store, a Minneapolis institution. But who was the “Young” in this iconic partnership? Delving into the history of this retail giant, we discover the story of Fred Young, a driven entrepreneur who, alongside Elizabeth, transformed the fashion landscape. From their humble beginnings as sales rivals to the birth of the Young-Quinlan Company, let’s look at the inspiring journey of two friends and their enduring legacy.
Frederick Dean Young was born in Freeport, Illinois on October 12, 1862. By the time he was thirty years old, Young was living in Minneapolis and had become one of the top salespeople at Goodfellow and Eastman Dry Goods. It was there that he met Elizabeth Quinlan. Young and Quinlan became good friends and often competed for the title of the top salesperson.
Young dreamed of opening his own specialty shop for women that would sell hats, gloves, stockings, and more to the well-heeled residents of Minneapolis. He was convinced it would be a success if he could get Elizabeth to join him in the venture, but Elizabeth was apprehensive about leaving her position at Goodfellow and Eastman. Young eventually convinced his friend to try.
Quinlan agreed to join Fred D. Young and Company as a buyer and salesperson for three months. If it didn’t work out, she would return to her job at Goodfellow and Eastman. Fred put up the capital to open their first store in a subleased corner of Vrooman’s Glove Company in the Syndicate Building. And of course, the business worked out. Fred handled the business administration and advertising for the store while Elizabeth did the buying and selling.
Elizabeth saved her money and was able to buy an equal partnership with Fred in the early 1900s. In 1903, Fred recognized the “value of [Quinlan’s] name in connection with a store devoted exclusively to fashion to women,” which led him to change the name of the store from Fred D. Young and Company to the Young-Quinlan Company.
Within a year of the name change, Fred was forced to retire due to chronic medical issues. Elizabeth took on his responsibilities as well as her own with the hope that Fred would recover and come back to the store. He spent a good deal of money traveling around the country, and later overseas, in search of a cure for his illness to no avail.
When Fred finally returned to his home at 2316 Colfax Avenue S in 1909, his health had deteriorated to the point he was unable to leave home except to travel to California to try and find a cure of this ailment. He spent much of the next two years homebound, but Elizabeth would visit often and share tales from the store and talk about the new merchandise she’d acquired on recent trips to New York and Paris. Fred died on December 3, 1911, at the age of 49.
After the death of her dear friend, Elizabeth suffered a nervous collapse and deserted the store for several months. Her nephews and dedicated employees stepped up to run the store while she mourned. Elizabeth returned from her hiatus with a renewed spirit and the determination to continue building on the success of the store to honor what she and Fred had made together.
Elizabeth purchased Fred’s shares in the company from his estate and became the sole owner of the Young-Quinlan Company. To honor her friend, Elizabeth vowed to never change the name of the company or take Young’s name off the door.