In 1856, three brothers from the Younker family – Lipman, Samuel and Marcus – arrived in the United States from Poland and opened a small general store named Younker Brothers in Keokuk, Iowa.  In 1874, Herman Younker, a younger brother to the founding brothers, opened a dry goods store in Des Moines, Iowa.  With the death of Samuel Younker in 1879, the family closed the Keokuk store, and the Des Moines store became the main store.

In 1900, the Younker Brothers main store was moved to its current location at 7th and Walnut in Des Moines.  In 1904, the company experienced a series of additions, enlargements and mergers, which resulted in the company becoming Younkers Incorporated.  In 1912, Younkers purchased Grand Department Store in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, which was followed by the opening of the Tea Room in the store in 1913.

1923 marked the year Younkers began making acquisitions, beginning with the purchase of Wilkins Department Store.  In 1927, Younkers merged with Harris-Emery, making Younkers the largest department store chain in Iowa. This was followed by the purchase of J. Mandelbaun and Sons store in 1928; Brintnalls in Marshalltown, Iowa, and Davidson’s in Sioux City, Iowa in 1948; and Yetters in Iowa City, Iowa in 1949.

During this period, Younkers continued to open new stores and make acquisitions throughout the region.  In 1979, Equitable of Iowa Companies acquired Younkers through a merger agreement.

This was followed by Younkers’ purchase of 11 Brandeis stores in 1987, making Younkers, Inc. the largest department store chain in Iowa and Nebraska.  In 1992, Younkers purchased the H.C. Prange Company, with 22 stores in Wisconsin and Michigan.  

1992 was a landmark year for the company – on April 22, Younkers began trading on the NASDAQ under the symbol YONK.

In October 1996, Proffitt’s, Inc. purchased Younkers, and today, Younkers operates 50 stores throughout the Midwest and is a part of SDSG. 

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