New location to open by August

Photo by Barbie Porter
Chris and Jeff Janke will be closing their store Janke’s Sew & Vac on May 20. The two plan to re-open at a new location by August.

By Barbie Porter


Passerbys along the Janke Sew & Vac building in Detroit Lakes have noticed the sign in front. The 1977 Frazee High School graduate will be closing the store at 607 North Washington Avenue on May 20.

Meanwhile enjoy the merchandise at rock bottom prices. While the news may make some hearts flutter with panic, know the Janke’s will re-open in new digs near its current location. 

“We’ll be moving to 525 North Washington Avenue,” he said. “We’re moving back into the store we first opened our business in.”

The new location, next to the Northside Tavern, has been remodeled. The building owners lowered the ceiling, installed new flooring and gave the space a fresh coat of paint.

“It’s a busy little spot,” he said. 

Janke and his wife Chris had thoughts of downsizing over the past few years. The clock spoke up and said it was time for a change when his doctor agreed he needed a knee replacement.

Janke, a Marine veteran, injured his knee as a young man. A friend asked him to watch the cattle and sheep on the farm so he might take a vacation. Janke agreed and learned what it felt like to be hit by a 250 pound ram.

“I took my eyes off of him for just one second,” he said, noting it was during his second jump over the fence that he tore his meniscus.

Photo by Barbie Porter
Jeff Janke helps a customer solve a problem with their sewing machine. In addition to fixing sewing machines, Janke’s Sew & Vac is known for fixing vacuums and selling long-lasting, quality products.

The meniscus is a  piece cartilage in the knee. The shock absorber is located between the shinbone and the thighbone. 

“My doctor suggested I should say the injury was from football.”

Jeff Janke

A surgery resulted in taking the meniscus completely out. Because there was so much scar tissue. Janke was told to expect arthritis. 

“It has set in,” he said. “It’s been about 40 years and I’ve had  cortisone treatments.”

Eventually the temporary relief provided by the cortisone stopped working. He looked the doctor square in the eyes and asked if it was time for a knee replacement. The doctor leveled with him and said the time had come.

The Janke’s home had to be reviewed. Plans to side-step any potential strain on his knee, until healed, had to be addressed. 

Then the doctor asked if Janke had a plan for work. Being in retail meant spending time on his feet. Being a business owner meant if the shop closed there would be no income.

That is when the Janke’s realized downsizing might be the best option. The current location has a basement storage unit, where as the new store has a main level. So, the Janke’s began their liquidation sale.

“People who come in will get a really good deal on vacuums, sewing machines and thread.”

Jeff Janke on his store’s liquidation sale

The new store will continue to sell top-of-the-line machines, just fewer models. He will also continue to repair vacuums and sewing machines and sell accessories. The new store opening date depends how long it takes for Janke to recover from his knee replacement surgery. The hope is to re-open before or by August.

Luckily, the move will be made a little lighter by the many hands who offered to help. In addition to moving inventory, the counter will return to its original location.

Janke leaned against the artifact, brushing his hand over the top. He noted, at some point the top layer was added. 

“When it was the Lakeside Hotel’s front desk it was all wood,” he said.

Janke took ownership of the counter when he moved buildings. The owners asked if he was interested in it, and he knew the historical piece would be a great addition to the new store. 

“It took six of us to carry it over,” he said. “Eventually, I plan to give it to the grand kids of the owners of the Lakeside Hotel.”

More memories rise as Janke and his wife take in the realization they will soon be closing their doors. The two have had stern talks with youngsters using their roof for a noon-time hangout, saw two train accidents and met a boy from California who appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

“He came in with his grandparents and knew all about vacuum cleaners. A few weeks later I saw him on Jay Leno!”

Jeff Janke on a memorable moment while in business in Detroit Lakes

The Janke’s briefly met another person who was made famous by happenstance. A taxi pulled up years ago and a woman from Japan exited. She walked into the store and got directions for a campground known for concerts. A few weeks later her body was found. She had froze to death. Janke recalled reports indicated she was trying to find a treasure from the movie Fargo, as she thought it was real.

With a lot of emotion tied to the memories of the Janke’s Sew & Vac building, the two broke into wide smiles while recalling the time an ambulance pulled up to their building. The lights were flashing and EMTs jumped out with purpose. The back doors of the vehicle swung open and a gurney was pulled out. With concern in their heart the Janke’s watched. As the EMTs headed into their front door, they looked on dumbfounded. 

“Then I saw the gurney,” Janke recalled. “They had their vacuum on it and said it needed to see the doctor.”

The moments that made time memorable continued to be recalled. Janke stopped short of another story and smiled. He explained they are blessed with loyal customers who appreciate his honest work and fair prices.  Seeing them, is something he will miss, until they re-open.

“It will be rough,” he said. “But it may be a nice vacation.”

“Until you go nuts,” his wife added.

“Yeah, I suppose there are only so many episodes of Giligan’s Island,” he said.