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Local history for sale; Brunke Supply to begin auctions

September 29, 2017 – Brunke Supply became known as a place where you could find just about any part or item. The reputation grew and the business, with third-generation owners John and Vera Brunke, commonly shipped out parts and tools all across the country.

“The suppliers would tell other people, ‘if you need that you need to contact Brunke’s’,” Vera Brunke said. “We had several people tell us here in Excelsior that they had went to all these other places when they needed something, well it would have to be ordered. They would order from their supplier and when it came back it had a Brunke sticker on it. That company had called John and ordered it through John. They used to send out orders all over the United States.”

The Brunke business closed after 96 years on Aug. 31, with John’s health deteriorating over the last few months. Now begins the task of clearing out all of the old inventory at the store. The first of three or four auctions will be held at 10:30 a.m., on Saturday, Sept. 30 where you too will have a chance to take home a rare find.

“Our auction will be in the alley behind the store,” Vera Brunke said. “There is just too much stuff in the store, we need to get the shelving out, to get everyone in there for the sale. It will be about a four hour auction. We plan on having at least two more auctions.”

The first auction will primarily sell tools, both hand and power, as well as wiring, hardware and everything else you would expect from a hardware and supply store.

The store was founded in 1921 by August Brunke after he moved his family to Excelsior Springs from Nebraska to enjoy the health benefits of the spring waters according to an account by August’s son and John’s father, Cecil Bunke, in a book celebrating Excelsior Springs’ centennial in 1981. The original store was located on Thompson Avenue at Spring Street but moved to Marietta Street across from Lake Maurer after a fire destroyed the business in December of 1924. The Beyer Theater was built in its place. A flood in 1931 forced the business to higher ground on Thompson Avenue. The store moved up and down the block before its final location at 423 Thompson Ave. for the last 35 years.

Brunke’s started off as a furniture and hardware store before adding auto parts a few years later. The store still sold hardware and car parts until it closed. The store’s early motto was, ‘We have it, can get it or it doesn’t exist.’ It evolved over time to ‘If you can’t find it anywhere else, check Brunke’s.’

Their unique items were proudly on display in the windows of the storefront, which are now covered in black plastic. The close of the business was unheralded, but a lack of customers painted the stark reality of a changing time with online ordering and shipping for just about everything imaginable. Brunke’s niche for being the last outpost for hard to find items was slowly eaten away.

“It hasn’t been that way for the last eight or ten years but we used to ship out items all over the United States,” Vera Brunke said. “It got to the point where you could ask about Brunke’s in other states and people would know us. They used to deal an awful lot in car parts. It was through suppliers that they were known across the country.”

By Bryce Mereness •

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