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History Drives Collection
Jack Nielsen learned to appreciate antiques when he moved out of the family home in Centerville. “I had to furnish my house and I quickly figured out that I could purchase ‘antiques’ for less than the price of new furniture. What I didn’t realize until some time later, was that I could re-sell these antiques and even make money!” So began the life-long love affair with history and the things that make up that history.
Jack is a second-generation restaurateur and owner of JoDeans in Yankton. Jack’s father John started in the restaurant business in 1971 with a small 16-seat diner on Center Street in Vermillion. The restaurant was named JoDeans and got its’ name from the first couple letters of his name and Dean from his mom’s full name, Thelma Dean. Jack, joined his father in the family business and the expansion of JoDeans began. John sold the small diner a few years later and opened a restaurant in Centerville in 1975. Mark Ryken, who owned the sale barn in Yankton, asked John to start a restaurant near his business north of Yankton, which they did in 1978. They started doing a buffet on Sundays and then a seafood buffet on Fridays in 1989 and have built a very solid following of customers.
“We saw the future with the buffet and it has been a cornerstone of our business,” says Nielsen. “I have been in the restaurant all of my life. Our home cooked food is a good value for our customers.”
“My dad was never into antiques of any kind but my mom did like old things. I had a cousin who was an ‘antiquer’ and I quickly got hooked myself. Mom and I started going to auctions and I began my obsession with antiques and history. I never had any classic or muscle cars growing up but I like the history of the cars. I appreciate how the different car companies made their cars work. The first antique car I purchased was a Durant. I wanted a Bonnie and Clyde type car with suicide doors. I purchased it over the phone from Murdo in 2002. The car was made by General Motors founder William Cargo ‘Billy’ Durant. Durant was a self-supporting youth by the age of 16 and entered the carriage manufacturing business at age 20 and by 1900 was a millionaire before the age of 40. In 1904, he moved into the auto world with the purchase of the company founded by David Buick, a plumbing merchant and inventor. Durant hoped to unite several car firms, each catering to a different taste-for luxury, speed, comfort, and utility. The company Durant was creating would become General Motors. Durant was a shrewd businessman that delighted in the game of acquisition and combination. Durant even tried to purchase Ford Motor Company and almost pulled it off as Ford reportedly was willing to sell but asked for more cash than Durant could muster. Durant incorporated GM by uniting Buick with the company that made Oldsmobiles and another that produced the Oakland (later the Pontiac). In 1909, he brought Cadillac into the fold. He would go on to buy out makers of motors, spark plugs, and other components and accessories. By 1910, he had run GM deeply into debt. It was said the Durant could create but not administer. A banking syndicate bailed out the corporation, at the price of participation in control of GM and the ouster of Durant. Undaunted, he went into partnership with Louis Chevrolet, a Swiss-born racing driver, who was marketing a car of his own design. The Chevrolet was a huge success. Durant unobtrusively traded Chevrolet stock for GM stock until the triumphant September day in 1915, when he announced to a board meeting that he held the controlling interest once again in General Motors.”
It is obvious talking to Nielsen that the history of the vehicles he owns is very important to him. Jack is the third owner of the Durant. The original owner sold it to his son-in-law, who was a large rancher, who subsequently sold it because he wanted to expand the ranch. The Durant has always been a South Dakota car.
Another car in Jack’s collection is a 1906 one-cylinder Cadillac. “The steering wheel on this vehicle is on the right side, which was common at the time,” says Nielsen. “It switched from right to left when women started riding with men. Men did most of the driving and they wanted the women to get out on the sidewalk so they moved the steering wheel over to the left side of the vehicle. Overseas you drive on the opposite side of the road so the steering wheel is on the right.” “I purchased the Cadillac from a guy in Sioux Falls in 2005, who purchased it in the 50’s. He passed away and the family wanted the car to stay in South Dakota. I was looking to buy another old car when a friend from Centerville told me about this one. The family sold it to settle the estate. During that same estate sale, Jack purchased a Ford Depot, which he keeps at home and drives from time to time. That car was used to pick up people at the train depots; hence its name. If you watch the TV show Pawn Stars, they purchased one of these cars in a recent episode.”
Jack also has a 1938 Allis Chalmers tractor in his restaurant. “I do not own the 1938 Allis Chalmers. A friend of mine owns it. He likes tractors and had just finished working on it and asked if he could park it here for the winter that was five years ago.”
“My car collection is for business and I purchased them because of their history. The cars are great conversation pieces for my customers. People complain how rough it is today and I like to look at these old cars and see what it was like to drive 10 miles back then. The Cadillac has a buffalo and horsehide in it. I display them in the vehicle because it did not have any heat and you needed the hides to keep you warm back in those days.”
to keep you warm back in those days.” “I want to buy more cars but I do not have any particular model in mind. I just want to have one that has a history to it. I am not attached to any of these vehicles. Years ago I purchased a 1924 Ford Touring Coupe, brought it to the restaurant, and three days later a guy walked in and wanted to buy it. I doubled my money so I sold it to him. It sits in a museum now in Missouri. A lot of the antiques I have are things that I have never seen before. For example I have a cow pie flipper. It was used to flip the cow chips so they would get hard so they could burn them.
“My favorite antiques are the WW1 bond posters. They are historical and show patriotism. It was back in a time when we were all together as Americans and supported our war efforts. I have been accumulating them over the years. Some are more rare than others. They are 100 years old.”
“Another great conversation piece is our bar, which came from just outside of Hartford, Connecticut. The quality of this piece is amazing as is the history. The bar was built Search local dealer inventories at www.TheMotorMarket.com The Motor Market | 39 Ellefson Implement, Inc. 2600 W. Havens, Mitchell, SD 57301 (605) 996-6633 in 1880 and when I think about how many people had a drink at that bar I am amazed. I found the bar by word of mouth. I was at an auction and someone who knew that I was looking for a bar, asked if I was still interested in buying one. They said they knew of one and gave me a phone number. I flew out to Connecticut, purchased the bar, and drove back with it. It has both a front bar and a back bar. To find a front bar that is in good shape is amazing.”
“The cars and the bars are the most popular. However our customers want to know about all of the antiques we display. Each of them has a history. A lot of the staff has a working knowledge of these pieces so that they can visit with our customers about them.”
“I started collecting antiques in 1975 and I still go to a lot of auctions. I enjoy that. It is my hobby. If I take a day off, 99% of the time it will be spent at an auction. I like food, I like cooking, and I like our customers. I enjoy running my own business. I would not want to work for a chain where everything is decided by corporate. If I want to make a change, I can do it on the fly. I like that part of what I do. I have thought about expanding the restaurant but for now one is enough. I already work seven days a week.”