If you are old enough, think back to what you were wearing on December 1, 1980. If not, you’ll need to rely on Netflix to envision the shoulder pads and glitzy fabrics on Dynasty or the ripped sweatshirts Madonna made popular on MTV at that time. It’s more likely you were wearing pants. Bell-bottomed jeans were out and pantsuits were in. And what about exercise wear, turbans, and those jelly shoes? How could a woman make sense of that? Luckily, Linda’s Fashions opened that day in the Milbank Mall and women no longer had to sort it all out alone. A collective sigh was heard across the valley.
That day, inside Linda’s, the noises might better be described as oohs and ahs. Amid a flurry of pantsuits and polyester, women were admiring the full racks and trying on blazers and contrasting blouses.
Months of planning and a blizzard of details had led to this moment, and owner Linda Junker (now Buri) felt the thrill of running her own business. Without realizing it, Linda had been preparing all her life for this day. She grew up in Oldham and Castlewood and says, “I drove my mother crazy. When it came to clothes, I always knew what I liked and what I didn’t. I was very fussy about the feel of the fabric next to my skin. I’m still that way.” Because she and her mother sewed most of their clothing, Linda intuitively began to learn the beauty and value of quality fabric.
She says, “My grandparents always purchased our Christmas dresses. I loved shopping for them. Plus, my grandfather had impeccable taste.” She also recalls the first outfit she selected by herself in a store. “I was in high school and it was for Homecoming. I chose a wool a-line skirt and a matching sweater.”
Sounds classy and classic. She was already channeling her favorite designer — the iconic Coco Chanel.
It wasn’t until she attended SDSU that she noticed a pattern was taking shape. “One day, my professor in a Dress and Aesthetics class said, ‘Linda, you have a wonderful eye for design and color.’ I guess that stuck with me.”
Running a clothing business for 40 years, however, takes more than a great sense of style; it requires a myriad of skills. She says she learned many of them from her mother. “When I was in junior high and high school, my mom owned a restaurant. She had very high expectations! She taught me the importance of organization, planning and, above all, customer service.” Linda also honed her fashion-industry skills by working at Dorothy’s, a clothing shop in Watertown. And when Dorothy’s expanded to the Milbank Mall in 1975, Linda was selected as the manager.
She says, “Dorothy’s was one of the first anchor stores in the mall, and it was in the exact location where my store is today. In fact, Linda’s is the only store in the Milbank Mall in its original location.”
While fashions have come and gone in 40 years, Linda’s has remained constant. She believes this is true because, “When you step into Linda’s, you are welcomed as a guest to my home. My staff, too, is like my family. And they are good people inside and out. They are knowledgeable, kind, and motivated. And they just love fashion!”
She says her husband, Doug, contributes his talents to the business by doing the taxes and taking care of the accounting and advertising. They both attend market, which she describes as “decisions, decisions, decisions.”
“Changes in technology assist in the buying process, but I still must feel the fabric and see the actual color.” In years past, they regularly shopped the market in New York, Las Vegas, and St. Paul. They also went trendspotting in Galarie Lafayette in Paris, London, and Switzerland.
Buying goods nine months in advance only works if you truly know your customers. She says her motto started with her first advertising campaign. She chose a snowflake theme because, well…it was December, and she wanted to promote the idea that no two snowflakes are alike, just like no two of her customers are alike.
As her idol Coco Chanel said, “The best color in the whole world is the one that looks good on you.’ And Linda says she always strives to bring out her customer’s best. Honesty with our customers is imperative. If there is room for improvement we say so. Of course, she laughs and says, “there was that gal who insisted she would wear her pants backwards.”
Forty years has flown by as quickly as a half price sale. Looking back, Linda says her favorite memories include: The dinner we had at the Lantern Inn after my Grand Opening. My family all attended and my mother who was also an outstanding cake artist, made an all white multi-tiered cake with handmade sugar snowflakes. My 30th Anniversary Celebration with a gala style show and luncheon, when my sister attended and my brother surprised me by attending. And the day Doug walked into my store and said he wanted to meet me.
She didn’t comment on whether or not it was love at first sight, but says she still believes in things that pass the test of time – like the smartness of a tailored blazer paired with pants or jeans. Still as chic as the day she first laid eyes on them.
She says she is also proud to have been elected the first female president of the Milbank Chamber of Commerce and to have been a part of so many charitable groups. Linda and Doug have supported the Milbank Educational Foundation, Milbank Fire and Rescue, Milbank Hospital, Combined Appeal, Milbank Valley Hospice, Backpack Program, South Dakota Community Federation, Fairy Godmother Fund, It Only Takes a Spark, Milbank Snow Queen Festival, and Grow Castlewood,
All in all, she says she is grateful. “My parents always said, “Linda, you have worked hard to build what you have. You are so fortunate to have found Milbank, South Dakota.”