In the early 1980s, downtown Sioux Falls had more empty storefronts than full. Jeff Danz and his brother, Greg, both lived downtown and said they wanted to be part of its “renewal.”
“We spent our lunch breaks looking at empty buildings and landed on 209 S. Phillips Ave.,” recalled Jeff. “Pigeons were the only tenants in the previous 20 years. The wood floors were warped from years of a leaky roof, and the front of the building was covered with large tiles from 1950’s Kinney Shoes and a rough wood façade from a 1960’s waterbed store.
The next year, the Danz brothers restored the building to its original state and began planning their business, which is now a Sioux Falls staple, Zandbroz Variety.
“We knew we would sell books, have a soda fountain coffee bar, and we would carry things that ‘big box’ didn’t,” said Jeff. “Our mission was, and is still, to create an entertaining environment with an eclectic inventory that is constantly evolving.”
“When we opened, there weren’t many people living downtown and there wasn’t much visitor traffic. Both of those things have changed dramatically. The city’s investment in Falls Park, downtown Sioux Falls, River Greenway, and historic preservation, coupled with lots of private investment, large and small, has made downtown the place to visit and a vibrant neighborhood to live in.” – Jeff Danz
Zandbroz Variety opened in 1989, and the brothers shared managerial duties. In 1993, the duo opened a second location in Fargo, ND. Greg moved his family to Fargo and still runs that location. Jeff ’s wife, Jamie Scarbrough, manages the Sioux Falls store with the help of long-time employee Justin Enger.
The store has a curated selection of books, stationery, toys, candles, body care products, jewelry, and what Jeff says is “the unexpected.” The holiday season brings even more inventory to browse.
“Funny ornaments, cards, seasonal tea, candles… We always look forward to the crazy ornaments that no one else carries,” said Jeff. “Snarky Christmas cards lift our customers spirits, seasonal tea is nice and comforting after a long day on your feet, and finally a winter-scented candle, like pine or firewood, keeps us in the mood at work.”
“recently we’ve had customers visiting from New York and Los Angeles tell us Zandbroz is their favorite store. This happens a lot, and it’s always a pleasant surprise.” – Jeff Danz
One thing Zandbroz Variety is definitely known for is having gifts with a sense of humor.
“With all the crazy stuff going on in the world, we all need a good laugh. Some of our vendors are doing some creative, fun stuff with socks, coffee mugs, stickers, and cards,” said Jeff.
Jeff says the supply chain issues from the pandemic resulted in Zandbroz Variety to look for new vendors, during which they discovered new resources and products. As a result, the store now has a greater selection of inventory and price points.
“We are sourcing more from small entrepreneur-driven companies in the United States and a few from Great Britain,” he said.
They also have an online store, but Jeff says the in-store experience and enjoying downtown is what is more important to them.
“Doing our best” is a motto he says they strive for every day, and the word has traveled worldwide and through many generations.
“Visitors, business travelers, and people come home to see family tell us that Zandbroz is an important part of their Sioux Falls visit,” said Jeff. “We’ve met three generations of many families. Toddlers that came to the store with their parents are visiting us with kids of their own, a common occurrence. We don’t take that for granted, we hope their experience inspires the next visit.”
Things You Didn’t Know About Zandbroz Variety
+ Zandbroz has a friendly ghost. Jeff says they have always felt it looks out for them.
+ In the first two years, Zandbroz collected over 200 misspellings of Zandbroz. They stopped collecting them, but still see a new one once in a while. (“Zamboni; Sambones.”)
+ There are always over 25 different colors of paint in the shop.
+ Founding brothers, Greg and Jeff, have been business partners since they were 10 and 12, starting with a paper route, and then selling lucky number score cards, pop, and peanuts at baseball games.
+ Zandbroz’s soda fountain was the first place in town patrons could get an espresso. “Now you can throw a rock and hit a coffee joint,” said Jeff.
+ March 10, 1996 “The New York Times” Sunday Edition did a full page article about Sioux Falls that centered on Zandbroz. Two fo the newspaper’s reporters spent two days in town while they waited for their broken-down car to be repaired.
Jeff says they had the tow truck driver drop them off downtown, and “On that cold winter Sunday, they found their only refuge at Zandbroz, as nothing else was open.”
Over the last 33 years, Zandbroz Variety has changed. The store used to have an operational soda fountain and coffee bar, which still stands minus the beverages. They also hosted author talks and book signings, which have since become less frequent.
“Every day we work to make the store better. Times change, and so must we,” said Jeff.
Another change over the last few years has been the addition of the vintage area in the back of the store. Jeff says people have lovingly called it “the museum,” as pieces include a restored Concert Roller Organ, a folk art tribute to World War II, and a large vintage circus poster collection.
Jeff and Scarbrough take work home with them, quite literally. The couple lives in the residence above Zandbroz Variety and say they feel like they live on “Eat Street” with all of the dining options.
Gift Guide Ideas from Jeff
+ Bath bombs
+ “City of Hustle: A Sioux Falls Anthology”
+ Fine pens
+ Michael Michaud jewelry
+ Stonewall Kitchen with a tea towel
“Parker’s Bistro, Minerva’s, Sushi Masa, Crawford’s, M.B. Haskett’s, Bread & Circus Sandwich Kitchen, and Dada Gastro Pub. I’m a fool for a good bakery, and we have the best in Queen City Bakery, CH Patisserie, and Breadico,” said Jeff. “We like to keep up with what’s new downtown so we can help customers and visitors find what they are looking for. The retail community is pretty close knit; we promote each other and work together.”
And during the holiday retail season, Zandbroz is famous for its unique window displays.
When 605 asked for this year’s window display theme, Jeff replied, “It’s a secret every year until Black Friday, but I’ll give you a hint cookies.”