The Northland Antique Radio Club Newsletter
The Gamble Museum
by Greg Farmer
What a fun surprise! I stopped by Walker Methodist Health Center at 3737 Bryant Avenue South in Minneapolis to visit someone a few days ago and discovered a beautiful little museum in their lobby displaying about 20 vintage Coronado brand radios!
Coronado was the store brand on radios sold by Gamble-Skogmo since around 1930, and this museum contains a wide variety of Gamble-Skogmo radios and other products. The various Coronado radios included several consoles, portables, wood tombstones, bakelites, a cathedral, a clock radio, some battery operated farm radios, and even a glass-topped chair-side! These all had informative signs by them with model numbers and other information, but I found it most interesting that manufacturers included Kingston Radio Corporation, Wells Gardner, Warwick Manufacturing Company, and Belmont.
It all started in 1920 when Bertin Gamble and Philip Skogmo bought an auto dealership together in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The sale of auto parts and accessories was the most profitable part of their business, so in March 1925 they opened the first Gamble Auto Supply store in St. Cloud. By 1928, after adding housewares, hardware, appliances, etc., to their shelves, they had 55 stores and moved their headquarters to 700 N. Washington Avenue in Minneapolis. By 1939 they were selling franchises and had 1500 Gamble dealers and 300 corporate stores in 24 states. Following World War II, their headquarters moved to 8th and Hennepin, and in 1968 they moved into their new $2 million headquarters building near the intersection of Highways 100 and 12 in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. By the late 1970s they were the 15th largest retailer in the United States with 4200 outlets and 26,000 employees in 39 states, including such diversified businesses as Aldens, Womans World Shops, Toy World, Red Owl Grocery and Snyder Drug stores.
In March 1975, to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first Gamble Auto Supply store, the B.C. Gamble Museum was created in the Gamble-Skogmo Corporate Headquarters building. The museum displayed a wide variety of merchandise that was sold in the early Gambles Hardware Stores, along with awards and memorabilia highlighting Mr. Gamble's merchandising accomplishments and community philanthropic participation.
Philip Skogmo had died in 1949, and Bert Gamble retired in 1977. The company was sold to the Wickes Corporation of California in 1980 and they went bankrupt a few years later. But, through special arrangements made by Bert Gamble before his death in 1988, and with funding support of the B.C. Gamble and P.W. Skogmo Foundation, the Gamble Museum has survived. I'd highly recommend that anyone interested in Coronado radios, or other Gamble-Skogmo products, should stop in at the Gamble Museum, now in the lobby of Walker Methodist Health Center, for a visit!