Remembering: Bob Jacobsen and Jacobsen’s Department Store

Northfield News writer Maggie Lee wrote a column on Bob Jacobsen last week: City says goodbye to beloved businessman Jacobsen. I thought I’d add some photos and images to the remembrance. (Click to enlarge.)

Bob Jacobsen Bob Jacobsen auction poster Bob Jacobsen
Bob was a big fan of the Northfield Historical Society. Left: By All Means Graphics Rob Schanilec’s photo that became the poster (center) for an NHS auction. Right: a photo from Carol Overland’s blog post tribute to Bob.

Jacobsen's web site banner

Screenshot of Jacobsen's Department Store website Screenshot of Jacobsen's Department Store website Screenshot of Jacobsen's Department Store website Screenshot of Jacobsen's Department Store website
Screenshots of the Jacobsen’s department store website, captured from the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Click images to enlarge.


  1. Hey Griff, you forgot to post the memorial service details above! From the Northfield News:

    NORTHFIELD – Funeral arrangements have been announced for longtime Northfield businessman Robert “Bob” Jacobsen, 82, who passed away Thursday.

    A representative of Bierman Funeral Home said Monday morning that visitation will be held Wednesday, Sept. 19 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the funeral home, 1316 Division St. S.

    The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 20 at the First United Church of Christ in Northfield, 300 Union St.

    A full obituary will be printed in a future edition of the Northfield News and will be available on the website.

    September 12, 2007
  2. Ross Currier said:

    Two years ago, I posted a mention of a letter that I’d gotten from Bob on an issue of importance to downtown:
    I truly appreciated that he always kept his eyes open in looking out for us.

    Last week, I got a call from a retired downtown business owner who felt that this generation of business owners wasn’t paying enough attention to sidewalk cleanliness. I was talking with Dave Shumway, King of the Downtown Sidewalk Sweepers, about this matter and we both remembered Bob sweeping his sidewalk every morning, greeting people and setting the standard.

    Heck, the guy not only swept his sidewalk, on Sunday afternoons, he’d weed and clean the public parking lot behind his building. When I’d wave to him, he’d shout “Don’t you think that City should be doing this?”. Yeah Bob, ever since you retired, it hasn’t looked as good.

    My strongest memory of Bob is personal. One time, many years ago, I ran downtown to pick up some items off of a shopping list for Jacobsen’s. I was no more than two steps in the door when Bob shouted from across the store, so that I and the dozen or so other shoppers could clearly hear, “Your wife just called to remind you that you need new underwear”.

    September 12, 2007
  3. victor summa said:

    Bob – what a guy! I recall, when planing the move to Northfield back in ‘94/’95… a friend – chef in a cafe in Linden Hills who had grown up on the outskirts of Northfield and still had family ties here, asked if I’d met Bob yet. With a snort and a roll of my critical eyes I basically allowed that I had… and what a character… Little did I know.

    Jeff , the Chef, proceeded to tell me of his visits as a young lad to the store with his mother, to purchase blue Jeans… and Bob being the consumers friend… would pour him into a bigger sized pair so that he’d “grow into them” and then proudly displaying the boy to his mother for approval… would gather the excess waistband in a bundle at the rear of the belt line and snug-up the fit so all looked well. Jeff received his first wedgie at the hands of the friendly haberdasher… and of course, wondered around Northfield for a few months with sagging blue jeans… but mom and Bob were happy.

    I started off with bob on the left foot, as he was the Chair of the Hwy. 3 Center Section Redesign Committee… devotedly opposed to the MN Dot takeover… but relentlessly polite and protective of those carpetbaggers, and demanded respect for them.. A self anointed parliamentarian, Bob ruled with a friendly but iron hand. I was new and brash back then (hoot hoot!) and began attending meetings with some other rabble… Keith Harrison, Art White, and a few others… with really good ideas and the need to engage MNDot… and assumed, as these were public meetings, taking public comment, ours were welcome. Well they were, but with measured acceptance… and being the newest and the most untested, Bob usually looked and listen to my involvement with critical concern and an eye on the clock. Ultimately, we came around and grew to become good friends. He even invited me to attend those 6:30 A M breakfast club meetings… with uncooked instant oatmeal at the happy Chef… and introduced me around. Relationships began to blossom.

    It was about then that Kiffi started shopping at the store with a heart more… and it took Bob only a few visits until he linked her with me… and proceeded to refer to her as Mrs. Victor. Not a good idea… and Kiffi in a good natured way explained the protocol to Bob… who promptly changed his ways and started referring to me as Mr. Kiffi.

    He was a joy to jaw with… in the store or at “tea” and I think more than once my antics at City Hall or about City process brought both approval and a good laugh to his day. I’m sure almost everyone in town has silently said to his or her self over the past few days… I wish I had made more effort to seek him out in his retirement. I know I have.

    Talking about Bob I’d really be remiss if I didn’t say how wonderful Elaine was – as an influence and silent bulwark for her Bob’s antics. For many months, when I’d walk-in… she was just there working in the store unassuming but always warm. It must have been quite an experience for her to stand on the sidelines for years… taking a major rollin the game’s outcome – but almost like player with no number on her jersey. From the window in Hogan’s sitting around the table having tea, I recall often Elaine’s emerging from Quality Bakery across the street, were she go for her break… only occasionally stopping by the men’s table with a message for Bob.

    I guess the real struggle for Elaine was when Bob became handicapped with his leg problems… and she’d spend a lot of time both at Mayo with Bob… and all other time at the store.

    I’m so happy that I came to the town with the store with a heart in time to experience their gifts… to each other and all of us. It is truly sad that they have both gone now. I’ll bet Elaine’s been waiting… silently waiting.

    I’m sure when Sara called to tell Ross he needed undies… Bob, sitting on the check out counter near the phone, answered using his strong voice of commerce: THIS IS BOB!

    On the other hand… Perhaps Sara never called. Bob might have made the call up and sold some undies. Boxers or briefs?


    September 13, 2007
  4. Richard Dorfsman said:

    I came from Mexico City to Northfield as a high school student, for the Carleton Summer Writing Program. It was around 1985. My suitcase was lost, and I had nothing but maybe a pair of underwear. I was about 15, much much too embarassed to admit to anyone that my clothes were lost. Fortunately my mom came up with me, and found out about Jacobsen´s. We went, told Bob what happened, and he treated me like royalty. He must´ve sensed my embarassment, and made buying all the socks, underwear, jeans, shirts etc. that I needed, like Christmas. He added a poster of some teenage rock star as a bonus. I felt like a star myself afterward. Thanks Bob.

    February 17, 2011

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