Long synonymous with women’s fashion in Madison, Yost-Kessenich’s flagship store was a State Street landmark for 75 years. The building’s French Renaissance facade was incorporated into the main entrance of the Overture Center for the Arts, which opened its doors in 2004. The last bastion of the family-run company, the Yost’s Bridal Salon on University Avenue, went out of business in fall 2007.
Dating back to the 1890s, early Kessenich stores were located around the Capitol Square. In 1916, Frank Kessenich opened a department and dry goods store at 26 North Carroll Street, which he ran with his two sons, Frank, Jr. and Harry. During the expansion of Madison’s downtown shopping district in the 1920s, Kessenich’s became one of the first large-scale stores to be located on State Street. The store had several names over the years, including Kessenich’s Dry Goods and Kessenich’s Department Store.
The name Yost’s came into play in the 1930s, when the Kessenich family rented space in their building to the Yosts, and John Yost married Adelaide Kessenich, Frank, Sr.’s daughter. Carrying on their grandfather’s legacy, Frank and Harry formed Yost Brothers, Inc., and expanded the business to include a dozen stores throughout the Madison area.