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Former roller rink owners remember how it was

Owner Rita Jenkins holds a stuffed animal from one of her hundreds of items in the toy section of her odds-and-ends store just off of Hwy. 65N. <i>Gretta Stark photo</i>2 / 2

Everywhere they go, Doug and Rita Jenkins are recognized as the owners of the River Falls Roller Rink and Das Spielhaus, a roller skating rink and bar that were torn down 21 years ago.

Fewer local people know about the shop Doug and Rita have run for the past 16 years.

The This 'n That Second Hand Shop is just north of River Falls on a short frontage road off of Hwy. 65 N towards Roberts.

The shop sells everything from house wares, to children's toys, to doilies Rita crochets herself.

"It's hard to categorize because every corner has something different," said Rita.

Her products are next-to-new, and she said it is important to her to keep prices affordable for customers.

"It's kind of a service to people that are looking for this type of thing," said Jenkins, "and I don't care who buys what because if people with a lot of money come by, then I can go buy more. And if people come in that are really short, they can find something."

This 'n That opened in October 1994 as a replacement for the roller rink and Das Spielhaus.

Jenkins says customers who stop by often reminisce with her about the roller rink or Das Spielhaus, but many newer people in River Falls don't know anything about the old roller skating rink.

In addition to roller skating, the rink used to hold teen dances, weddings (in combination with Das Spielhaus) and performances by such artists as Jerry Lee Lewis, George Hamilton IV, and the Beach Boys.

Jenkins said that when the Beach Boys came to play -- when that famous band was just starting out -- at the River Falls roller rink, group memebers stopped to skate afterwards.

"When they got done performing, they asked, 'Now, can we roller skate?'" said Jenkins.

Jenkins said the band's father wasn't pleased because the Beach Boys had to perform the next night, and he didn't want anyone to get hurt and have to cancel the performance. But the Beach Boys asked Rita's husband Doug if they could skate.

"He said, 'If you can find skates, but I'm not giving 'em to ya.' They leaped over the counter and they all put their skates on and they went roller skating for a long time," said Rita.

Das Spielhaus, attached to the roller skating rink, was a bar Doug and Rita opened when they had wedding receptions at the roller rink.

They chose the name because they enjoyed the welcoming, fun atmosphere of the beer gardens they visited on a trip to Germany, and wanted to bring that atmosphere to their store.

The right atmosphere is something Doug and Rita try to maintain in This 'n That.

Rita favorite part of working in the store is getting to see regular customers and meeting new people.

Jenkins says customers of all ages come in her store, from adults to children. Sometimes parents will come in with their children, so the kids can buy something.

"Maybe they'll have a dollar or two to spend, and then the child has to figure out what they can get for that. And oh, are they busy," said Jenkins.

Jenkins keeps a section of her store filled with stuffed animals, trucks, and other children's toys as well as kids' books and movies.

"I do sell a lot of toys, especially to grandmas," said Jenkins. She gets most of the customers looking to buy presents around holidays when she stocks holiday-themed items.

Jenkins shops for the items she sells at garage sales, church sales, and similar sales most weekends in the summer. She said she enjoys meeting people when she's out shopping, many of whom remember the roller rink and Das Spielhaus.

"Especially if they had their wedding dance here, you know, that's something that you never forget," said Jenkins.

This 'n That is open Thursdays-Fridays 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048