She'll go out in a Dayton's box, if you please

  • Article by: ERIN ADLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 9, 2014 - 3:00 PM

Phyllis Lokker of Apple Valley found joy late in life in going to work at Dayton’s — later Macy’s — a favorite from childhood.


At age 81, Phyllis Lokker retired from her job at Macy’s last week.

Photo: Erin Adler Star Tribune,

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Though full of life at age 81, Phyllis Lokker has already planned her funeral arrangements.

She wants to be cremated and buried in a forest green Dayton’s box, a cardboard relic she saved from before the Minnesota institution became Marshall Field’s and later Macy’s,.

“I want to go in a Dayton’s box,” the Apple Valley resident said. “I know God, and he’s got a sense of humor.”

There might even be shopping in heaven, she figures, since God is the one who made people love it.

For 14 years Lokker worked 30 hours a week at her “dream job,” selling first handbags and later jewelry at what is now Macy’s in downtown Minneapolis. She finally retired two weeks ago.

It was a late-in-life arrival at a store she had loved for much of her life. And it didn’t disappoint.

“I loved every minute of it,” she said. “It wasn’t work. I looked forward to it.”

Treat people with respect and find joy in your work, she said, and the time will fly by.

Hers is a story that newcomers unaccustomed to the Dayton’s mystique, and its deep roots in the state, might find mystifying. The rest of us can relate.

Bus downtown

Going to work in the city meant taking the express bus from Apple Valley, sometimes transferring to light rail at the Mall of America.

Though she occasionally got home at 11 p.m., Lokker enjoyed the ride because the buses were so nice. “I felt like a movie star, taking a bus like that,” she said.

Lynn Wytaske, her daughter, said there’s no doubt that her mother was skilled at her job, meeting sales quotas and convincing customers to open credit cards. But Lokker also connected with people.

“I think she brought more of an experience than just purchasing something.”

‘You get what you pay for’

For a century, Dayton’s was a familiar household name for many Minnesota and Wisconsin families. Growing up, Lokker’s family made the trek once or twice a year from Ladysmith, Wisc. to Dayton’s in downtown Minneapolis to shop for clothes or housewares.

She still has a photo of herself, her blonde hair cut in a blunt bob, taken there at age six. Even then, she loved the store.

“I always felt good because it was a nice, nice place,” she said.

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