Editor’s Note: What Is Door County?

“That just isn’t Door County.”

If you attend enough meetings, or just spend a morning tucked into a cozy corner of a coffee shop and eavesdrop on chitchat for long enough, you’ll hear someone say it. But if you get brave and butt into the conversation to ask what is Door County, you’ll be hard pressed to get a consistent answer. 

For some, Door County is defined by its beaches and the water. For others, it’s the arts and culture — the never-ending list of galleries and performances. If you’re from here, those might not even be on your radar when the question is raised. You might have images of farms in your head, or lazy Sundays with half the town at a Door County League baseball game, or the work ethic of people schlepping trays to tables at restaurants or plying their trade in the hull of a ship. 

In Door County Living, we’ve always tried to portray the many colors, shapes and sides of the peninsula. Though much of our aim is toward the visitor on a journey of discovery, we toil to ensure that our pages portray the essence of our home and our neighbors. 

It’s why in this issue we’re featuring woodworker/carpenter Fred Wahlen, a man equally a craftsman and an artist. It’s why we look back to unearth the On The Rocks dive lodge and a short-lived era when diving drew young adventurers to the peninsula. 

Or it’s Bob Potier’s memoir about growing up on a farm in southern Door County, when life was simple and the outhouse was at the center of it. Don and Polly Helm making the leap here from Kentucky and embedding themselves in the community. Anders Erickson turning a one-night-a-week bartending gig into a career as a mixologist and yearning to make his way home. 

So what is Door County? 

I’ve been searching for that answer for 42 years. I haven’t found it in landscaping, or building design, or in a fish-boil pot. It’s not goats, or cherries, or sailboats. The best answer I can come up with always takes me back to the people. I hope you enjoy meeting them and exploring their passions in these pages as much as we do. Who knows? Maybe one day, the answer will be you.

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