In 1902, Alex and Alice Lundberg closed their Juddville store and built a general store in Fish Creek. They also built a large home at the corner of Cottage Row and Maple Street that’s now part of the White Gull Inn property.
The turn of that century – when tourism was beginning and new homes were going up on Cottage Row – was a promising time for entrepreneurs, and the store’s broad range of offerings reflected that. It was stocked with everything imaginable for everyday life: groceries, fabric, pulleys, celluloid collars, scented soap, clothing, wallpaper and paint.
In Ann Thorp’s history of the store, she referred to a picture of Alex and Alice in front of the building, taken about 1917. She noted that posters in the window urged citizens to send wheat, meat, fats and sugar to troops fighting in World War I. The Bell Telephone sign on the corner of the building marked the location of the first telephone in the village. With notes pinned to her apron as reminders, Alice relayed messages to the intended recipients when they visited the store.
Alex died in 1925. For two years afterward, Alice leased the store to William Bunda, who operated it as a branch of his business in Sister Bay. In 1927, Wilfred “Bill” and Ruby Vorous took over the lease and operated the store for 21 years. Bill had previously worked as a butcher in the grocery store that his father, Levi, owned on the southeast corner of Main and Pine streets, now the site of the Hide Side Corner Store. During the early 1920s, Bill owned the only auto in Fish Creek: a seven-passenger Studebaker with a jump seat that he used to take train passengers to Sturgeon Bay and drive tourists through Peninsula Park.
Bill’s son, Hudson, recalled that Bob Newberry did carpentry work in the building before the grand opening in late December 1927. Ruby took over the work that Alice Lundberg had done.
By this time, the store had three phone lines: one for local calls, one for long distance and one to Chambers Island. Hudson Vorous’ wife, Marian, did the bookkeeping for several years, and when their son, Gale, was a baby, she took him along and put him in a swing hung in the doorway, which attracted much attention from tourists.
Pearl and Iva Pelletier worked at the store for a few years. Vivian Duclon Shine, a clerk during the 1930s, remembered customers from Cottage Row visiting with long grocery lists and expecting to find the freshest produce and dairy products. Summer residents continued to shop during the Depression, but often without their usual servants.
In June 1948, Alvin and Janet Krause took over the lease, and the shop became a Red Owl store. The Krauses had previously managed six cottages that Janet’s parents owned at the entrance to Peninsula Park. Janet often shopped in the store for summer families and delivered telegrams and phone messages to them. When the Krauses started leasing the store, it had no refrigeration – just ice cases – and kerosene for customers was pumped from a large tank inside the building. The Krauses moved the kerosene tank and put in refrigeration. Harvey Malzahn and his father repainted the inside of the building, and new shelving was installed. Harvey sometimes helped out in the store when he was in high school, and Sharon Demarinis and Gordie Berkhom were also employees. During the winter, Janet sometimes climbed down through a trap door to fire the coal furnace in the basement.
In 1953, Arthur and Dorothy Alwes took over the business and bought it from the Lundberg estate in 1962. Arthur had been an accountant for Montgomery Ward and a Lutheran school teacher in Illinois. The couple began visiting Door County in 1937, bought property in Ellison Bay in 1949 and moved from Illinois to Fish Creek in 1953. Arthur bought the grocery store as a retirement business, and Dorothy managed it. They installed a walk-in cooler and refrigerated cases for meat and produce.
The Alweses’ three children and 12 of their 13 grandchildren worked in the family business through the years. Arthur died in 1962, and Dorothy continued to manage the store until her daughter, Carol Alwes Newman; and Carol’s husband, Lester, a Gibraltar teacher, acquired the business in 1978. The Newmans had also purchased the Pioneer Store in Ellison Bay in 1968 and operated a store in Baileys Harbor from 1983 to 1994. Dorothy Alwes died in 1984.