If these walls could talk: 110, 112, and 114 S. Main
We continue our series of semi-regular journeys through Culver’s past as we look at the lives of historic buildings in the Culver area. For now, we’re strolling down Main Street’s east side in down¬town Cul¬ver, making our way south.
This week, we’re stopping in at a couple of buildings today connected as one, at 110 (which includes 112) and 114 South Main Streets, where today we find The Collectors antique store (110 and 112 S. Main) and The Bear End (114 S. Main), both retail destinations operated by Ruth Mackey.
This week’s column has been one of the most challenging to research. Records from earlier years, and occasional tidbits from the Culver Citizen fill in the blanks for several decades, but ironically it’s been some of the more recent decades, those between about 1960 and the early to mid-1980s, which have proven most difficult in pinning down which business was where. This is complicated in part by a couple of factors: first, the building to the north, 110 (and at times 112) S. Main, often was occupied simultaneously by two separate businesses. Some readers may recall one business there, but not another. Further, that stretch of commercial Culver seems to blend into a bit of a muddle for many residents, including your editor. The Wickizer building to the north -- reported on in our last column -- seems so similar to 110/112 S. Main, and the smaller building at 114 S. Main so similar to its neighbor to the north, that sorting out who was where, and when, has me a bit dizzy! Hopefully, a few readers with all the answers will contact me once this column hits the streets, to fill in the holes a bit, such as they are.
Of the two buildings in question, the northernmost (110/112 S. Main) is by far the oldest, while 114 -- the Bear End -- was erected around 1947. For many years prior, the space was a vacant lot which the late Bill Snyder, longtime proprietor of Culver’s hardware store, one building south, once told me he remembered as frequently put to use for teen fistfights!
The 1906 Sanborn fire map shows 110 S. Main as a vacant lot, though by 1914’s map, a tin, harness, and shoe shop was operated there by William Foss and sons. Richard Nitzchke ran a barber shop in part of what was then known as the Amond building (for owner Frank Amond, of Maxinkuckee tour boat fame) in 1947.
The Culver Citizen on October 8, 1947, reported Don Priest had purchased The Grill (which presumably means it had already operated there for a time) and was renovating it to open the next month. Mr. and Mrs. Priest, incidentally, would open another restaurant in 1956, the Don-Marie on State Road 17 (in the building which would later become the home of Culver’s Eagles lodge, and is today the Market Basket & Co.), before retiring in 1959 due to Don’s health.
Verl Shaffer is one of several in Culver who recall the Grill being run by sisters Marcella White and Mildred Ditmire, when he first came to Culver in 1956. The sisters would soon thereafter open the M & M restaurant across the street 113 S. Main (site of today’s Cafe Max), starting in 1959 and until 1972.
Verl says, also, that Ted Ewing and his father ran a barber shop in the basement in the late 1940s or early `50’s.
“Bill Davis started his barber shop in the same basement,” adds Verl, “before moving in where Gail has her shop now (at 106 S. Main) in 1961.”
In March, 1958, the Citizen reported Helene Boots’ opening a wallpaper and paint shop at 110 S. Main. In 1962, Awnings by Amond opened for business there as part of Gold Coast Industries, a venture involving legendary Maxinkuckee tour boat Captain Frank Amond and his son Eddie (along with a Florida-based partner), which among other things manufactured the actual awnings. These were sold and installed by way of the store front. Verl also recalls a beauty shop operated by someone from Argos, at 110 S. Main, starting in 1962.
The Citizen reported in the January 23, 1963 edition, that the “Culver Community School Unit” would soon open up an office at 110 S. Main.
Bobbie Ruhnow remembers Helen Timmons (with husband Frank) running a beauty shop in one of the sections of 110 S. Main into the early 1950s. For several years, at least part of the building functioned as Al Sytsma’s appliance store annex.
In June, 1983, Ron and Ruth Mackey opened The Collector’s antiques and The Bear End (bear/collectible stuffed animal store) at the site, the Collectors continuing as Culver’s antique store of record, under Ruth’s care following Ron’s passing away.
Various businesses operated at the store under the official address of 112 S. Main, including Phyllis Zehner’s beauty shop, Mary Tanguy’s Mary’s Shoppe (from April, 1984 to 2000), and the expansion of the Mackeys’ store into its present configuration there. Three apartments occupy the upstairs of the building, having been remodeled in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, at the aforementioned former vacant lot at 114 S. Main, Duke’s Jewelry and Gifts moved into the newly-built structure in November, 1947, occupying the place until 1952.
According to his entry in the Marshall County Sesquicentennial book, Earl Dean Overmyer opened his plumbing and heating business (the first air conditioned shop in Culver, it’s noted) around 1953. While the book doesn’t mention it, all evidence points to 114 S. Main as the site. The late Earl (who died in 1995) and his wife Helen ran the business there for several years. Eldest son Lance -- who of course still is involved in Overmyer Soft Water, now on Jefferson and Plymouth Streets -- came into the business in 1962. However, the business didn’t stay at that site through the years. In the 1960s, Jack Spencer opened Spencer’s plumbing there, a business which included natural gas delivered from his large tank on State Road 17, recalls John Sage (who would later occupy the shop). Spencer operated from 114 S. Main for years, prior to Emil “Bud” Ruhnow buying out his business in the 1970s.
Bud actually moved the operation a block south to the horseshoe-shaped building (now a parking lot) at 226 S. Main, which had been Emil Senior’s. According to Bud and his wife, Citizen correspondent Bobbie Washburn Ruhnow, Bud Ruhnow never operated his business out of 114 S. Main, but briefly used the store as storage for his equipment. He remembers a Plymouth-based law firm opening for business after he vacated 114, and staying there a few years before leaving the building completely vacant for a time.
In 1984, John Sage says be began renting 114 S. Main from Paul Snyder, who had owned it for years (Ruhnow also rented it from him). Sage’s Insurance occupied part of the building at the time, while Jerry Thomas operated his real estate business in the other part.
“We were in the south end of it,” John Sage recalls. “All we had was a desk inside the door -- I had a dinky, little room behind it!”
When Thomas Realty departed in 1986, John and June Sage took over their part of the building, which they occupied until 1990, though by 1988 he says he’d purchased the former Poppe’s Appliance building on Lake Shore Drive (today occupied by Dawn Minas’ Culver Coffee Company) in 1988, and was renovating it prior to moving Sage’s Insurance there in 1990. Sage replaced a surf shop at the Lake Shore Drive site and would sell the building to Dawn circa 2006 for the coffee shop.
Jean Snyder ran Thru the Grape Vine at 114 S. Main in 1993, and Nancy Baxter briefly opened Maxinkuckee Korner the same year. The Painter & Poet Gallery, operated then as now by Esther and Ward Miller, opened in the building in the 1990s (they would later relocate to their present home and shop at 307 N. Main).
UPDATE: Verl Shaffer filled in a gap at the Wickizer building a few doors north of the hardware, and 106 and 108 N. Main. He points out he rented the northernmost side of the building, site of Gail's shop today, from 1962 to 1968 for $35 a month in Hattie Wickizer's building. If $35 a month sounds cheap, consider that hair cuts at Verl's "cost $1.75 in 1962," he wrote. "A lot of cuts just to pay rent. Eletric bills (ran) around $15 a month...in the late `50s, I gave (my wife) Sylvia $10 a week for groceries, and she had money left over."