West End News: April 12

North Shore Market in Tofte, photo by Ruthie Hansen
North Shore Market in Tofte, photo by Ruthie Hansen

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Big changes are happening at the North Shore Market in Tofte. Nancy Iverson, who has been running the store for a number of years, is turning over management to Lisa Nelson. Lisa is a true Tofte native. In recent years she has been one of the friendly tellers at Grand Marais State Bank in Tofte. Before that, she was busy with her family’s business, Cooter’s Auto Repair and Firewood on the Sawbill Trail.

Lisa is bringing a lot of energy to her new position and has many plans for improvements at the store. One of those improvements is adding her daughter, Felicia, to the staff. Felicia has been living out of the area, but is moving back to help her mom at the store, at least for the next few months.

The North Shore Market was started more than 60 years ago by Alban and Edith Nelson as a grocery supplier for the logging camps that were scattered all over the woods in those days. In that era, each lumberjack lived in his own tarpaper shack with his own small kitchen. They were really independent contractors who were paid by the amount of pulpwood they cut and were responsible for their own cooking. They worked for the owner of a large timber sale and when the sale was finished, they would hook a cat to their shack and literally drag it to the next sale.

Back then, the North Shore Market wasn’t open to the public and was really more of a warehouse. The camp foremen would gather grocery orders from the lumberjacks, drop them off at the market and Edith would pack each lumberjack’s groceries in a cardboard box. The foreman would return the next day, load the boxes in the back of his pickup and deliver them to the jacks. The tradition of packing groceries in boxes continued at the market for decades.

There were a couple of other little grocery stores in Tofte, but eventually the Nelsons converted their warehouse into a full service grocery store. In the early 60s, Henry and Florence Wehseler bought the store from the Nelsons. Henry was a lumberjack and they continued to supply logging camps while expanding the store to serve both the local community and the growing tourist population. The Wehseler family ran the store for about four decades and made it the heart of the Tofte community. The logging camps slowly disappeared, but the store continued to grow and thrive. Henry and Florence retired about ten years ago and turned it over to the Iversons. Stay tuned for more North Shore Market news as this latest transition unfolds.

The musical “Grease” will be running at William Kelly High School Auditorium for the next couple of weeks. I’ve heard rumors that this is going to be a spectacular production and is not to be missed. The talented and experienced Paul Deaner is directing the Lake Superior Community Theatre production and my confidential source tells me that he is “pulling out all the stops.” Reserved seating is available by calling Roxanne at 218-220-0682. You can also find information on the web or by calling WTIP.

If you are a North Shore landowner, mark your calendar for this year’s North Shore Landowners Community Meeting on Friday, May 11th, 12:30 p.m. at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland. This free event is an opportunity for landowners to network and learn about current efforts to restore the North Shore forest. There will be discussions about forest restoration ideas, demonstrations of restoration techniques, and information about financial assistance for your restoration projects.

The meeting is sponsored by Sugarloaf: The North Shore Stewardship Association, University of Minnesota Extension Forestry Team and the North Shore Forest Collaborative, with funding from The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation. Contact Sugarloaf’s Molly Thompson at 218-525-0001 or, as always, look it up on the web or contact WTIP for information.

Construction has started on the several projects that are happening this summer at Birch Grove School and Community Center in Tofte. Bids requests are being sent out for some major improvements to the outdoor facilities. Mark Aldinger tore down the skating rink boards and Mike McMillan hauled them away. Tofte Township, who owns the building, is putting the old tennis court fencing and the old warming house up for sale. Information on the construction bids and the for-sale items is available in the community room at Birch Grove.

The Birch Grove Foundation is hoping to provide LOTS, which stands for “Learning Opportunities Through Stories” again this summer. If you have a child under school age, this is a fun hour-long parent/child activity. Call Patty Nordahl at 663-7977 to express your interest.

Birch Grove Foundation now has a Facebook page, providing quick access to all the news and activities at Birch Grove in that handy Facebook format.

It’s not too early to start planning for Marion McKeever’s Famous Fishcakes Fundraiser on Tuesday, June 12th at Satellite’s Restaurant in Schroeder. This is a very popular and longstanding event – not to mention being an authentic North Shore cultural experience. All proceeds go to Birch Grove and reservations are recommended, so call Patty at 663-7977 to get your spot nailed down.

Thinking about Marion’s fishcakes is making me really hungry, so for this week, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

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