ESCANABA - The spray from the little bay could almost reach the window panes of the marine supply grocery store.
When the wind blew cold waves in from the north and the lighthouse glowed on the horizon, the warmth within the wooden clapboard building was there to welcome residents and sailors in Escanaba.
The N. T. Stephenson Store stood at 301 Ludington Street from the late 1920s until the 1960s. It served Escanaba with the essentials - flour, butter, and bacon - but more importantly, it severed the once busy merchant's docks with food and supplies.
The N.T. Stephenson’s IGA Store, once located at 301 Ludington Street, made regular “deliveries” to the merchant docks and even sailed out to the boats in the harbor where the supplies that were ordered from the store were hoisted up onto the vessels.
A grocery order dated Oct. 10, 1934, was made to the N.T. Stephenson’s IGA Store from Str. R.J. Reiss. A check on Google shows an Reiss Steamship Company of Sheboygan, Wis., that operated a fleet of four steamers named after four brothers who were partners in the business. One of them was Richard J. Reiss. These steamers had a carrying capacity of 7,500 net tons and carried coal to various docks in the lake cities and towns of the Northwest, bringing back iron ore and grain. Is this the same “Reiss” that placed the order? Perhaps.
In the area where the Municipal Dock is today, several docks stood over the years. Port Escanaba was once thriving with commerce.
The boats used short wave radios to call in their needs to the Stephenson Grocery. Everything from olives to oranges was boxed up and loaded into Stephenson's small boat waiting at the dock. The groceries went out to meet the ship. Ropes were lowered and the goods were hoisted up.
A successful business transaction transpired!
Many of our parents and grandparents remember shopping at the Stephenson's too. This store was located near where the Michigan State Office building is today. (The driver's license place). Many of the south eastside residents of town frequented this mercantile.
I learned of this old store's history through Pat McDonough of Escanaba. He recalled his first job, at a very young age, plucking chickens for the Stephenson Grocery.
He also researched the history of this business and found the photo and launch delivery list at the Dr. John Beaumier Museum & Archives. The store was run back then by, Norm and Florence Stephenson and no connection to the famous Isaac Stephenson could be found.
It is interesting to learn how the marine traffic affected the business in Escanaba years ago. Many north Escanaba folks will recall Breitenbach's Store on Sheridan Road that served the ore boats for many years.
As I look from the library side of the street down to where the Stephenson Store once stood, I can almost hear the cash register.
The gulls still squawk and the waves still beat on the shore as the business and beauty of Escanaba continues!
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of north Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published each Friday in Lifestyles.