At this time last year…

March 1-2, 2007

One year ago, a blizzard hammered Duluth with 20+ inches of snow and winds in excess of 60 mph.

Galleries of storm photos still are available at duluthnewstribune.com. Here are three photos I contributed to the DNT Web site during the blizzard – one from my walk to work along the Lakewalk on March 1, and two from my walk back home during the height of the storm after midnight on March 2. It was by far the most intense winter storm I’ve ever experienced.

A bench along the Lakewalk is buried in drifting snow (foreground) while flags at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial flap in gusts of more than 50 mph on March 1. While the wind cleared snow from parts of the Lakewalk, other areas had drifts up to 4 feet deep. (Andrew Krueger / News Tribune)

————————-

Two pedestrians struggle to make their way east on Superior Street against the snow and wind during the height of the blizzard a little after midnight on March 2. Winds were gusting in excess of 50 mph, and much of the street was covered by several inches of snow. (Andrew Krueger / News Tribune)

————————-

Passersby help maneuver a stranded car into the parking lot of the SuperAmerica gas station at the corner of Superior Street and 12th Avenue East just before 1 a.m. on March 2. (Andrew Krueger / News Tribune)

The Magnolia Shoppe

Dec. 13, 2000

The Magnolia Shoppe has been a fixture on Grand Avenue since 1949. "Everyone has passed the Magnolia Shoppe at one time or another," former employee Deb Gergen said. "Prior to the freeway coming in, this was the main drag from the Twin Cities. And it was never a quick in-and-out kind of place either. So much of our society has become like that. And while it might be convenient, it really is too bad. Why are we all in such a rush?" (Derek Neas / News Tribune)

50 YEARS OF DRESS SUCCESS

ONCE A BLOOMING BUSINESS, THE MAGNOLIA SHOPPE’S ERA OF SERVICE AS ONE OF DULUTH’S BEST DRESS SHOPS IS COMING TO A CLOSE

By Chuck Frederick, Duluth News Tribune

The shop, straight out of the 1950s, still carries a hint of perfume and a gush of pamper.

But, like most things from the ’50s, West Duluth’s Magnolia Shoppe has been passed by time and fast food and microwaved dinners and modern society’s craving for instant gratification.

After half a century as one of Duluth’s most exclusive dress shops — the kind of place where sales ladies presented gowns to customers and treated them like the friends they became — the Magnolia Shoppe is about to become another hazy memory of a bygone era.

Longtime owner Mildred Ramseth is retiring. And while a closing date hasn’t been set for her Grand Avenue store, a going-out-of-business sale was launched the week after Thanksgiving.

"When people came in here, whether it was a bride or just someone who needed a dress for an affair, they were always made to feel special," said Deb Gergen, who worked in the shop when she was in high school and again after college.

"A bride would walk away from this shop feeling like a queen," said Gergen, Ramseth’s niece. "We practically followed them down the aisle, going to the church to help them into their dresses and to make sure their trains were straight and just so. We always took pride in helping to make that fairy-tale wedding come true. That’s just the kind of shop this always was."

Bev Menart, the store manager for about 30 years, knows women who bought prom dresses and wedding dresses at the Magnolia Shoppe, then returned years later when their daughters needed gowns for prom or for their weddings. "Customers are just now finding out that we’re closing," she said. "They come in and it’s ‘What are we going to do for dresses and gowns?’ They say if you go to the mall everything looks the same. And you just don’t get the same service at the mall that you do here." (Derek Neas / News Tribune)

———————

Like full-service gas stations, doctors who make house calls and barber shops run by old men, it’s also the kind of shop that just doesn’t exist much anymore.

Ramseth, who worked at a downtown dress shop in the 1940s, bought the Magnolia Shoppe in 1949 after seeing it advertised in the newspaper. With her husband, Arnold, working full-time for the Duluth Missabe and Iron Range Railway, she moved the business almost entirely on her own from Gary-New Duluth to 38th Avenue West.

In 1954, she bought a house at the store’s present location, had part of it torn down and had the front of the shop rebuilt, then moved with her husband into an upstairs apartment in the back. The couple never had children.

"She was really a pioneer," said Gergen, who now works for the Challenge Center in Superior. "A woman establishing a business of her own in the 1950s was just unheard of. And then keeping it going all these years.

She’s really someone to admire. She deserves recognition for her accomplishments.’

Ramseth wasn’t available to be interviewed for this story.

"She loved it every day, this place," Gergen said. "It was always her dream. She lived her dream. She just loved to sell."

"I remember her saying to customers, ‘That’s you. Oh, that’s you,’ " recalled Catherine John, a sales clerk for 15 years, retiring in 1972 when her two daughters got married.

"She always wanted to do better than the month before," John said. "Always. I feel sad that the store is closing. I have three daughters and a daughter-in-law who all shopped here and bought dresses here. This is a real loss for Duluth."

"I feel proud I was able to work at the Magnolia Shoppe. It was an exclusive place," said Min Erickson, who also worked 15 years as a sales clerk and who also retired in 1972 when a daughter got married. "We had a good bunch here. Millie always said that. She always said she could never have replaced us."

At the Magnolia Shoppe, the sales clerks always wore dresses of plain colors. Ramseth insisted they look professional, but she didn’t want their clothes to upstage the inventory.

Customers were gently led to the frilly softness of the front room, while sales clerks dashed to the storeroom in back to retrieve gown after gown. Brides-to-be were escorted to the living room-like bridal boutique upstairs.

Longtime customer Dorothy Thomas remembers accompanying her daughters to the upstairs bridal boutique at the Magnolia Shoppe. "I knew they’d find what I wanted there. There was always such a good selection," Thomas said. "My girls were treated so wonderfully there. There aren’t many places where you get that attention, that personal touch. In the Magnolia Shoppe, you’re a customer, a cherished customer and you were always made to feel that way." (Derek Neas / News Tribune)

———————

"If you bought something here, you knew you had a nice garment. And you knew no other girl at the prom would be wearing the same thing," said Irja Gaskill, a sales clerk for eight years starting in 1968. "It was THE place in town. A lot of nice people came here to buy clothes."

Those nice people included Ruth Neipp, who bought two mother-of-the-bride dresses from the Magnolia Shoppe some 25 years ago. She still has them.

"I was gorgeous in them," the North Shore neighborhood woman said. "I don’t have any more daughters to marry off, but the ones I do have just won’t let me get rid of those dresses."

Neipp hadn’t been to the shop in decades. But she and her husband, Robert, checkbook in hand, stopped by this month after spotting the hand-painted "Closing Sale’ signs in the window. They were in the neighborhood anyway, buying Christmas cookies at the Danish Bakery.

"Oh, it’s such a shame you’re going out of business," Neipp said while shopping. "This makes me sad. This place always had the best-quality clothes and so much to choose from. I still remember the name of the girl who sold my dresses to me. Her name was Lois."

Lois Stadler, undoubtedly. She was the second employee ever hired at the Magnolia Shoppe and worked there 27 years. She knows the shop will likely be put up for sale.

"It’s always been a beautiful place to work. The atmosphere here, the beautiful building," Stadler said. "We were all very proud to have worked here. Very proud. It would be nice if someone could come in and carry on the tradition."

"It would never be the same, though," Erickson said. "We always took the time to get to know our customers. We learned what they liked and we knew what to show them. We took care of people here and we had a lot of good times.

"The big stores have all taken over now," she said. "Customers just don’t expect that kind of service anymore. And that’s really too bad. It’s such a shame that we’ve lost that."

Magnolia Shoppe owner Mildred Ramseth added the store’s name and familiar logo to the tags inside every garment she sold. But she never included sizes on the tags. If a customer insisted she was a size 8 but was really larger, Ramseth could bring out the larger gown and the customer could leave feeling good about herself. "She was quite a saleswoman," store manager Bev Menart said. (Derek Neas / News Tribune)

Old Toy Department, Aisle 1

December 1963

It’s fun to look through old papers and see ads for toys you played with while growing up. We’ll post some of those old ads as a recurring feature of the News Tribune Attic, starting with…..

Some of the toys featured in a Dec. 8, 1963, ad for the Giant Toyland Sale at Montgomery Ward, 201 W. Superior St., Duluth:

Also included in the ad, something I’m sure parents were thrilled to see:

KIDS! WIN "JINGLES" IN WARDS TOYLAND

Jingles II, a pedigreed wirehaired fox terrier pup, will be given to some good little boy or girl for Christmas.

Kids – just write a letter to Santa saying why you would like to have a dog like Jingles for Christmas. Drop it in Santa’s special mail box in Wards Toyland. Winner to be drawn on Friday, Dec. 20. Jingles comes to Wards from Ramstad’s Kennels, Superior, Wis. See Jingles in person on KDAL-TV’s Treetop House, and the Cousin Tom Show.

B. Affleck on the scrap heap

November 1984

Nov. 2, 1984: Workers at the Hyman-Michaels scrapyard on Arthur Avenue in Duluth (off Garfield Avenue, near the Blatnik Bridge) work in the exposed engine room of the ore boat Richard B. Schiller. The Schiller, like the B.F. Affleck at right, are being cut apart for scrap. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

I wonder if the M. Damon was in the next berth over….

—————————-

Also from the same place and month:

Nov. 13, 1984: Railroad wheels are cut apart at the Hyman-Michaels scrapyard in Duluth. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

TV flashback: William Shatner is… T.J. Hooker

Fall 1985

From the News Tribune Attic’s TV promo files:

William Shatner (right) as T.J. Hooker, Heather Locklear as Stacy Sheridan, and James Darren as Jim Corrigan star in T.J. Hooker, the drama of a veteran police sergeant (Hooker) who rejected a detective’s badge to remain on the streets and train young recruits. (CBS promotional photo)

Apparently the show had been dropped by ABC after the previous season, and it was set to premiere as part of CBS’ late-night programming for the 1985 fall season.

Chinese Lantern fire

Jan. 16, 1994

Flames erupt from the upper windows and roof of the Chinese Lantern shortly after 7 a.m. Sunday as firefighters pour water into the three-story structure from their hoses and aerial trucks. Twelve units and up to 50 firefighters were at the scene in downtown Duluth. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

Lantern lost (published in the News-Tribune Jan. 17, 1994)

The Chinese Lantern, a landmark supper club popular among Northland residents and visitors for 30 years, caved into a shambles of scorches timbers and ice in little more than three hours early Sunday.

Up to 50 firefighters were called out in 18-below weather at 5:45 a.m., battling a downtown Duluth fire of unknown origin that started in the kitchen and quickly burst through the rooftop in a wall of flames that threatened the lives of a dozen firefighters inside.

Those firefighters evacuated the three-story building safely and all firefighters escaped without serious injuries during the eight-hour blaze.

Firefighters kept the fire from spreading beyond the concrete building at Fourth Avenue West and First Street. But by the time most were sent back to their stations, the roof had fallen in and much of the second floor Brass Phoenix nightspot was destroyed.

The main level fronting First Street had heavy smoke and water damage, its lobby photographs of prominent patrons barely visible amid the dirt and ice debris….

When and whether the restaurant can be rebuilt is uncertain. Owner Wing Ying Huie, 60, was able to enter the building to inspect the lower levels before noon.

Later he said he can’t decide whether to rebuild the business that has been at that location since 1976, when it replaced the original owner, the former prestigious Duluth Athletic Club. …

Huie opened the Chinese Lantern in 1964 at the Superior Street level of the Palladio Building, immediately behind the structure that burned. He was following a Huie family tradition of serving authentic Chinese specialties that began when his father, Joe Huie, opened a restaurant near the entrance of Canal Park in the early 1900s. …

[The Chinese Lantern] was known throughout the state and has been named one of the 200 best independent restaurants in the United States, Huie said proudly as he struggled to light a cigarette, shivering from the cold and anxiety of the morning.

"I tried my best here," Huie said. "The people in Duluth have been very good to me."

Acting Duluth Fire Chief Dan Haus emerges from the First Street door of the Chinese Lantern after the fire. The building was encased in ice after firefighters doused the blaze in 18-below temperatures. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

It’s the place where the famous came to eat (Jan. 17, 1994)

Elvis ate there. Pearl Bailey ate there. Walter Mondale ate there.

And chances are, if you’ve lived in Duluth for any length of time, you’ve eaten there, too.

The Chinese Lantern has been an institution here for 30 years. It’s the place tourists stop natives on the street and ask about. It’s one of the places – like the Aerial Bridge, like Glensheen – that comes to mind when people think of Duluth.

And Sunday morning, it was destroyed.

"I was absolutely flabbergasted," said former employee Rose Chida. "When my daughter called me and told me the news, I was just – flabbergasted."

Chida managed the restaurant in the old days, when it was in the Palladio Building. … It was her idea, she said, to move the restaurant up to First Street into the larger quarters of the former Duluth Athletic Club.

"I told Wing [owner Wing Ying Huie], when the line starts out the door and stretches down the street, it’s time to do something," she said.

In the 1960s and ’70s, the place was that popular. Not only did it attract customers from all over the world – including movie stars, politicians and musicians – but the restaurant also did catering for the former North Central Airlines. …

Jan. 17, 1994: Workers remove heavy items from the wreckage of the Chinese Lantern a day after a fire destroyed the downtown Duluth restaurant. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

The Chinese Lantern restaurant was not rebuilt, and the building has housed a succession of other bars and restaurants up to the present.

Sept. 24, 1994: Rusty Marshall of Lakehead Sign Co. works on taking down some Duluth landmarks – the signs of the Chinese Lantern restaurant, which burned earlier in the year. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

Comic books at Granada News

April 21, 1982

Ed Kleiman, owner of Granada News, stocks shelves of comic books. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

A News-Tribune assessment of the local comic book scene in the spring of 1982 included the photos that accompany this post. The photos were taken at Granada News, 15 W. Superior St. Other comic book hot spots, reported the News-Tribune, were the Book Nook, 23 N. First Ave. W, and Globe News in Superior.

Titles on the racks of Granada News in these photos include: ROM SpaceKnight, Star Wars, Team America, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, Conan, Jonah Hex, X-Men, Thor, Dazzler, Captain America, The Defenders and Power Man and Iron Fist.

Ed Kleiman, owner of Granada News, offered this comic book outlook:

"When the Hulk was big on TV a couple of years ago we’d sell 50 to 70 of him a month. Now he’s way down. Same with Iron Man. Lately it’s Daredevil and X-Men – we sell about 70 of each a month."

Teen Titans was poised to start selling big, Kleiman said.

Comic books line the racks at Granada News in downtown Duluth. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)