Far West Market closes, 1995

November 19, 1995

Mike Cragin, owner of the Far West Market in Gary-New Duluth, will close up shop next month. The store is located at 1306 Commonwealth Avenue in the Gary-New Duluth neighborhood. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune)

WRONG SIZE FOR SURVIVAL

GARY’S OLD FAR WEST MARKET FINALLY FALLS TO MEGAMARKETS AND NEARBY CONVENIENCE STORES

News-Tribune

There’s a sense of relief in Mike Cragin’s voice as he talks about the closing of his little three-aisle market and deli.

His last two paychecks sit on a desk in his basement office, located inside an old walk-in cooler. There’s not enough money in the account to cover those checks, he says.

After more than 65 years in business, the Far West Market in the Gary-New Duluth neighborhood will close sometime next month.

Cragin, who has owned the market for the past 12 years, says several factors brought him to this point.

Too many convenience stores have opened between his Gary-New Duluth neighborhood and the West Duluth shopping district near Central Avenue. The supermarket warehouses that have come to town in recent years have also cut into business.

Earlier this month, Cragin took a job as meat manager at the Jubilee store in Cloquet.

"It’s like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders," Cragin, 37, said during a recent interview, as a stream of customers came through the market.

Mike Cragin, owner of the Far West Market in Gary-New Duluth, stands by a sausage stuffer that is still used and may be as old as the market, which opened in the 1920s. While some neighbors find the store just what they need, owner Mike Cragin says the growth of larger supermarkets and the proliferation of convenience stores in nearby West Duluth have taken away customers. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune)

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The Far West Market’s specialty — homemade sausage and lunchmeats — still draws customers. But in general, people are eating less meat than they did 10 years ago, Cragin said. Another saving grace is the catering business he runs out of the store. Without that, he said, the Far West Market probably would have shut down four years ago.

There still are a number of neighborhood markets and delis in Duluth. They find ways to survive without gas pumps out front or acres of shelf space inside.

But some have closed in the past few years: the former Snow White market in Woodland, an IGA store in Morgan Park.

"I look back at the good, old days when your checkbook was your barometer of how you were doing," said John Nygard, owner of the Fourth Street Market in Duluth’s Central Hillside. Now the business and the bookkeeping are more complex, and large competitors are always a factor.

Nygard is lucky. A large percentage of his customers live within walking distance of the store. And the business got a boost when the Sixth Avenue IGA closed two years ago. But there are still challenges.

"One of the most critical factors is larger stores getting preferential treatment from suppliers," he said. The stores that buy in bulk get more attention from sales representatives, he said. "They tell me it’s cheaper to deliver to a big store."

Kim Brown bags groceries for a customer at Far West Market in the Gary-New Duluth neighborhood in November 1995. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune)

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At the Far West Market, there are countless longtime customers who regularly stopped by for milk and bread, and some who came for bigger purchases.

Millie Belich, a member of St. George’s Serbian Orthodox Church, located four blocks from the market, has been buying beef for pasties from the store for the past 20 years. The church choir sold the pasties twice a year as a fund-raiser. The store also catered church dinners and weddings.

"If we needed more of something, he would bring it right up to us," she said. "He’s going to be missed very, very much."

Cragin said he’s always had to work hard just to keep the Far West Market operating day-to-day, even with 8-10 part-time employees. And Cragin says he hasn’t had a vacation — except for some long weekends — for 9 1/2 years.

The earliest picture Cragin has of the store dates to 1929, when it was owned by the Burger family. The Nygards owned it for most of the 1970s and Cragin says they gave him a good deal on the store when he bought it in the early 1980s.

Cragin has 10 sisters and two brothers, and the Far West Market has been a family business in its truest sense. All his siblings except two sisters worked there. He’s also employed eight nieces and nephews over the years, he said.

He’s been trying to sell the store for two years, but now plans to sell off the grocery stock and equipment and hope someone will buy the building.

"If someone’s in the middle of a recipe and they need a green pepper, it’s all the way to West Duluth now," he said.

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The Far West Market building at 1306 Commonwealth now houses Moose Lodge #1478.

Share your memories of the Far West Market by posting a comment.

- Andrew Krueger

Loverboy comes to town, 1982

February 15, 1982

A screaming contingent claiming to be half the city of Virginia joined several thousand other rock fans crammed into the entrance of the Duluth Arena on Monday, February 15, 1982, before a concert by rock groups Loverboy and Quarterflash. Tickets for the concert sold out faster than any show since Elvis Presley, and the doors opened an hour and a half early to handle the crush of the 8,000 fans. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

Quarterflash, Loverboy bring good rockin’ to Duluth Arena

By Bob Ashenmacher, News-Tribune staff writer

Quarterflash was good at the Duluth Arena on Monday night. Lead singer Rindy Ross threaded her alto sax and appealing voice through 40 minutes of material sure to make Pat Benatar more irritable than she must be already. The sellout crowd of 8,000 was swaying and yelling for more after the group’s climactic hit single, "Harden My Heart."

So return Quarterflash did, to end things with a lark. They brought out the Byrds’ "So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star," shining with a touch of chrome from Patti Smith’s version, and left the crowd wanting more.

Quarterflash was good, all right.

But the headline act, Loverboy, simply blew them out of the water.

Two or three songs into the Canadian quintet’s set, it was clear they were an exceptionally good live band – an hour later they’d blasted out the best night of rock at the Arena in a long, long time.

They exhibited qualities you just don’t expect to find in stadium acts. Technically, they sounded as good as their records. Lead singer Mike Reno’s voice got stronger as the night wore on. They kept the songs short and didn’t dink around between them. Best of all, they worked as hard onstage – as joyfully – as anyone I’ve seen since Springsteen.

From the first notes that jumped out of group leader Paul Dean’s guitar, the crowd was in his hands. But he and Reno never played down to their audience, or played hard to get. They just worked their butts off to wring even louder screams out of the hoarse mass that jammed the Arena floor, and the seats up to the rafters.

Much of the group’s material is standard hard rock fare. The rhythms are re-hashed, the lyrics typical, and the slower numbers, especially, sound shamefully close to Foreigner, But just when you’ve written off a plodding synthesizer waddle, keyboard maan Doug ("Doctor J") Johnson pulls out a saxophone and blows a bluesy sixteen-bar solo melody that seems to come from nowhere. He weaved a lot of delightful moments like those Monday night, using everything from electric piano to gravelly organ.

Dean, too, is intelligently flamboyant on his instrument. And Reno was so sexy I thought the girls in front would faint with ecstasy when he stuffed a bandana down his tight black Levis.

The group did 15 songs in a solid 90-minute set. The big crescendo started about 9:30 p.m., with "Turn Me Loose," and increased with "The Kid Is Hot Tonite." The place went nuts, absolutely nuts, with "Working for the Weekend." It’s a great party song, and as mentioned, Reno’s voice seemed to be getting more powerful all the time.

The kid in front of me, who looked to be about 14, could only mutter, "Excellent. Excellent." The Bic lighters flared through the gloom like the biggest planetarium you ever saw.

Right-o, kid. There was good rockin’ Monday night in Duluth.

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Loverboy returned to Duluth for a concert in the summer of 1983, and again on March 30, 1986. The group played the Head of the Lakes Fair in Superior in 2002, and performed at Grand Casino Hinckley in 2004.

Here are some early-1980s publicity shots of Loverboy from the News Tribune files. The first photo is from 1980, the second from 1982:

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And here are a few close-ups of that crowd photo at the start of this post:

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Were you at the 1982 concert? Do you recognize anyone in the crowd? Share your memories by posting a comment.

- Andrew Krueger

 

Bye-bye, Buena Vista, 2005

August 29, 2005

The Buena Vista motel-lounge-restaurant along Skyline Parkway in Duluth, August 2005. (Bob King / News Tribune)

BYE-BYE, BUENA VISTA

SADNESS AND PROGRESS MERGE AS A LANDMARK RESTAURANT AND MOTEL CLOSES TO MAKE WAY FOR CONDOMINIUMS

Duluth News Tribune

All summer, loyal customers flocked to the Buena Vista for one last gaze at Lake Superior or for one more plate of sweet potato breaded walleye.

They also came to say goodbye.

After more than 40 years, the hilltop motel-lounge-restaurant, with its windows so large the dining room resembled an air traffic control tower, was closing for good. The motel checked out its last guests eight days ago. The restaurant and lounge will pour its final taps and serve its last plates of crepes and sweet potato chips in September.

"Do I hate to see it go? Absolutely. It’s a very nice place," said Bob Magie, 62, who, with partners Bob Nylen and Jerry Strum, has owned the property on Mesaba Avenue near Central Entrance since January 1986.

"But what’s going to replace it will also be very nice and will be a wonderful addition for the city of Duluth," Magie said.

Condominiums will be built once the Buena Vista closes and is demolished. The 45 one-, two- and three-bedroom units will sell for $258,900 to $529,900. About 20 already are sold, said developer Tim Wiklund of Superior Vista LLC.

Work on the new homes will begin with the removal of hazardous materials from floor tiles, ceiling tiles and wrapping on pipes inside the former hotel. Abatement starts once permits are issued. The restaurant and bar will then be given seven days’ notice to close, Wiklund said.

Following demolition, construction on the new condos should begin within about a month, he said.

"We are really taking pains to make sure the building is something that represents the city well and represents us well," he said. "It’s going to be something we can all be proud of."

The existing Buena Vista, built in the 1950s and remodeled in 1995, was a popular landmark that won’t soon be forgotten, customers, guests and several longtime employees said. About 40 people work for the motel, restaurant and lounge.

"Everyone’s going to be sad to see it go. It’s been an institution," said Brad Mitchell, a bartender in the lounge since the 1980s, when the basement bar opened. "We’ve had all walks of life in here, college kids to blue collar to white collar. It’s been a real mixing pot of Duluth."

The restaurant upstairs was popular for breakfast meetings involving everyone from police chiefs and mayors to real estate agents and school principals. Couples got engaged at the Buena Vista, then returned each year on their anniversay.

"We even had a class reunion in here once," said Jeanna Gagne, a waitress for nearly 20 years. "Everybody came here. There were so many great people, so many great customers. I am going to miss so many of them."

Duluthians Dianne Johnson (left) and Gayle Maruska share lunch at the Buena Vista restaurant against the backdrop of Park Point and Lake Superior. "It’s a beautiful day to look out," Johnson said. The Buena Vista was the first restaurant Johnson ate at years ago when she came to Duluth for a job interview. (Bob King / News Tribune)

RESTAURANT REGULARS

Judy French of Two Harbors visited the Buena Vista regularly since the 1950s, she said. She and her husband, Brad French, returned last week for the final time.

"My last visit for Swedish pancakes," the computer programmer sighed on her way in. "I’m crushed. I was going to bring a camera, but I forgot."

Rose Kopecky’s last meal was blueberry pancakes.

"Sad. It almost makes you cry. But I guess that’s progress," said Kopecky, a home health aide for St. Mary’s / Duluth Clinic. She dined with her husband, Don Kopecky, a retired construction worker. The two drove to the Buena Vista from their home in Cloquet.

"You’re not going to get this view at any other restaurant,"she said. "Last year my daughter came home from Oregon with her new boyfriend. He had never been to Duluth so we had to take him here. He was impressed. Who wouldn’t be?"

Janet Dirtzu of Inver Grove Heights, a St. Paul suburb, was the last guest to check out of the 28-room Buena Vista motel Aug. 21. She and her sister, Gloria Dirtzu, and her mother, Lucille Dirtzu, couldn’t help but dawdle and linger before finally turning in their room key.

"Those last few minutes were precious," said Janet Dirtzu, a regular guest in the fireplace room at the Buena Vista for about 15 years. "Any time we go up and we stay in Duluth, that’s where we stay. It was always quiet and clean and we loved the people and the view. Once we got there we felt like we were home. Always. We’re really going to miss it."

Jeanna Gagne, a longtime waitress at the Buena Vista restaurant, takes an order for lunch from Virginia Shipper of Duluth. "I come here for the good food and the view," Shipper said. The Buena Vista motel has closed and the restaurant will close soon. (Bob King / News Tribune)

HOME SWEET HOME

The Buena Vista really was home to Marsha K. Wick and John Wick. The couple lived in a spacious apartment in the motel basement for 10 years as on-site managers. Three of their four grandchildren took their first steps in the motel office. A granddaughter rolled over for the first time on Marsha K. Wick’s desk. She’s keeping the desk.

"We’re going to be unemployed and homeless," she joked. "We’re going to go down with the ship and tread water and then go from there."

In reality, the couple purchased a home in Superior, already marveling at how quiet it is at night without water running, people walking and toilets flushing upstairs. John Wick is starting his own maintenance and repair business. The new condominiums are among his first clients, he said.

"Could you put under my name in bold, ‘Available for work’ ?" Marsha K. Wick, 48, said, this time only half-joking. "I promised I’d stay here until the end. This is the end. Now I’ll start looking" for a new job.

"But it’s been wonderful to work here," she said. "It’s been a great place to live."

"It would have been a sad deal, but we got over the sadness. Now we’re ready to move on," said John Wick, 56. "I figured we’d retire here. I guess not. Still, it’s the end of an era. Mom-and-pop hotels are getting to be a tough sell."

The Buena Vista motel just couldn’t compete with the big chains and their free continental breakfasts, heated swimming pools and abundance of low-rate rooms, said Magie and the Wicks.

The building was aging and in need of updating, said Jamie Wilson, who, with a business partner, leased space at the Buena Vista and owned and operated the bar and lounge.

Their share of the property’s $1.7 million sale will seed two new restaurants in Duluth, Wilson said. Baja Billy’s Cantina and Grill opened in June in the Fitger’s Brewery Complex, occupying the former Chi-Chi’s restaurant space. Tejas Texas Grill and Saloon will open by November near Duluth International Airport.

"It was always the people and the view that made the Buena Vista so great. Both were wonderful. The community supported us from day one," Wilson said. "A lot of people are very disappointed right now because of the closing. But it’s time to move on."

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Here are some more Buena Vista photos:

Andrew Plemmons of Duluth uses binoculars the Buena Vista provides to scan the panoramic view. (Bob King / News Tribune)

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Carol Dorsey of Florida enjoys one of the Buena Vista’s specialties, sweet potato chips. She was at the restaurant with a long-time friend in August 2005. (Bob King / News Tribune)

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The former Buena Vista motel-restaurant-lounge lies in rubble during demolition on Oct. 21, 2005. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)

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The Buena Vista site is now occupied by the Superior Vista condominiums.

Share your memories of the Buena Vista by adding a comment.

- Andrew Krueger

Duluth’s Bowery, 1950s

1950s

This undated photo of Superior Street, at the west end of downtown Duluth, is captioned "Old Bowery in Duluth" in the News Tribune files.

Most of the buildings in this view were demolished in the late 1950s and early 1960s as part of the Gateway redevelopment project, and the cars suggest a date in the early to mid-1950s. Among the few buildings in the photo to survive today is the Duluth Bethel building, located up on the hill at 1st and Mesaba.

Looking back at Superior Street, the photo was probably taken from up in the Medical Arts Building. The roof of the Spalding Hotel is visible at lower left, and the Lyceum Theater building is at lower right. Next to the Lyceum, across Fifth Avenue West, is the Holland Hotel. Other hotels visible along the "Bowery" include the Hill Hotel and the Hotel Liberty. The term "Bowery," by the way, refers to the street of that name in New York – and its reputation as a stretch of cheap hotels and dive bars.

Here are a few zoomed-in views from the photo:

Hill Hotel and ad for Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum

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Hotel Liberty (rooms 75 cents and up), M&C gas station and Blatz beer sign

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Billboards for Conoco gasoline and Blatz, "Milwaukee’s Finest Beer"

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Billboard on the hillside for Master Bread – "Fresh as a daisy!"

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Duluth Bethel building – note the three big homes in front that once stood where Mesaba Avenue runs today.

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Do you have any memories of Duluth’s "Bowery"? Post a comment.

- Andrew Krueger

News Tribune Attic: Now with search!

At long last, there is a search box available on the News Tribune Attic – it’s at the top of the right-hand column.

Especially for those readers new to the blog, take advantage of the search option to look up past posts you may have missed.

- Andrew Krueger

Pancake Day, 1980s

The Duluth Lions Club held their 53rd annual Pancake Day on Thursday, once again drawing big crowds to enjoy breakfast all day at the DECC. Here are a couple of photos from Pancake Days past:

Duluth Lions Club pancake flippers Stan Walczynski, Chuck Chairs and Bob Rockwood are ready for the 1985 Pancake Day at the Duluth Arena. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

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Duluth Lions Club Pancake Committee members Bill Bradley, Roy Mattson and Stan Walczynski pose with one of the griddles before the club’s 1987 Pancake Day. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Share your memories of Pancake Day by posting a comment.

- Andrew Krueger

Sixth Avenue West viaduct, 1966

June 22, 1966

Sixth Avenue West viaduct and downtown Duluth, June 22, 1966. (Charles Curtis / Duluth Herald)

This viaduct didn’t have long to live at the time this photo was taken. Within a couple years, demolition work would begin as the railyards began their several-decades-long transition to today’s Interstate 35, among other projects. There’s a lot to see in this photo by zooming in, including:

The North Star Marine pilot service building.

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A "clear-cut" few blocks where buildings have been razed for the Gateway redevelopment project. The News Tribune building stands just below City Hall on the right side of this view, on the edge of the construction along Fifth Avenue West.

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Passenger cars waiting in the rail yards.

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A car hiding under the viaduct, and a welcome sign of some kind on which the rest of the text is just barely unreadable.

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The viaduct started coming down in late 1967, starting with the ramp that led down to lower Fifth Avenue West (which had its own, more modern viaduct):

A shovel begins the task of demolishing the viaduct from Fifth to Sixth avenues West on December 13, 1967. (News-Tribune file photo)

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The main viaduct structure came down in 1968, as seen in this photo:

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Here are some past Attic entries on Twin Ports bridges:

Arrowhead Bridge

Interstate Bridge

Lake Avenue Bridge

Share your memories of the Sixth Avenue West viaduct, the railyards or anything else in these photos by posting a comment.

- Andrew Krueger