Monday, April 15, 2013

Seventh and Mankato

"Seventh and Mankato."So it said on the back of one of the photos I scanned at the Polish Museum last month. Right below this inscription was a note saying the building - whatever it was had been razed to make way for Washington-Kosciuszko Elementary School. An typical brick building in East End Winona, with some typical looking East End Kashubian Poles standing in front of it. No indication of what sort of building it was, or when the picture was taken. Probably sometime around the turn of the century. But even "typical" scenes are precious to me, so I marked this one for further inquiry. Typing the search string "Seventh and Mankato" into the Winona Newspaper Project's search tool quickly yielded the answer I was looking for.

This building was a combination of saloon and grocery store established in 1884 at 351-353 Mankato Avenue by Teofil Jakob Sikorski (1840-1913), an immigrant from Bytow. He features prominently in Winona newspapers of the time as "Teefel," "Jacob," "Theodore," or just plain "T.J." Sikorski; his obituary is at right. Getting back to the picture,  351 Mankato (the door at right) is clearly the grocery and 353 Mankato is the saloon. On either side of the saloon door are signs advertising Bub's Beer, a famous Winona product.  I should mention that the combination of saloon and grocery was not particularly odd on Winona's East End, although the grocery seems to have been closed down when Sikorski sold the tavern to Erick Lubinski in 1898.

The Winona Newspaper Project also pointed out a connection between this building and the Hot Fish Shop. As everyone who is over thirty and able to locate Winona on a map could tell you, the Hot Fish Shop was a landmark on Winona's outskirts at the intersection of Highway 61 and Mankato Avenue. Its founder, a former professional fisherman named Henry Kowalewski,  publicized it by giving his customers free postage-paid postcards of Sugar Loaf looming over his restaurant, like the one at left. The idea was that the customers would write to their friends about what a great time they had in Winona - especially while eating at the Hot Fish Shop.

But the Hot Fish Shop had not always operated in the shadow of Sugar Loaf. The original Hot Fish Shop opened its doors in the former Sikorski saloon either on Christmas Day or on New Year's Eve 1931. When the time came to build the new Washington-Kosciuszko School in 1934, the Hot Fish Shop was one of a number of buildings condemned to make room. It closed on August 4, 1934 and reopened in its brand new facility on December 26th of that year. The picture at right is pretty much how I remembered it. When I was a kid, passing the Hot Fish Shop meant that we had finally, finally, made it to Winona. Actually eating at the Hot Fish Shop was something Mom and Dad and our aunts and uncles did, on special occasions. I'll never forget how impressed I was when I finally, finally, got to eat there. Or how depressed I was when it closed for good in 1999. There is a Dairy Queen on the site now. Progress.

1 comment:

  1. In the 1960s one of the entertainments of the day was, believe it or not, going for a ride in the car. Yes, that's how "simple" our lives were! My dad would drive the family around the town and my sister and I would hope and pray and keep our fingers crossed that we'd get to stop for a treat, usually at the ice cream shop. But then, one day, my sister who was known for "great ideas" asked if instead of ice cream, could we go out to eat at the Hot Fish Shop? Dad said, "sure" and my sister and I nearly burst - as dinner at the Fish Shop was a REAL occasion!

    Except tricky ol' dad knew something we didn't. It was Monday evening. We drove around the town, up through Garvin Heights and back down, and finally as we drove around the lake, we knew we were close, oh boy, Hot Fish Shop here we come!!!

    Uh-oh, something doesn't look right. There aren't any cars parked by the restaurant. "Oh dear, girls, the Fish Shop doesn't look open. Too bad. Can't go there tonight," says dad with a smirk on his face. And then we knew. He knew all along it was closed on Monday.

    Tricky ol' dad.