Tuesday, June 4, 2013

M.J. Kowalewski Drug Store

If going up to Winona and staying at the Bambenek abode at 578 East Fifth was the coolest thing in the world back in the day, hitting up the candy store at 601 East Fifth Street was the second coolest thing. When I was a kid, the candy store was owned by Mom's uncle, Ralph Bambenek (1918-1988) and aunt, Bernice Stolpa Bambenek (1919-1977). No trip was complete without multiple trips to Uncle Ralph's to stock up on penny candy and (coincidentally, I'm sure) get out of the grownups' hair, if only for a short time. Uncle Ralph was always friendly enough to us kids. Mom claimed he could make himself sneeze whenever he wanted just by looking up at the sun, which only raised his status in my eyes. Aunt Bernice was another matter. She would stand behind the huge glass counter and just glare daggers at us while we dithered over exactly what we wanted her to fish out. Too bad. If she didn't like kids, she shouldn't have married a guy who owned a candy store. Oh yes, there was a liquor store with a separate entrance on Carimona Street, which the grownups no doubt found quite convenient.

The building at 601 East Fifth has enjoyed a long and interesting history. According to the Winona Herald, it housed a private business school in the late 1880s. At the turn of the century it housed the store of Mieczyslaw J. "M.J." Kowalewski, pharmacist and city political figure, who died in a tragic car accident in 1915 at the age of 61. Interestingly, M.J. Kowalewski was not related to the Kowalewskis of Hot Fish Shop fame, nor was he even of Kashubian descent, having been born in the Poznan region. The Kowalewski family did not live in the apartment over the store, but in the house next door at 208 Carimona. Sigmund Kowalewski, the oldest son and also a pharmacist, took over for a short time; by 1917, he had relocated to Minneapolis.

The establishment then did business as Max A. Goltz and Sons (a branch of the Goltz Pharmacy at 274 East Third), and from about 1921 to 1923, by J.M. Czapiewski as the "East End Drug Store." In 1923, the "Young Ladies' Onward League" maintained a clubhouse upstairs. In April, 1923 Henry Jezewski and Lawrence Jaszewski purchased the store. On March 1, 1962 Uncle Ralph took possession of the store from Lawrence Jaszewski and operated there until Aunt Bernice's death in 1977. At that point, Mary Pendleton and Mary Bergland then purchased the store and opened up Mary Twyce Antiques and Books. Ms. Bergland soon left the business, but Ms. Pendleton kept the store open until she retired, at age 89, in 2007. At present it hosts the "Find Your Peace" art studio and yoga school - a nice return to the building's original function!


  1. Hi do you know if Robert (Bob) Bambenek was related to Ralph the man who owned and ran the old candy store that was near the old Winona housing projects? Around 1973 that is, that is when I went to the candy store for the first time roughly. The last time I was there was in 1986-1987 :'( I feel it is the very same guy because he died not long after the last time I saw him in his store :'( He had at that time 5 Gallon Buckets under his cash register to keep his money in saying the cash register was broken when I asked about it :) <3 It was at that candy store from Ralph that I was able to buy a half a brown paper lunch bag full of candy for only a quarter :) What a Blessing this is to be reading this information thank you thank you so very much for posting this, I never would have found out more about my past the people I met and knew in Winona which is where I call home and where I lived off and on most of my life. Many of my family members generations also live or lived in Winona from The Carney's Hokenstad's, Hazelton's Pomeroy's Dubois I so hope I'm not forgetting anyone. I also know and used to date Loren Wadewitz who I met at the age of 16 in Winona he has lived there at least since the time I met him back in 1984, he was married to Kristi Knight Thought for sure he said she was the daughter of a police chief there in Winona but he could have just been pulling my leg I'm not sure. One of my sister in-laws brothers was also killed in a car crash I can't recall the exact date I'm pretty sure his name was Daniel Marks Buba or Baba but I'm not totally sure about that either since I can't find any information about it online. Judy Hazelton was married to my ex step father, my brother little John Jr Hokenstad's dad. And now there is another little John Hokenstad Jr. So confusing I know. Sorry about all of that this just really struck up a lot more curiosity on my part to find out more. Not sure if you will be able to reply to me with any of the choices I have been given below but I am also on facebook I also have a yahoo account and a hotmail account dew kissed under 2 just put it all together just in case for some stupid reason the site doesn't allow us to give out our email addresses :) Laurie Carney

  2. My Wysocki ancestors lived at that address and ran a grocery store from 1865 until ??? I had the pleasure of touring the building back in 1990 when it was Mary Twyce. Upstairs was full of furniture so I got to imagine my great grandfather Theodore growing up there...before heading out to homestead in Warsaw, ND.

  3. So... I guess that adds to the history. Before it was the private business school it was the Wysocki Grocery Store. Ignacy and Elizabeth (zabinski)Wysocki ran it. Ignacy passed in 1878. Son Theodore (age 25) was listed as a Grocer in the 1875 city directory. Family history says they went out of business because they allowed too much 'credit' to customers. John Wysocki lived next door. Many of his descendants stayed in the area. I know of one who still lives down the block. Don't know how long they ran the store. Elizabeth died in 1887...so probably until the business school moved in.

  4. John Wysocki was my grama(Agnes's)father. Agnes married Ralph Meyer.I have a photo of the John Wysocki Family from 1900