The Hackley-Phelps-Bonnell Company office building was completed in 1905, and it was this building that held the Company Store. The building was also home to the post office, a butcher's shop, an ice house, and other entities over the century it stood tall and proud.
The Company Store was soon commonly known as "The Big Store" and played a vital role for the community of Phelps for decades to come. Supplying locals and visitors alike with everything from groceries and hardware to hunting and fishing gear and even furniture, many have fond memories of childhood visits to the Big Store.
The impressive 3-story building featured an elevator, quite the element to find in a small town such as this! The grocery department teemed with all of the essentials one could need, as well as eye-catching bulk candy. The building changed hands several times after the demise of the lumber industry in Northern Wisconsin, finally closing it's grocery doors in 2000. But that is not quite the end of the tale.
The closing of the Big Store hit Phelps residents hard, leaving them forced to drive between 10 to 16 miles for groceries and basic supplies. Then, in 2015, under an atmosphere of change and a rainbow of hope, the property was sold once again. This time, the intent of the purchase was to revitalize this once booming small town - to step forward into a new era. Only months after the sale, the historical building was slated for demolition. And what a day in Phelps that was!
When the Big Store came down in June of 2015, it was quite the sight to see. Locals flocked to the corner of Highway 17, near the shores of North Twin Lake, equipped with their cameras and memories. Passerby's stopped in astonishment to watch the building come down. The atmosphere was one of mixed emotions, with sadness for a past that would be no more and excitement for what might yet be to come.
The building that had stood stoically watching over the town and lake shore for an impressive 110 years disappeared in a single day. Within a week, there was barely a trace of what once was. The "company" had been long gone, but to some it seemed that the Company Store would stand forever.
Today, there is blank space where the Big Store once stood. The view is impressive - a beautiful tree line was revealed with the demolition, and the lake is more prominent than ever. Over the past year, the large empty area was filled with laughter and happiness during several town events. A new band stand carried the melodic strums of live bands over North Twin. Barely a day went past where one could spot cars parked in the lot, the occupants catching a breathtaking sunset or enjoying a stroll along the shore.
If there is one thing that the past should remind us of, it is that time stands still for no one or no thing. Live in the moment, dream for the future, but always, always remember the past. Because despite how it may seem, nothing lasts forever and maybe that is a good thing.