Historic cabin, antique store on Nevis’ Belle Taine closing
The rustic log cabin on the south shore of Belle Taine near Nevis has seen more than a century of entrepreneurial commerce.
But that’s about to come to an end.
The children of the late Doris Hunter, founder of aptly named Log Cabin Antiques in 1973, are closing the shop.
The building holds a rich history as a general store when it opened in 1903, a tavern, gas station and café, the structure itself evolving through the decades.
Hunter’s children, Karen Reedy and Wayne Hunter, would learn of its history through the years, and of their mother’s notable business prowess and genuine manner with clientele.
“We didn’t realize her impact until after she died,” Wayne said of meeting customers following her death in 2008, at 88.
“She not only remembered names, she remembered what they collected,” Reedy said.
Doris Hunter, widowed at a young age, was living and working in Kansas with her three children when she decided to purchase the property from Richard and Joyce Heinen, their home at the time.
Doris Hunter held a strong yearning for Minnesota’s summers, arriving since she was a child, her father originally from the land of 10,000 lakes.
“It was her dream to have an antique shop,” Reedy said.
Heinen’s auto and marine repair shop, down by the lake, became a three-bedroom cabin.
The log structure, built on what was originally the county’s main thoroughfare — now Co. Rd. 80 — became the site of the business.
“She thought it was perfect,” said Reedy, who disparagingly pointed out the “old log walls.” But Doris Hunter saw it as opportunity. “Do you know how many nails we can put in them?!” she said of hanging art.
Through the 40 years, the family would learn the center of the building was the first to be built. The room to the west, with a kitchen, was added a few years later.
And when Belle Taine’s far west bay dried up during the 1930s Dust Bowl era, the owner of the store decided to modify the business. He took the ice house that a team of horses hauled out on Belle Taine for fishermen (who dropped lines at a price) and attached it to the east side of the building.
The owner contacted a Norwegian bachelor who made tables and chairs and purchased reportedly one of the first jukeboxes to croon tunes in Hubbard County pre-World War II.
The Belle Taine tavern began welcoming customers.
A separate family home, now owned by a couple from San Francisco, was built down by the lake, to the east.
At some time during the Depression, Reedy learned, the owner decided to head to Canada, where he worked as a lumberjack. But the family’s home near the lake was difficult to heat, with no one to cut firewood, and mother and children moved into the cellar of the store.
The Hunters had no knowledge of the indoor entry until a family member pulled away the carpet to reveal a trap door on the floor.
When Doris Hunter arrived on the scene, she headed to estate sales, auctions and garage sales to collect her inventory. Eventually, people began bringing items in.
Summers were spent in Minnesota; winters in Topeka, where Hunter worked as a commercial real estate agent.
“The business has changed so much,” Reedy reflected.
The practice of reviewing new books on current prices for antiques each year — from toothpicks to fishing lures to Red Wing pottery — has been replaced by the Internet.
When Doris Hunter died five years ago, the family decided to take over the business, since inventory had been purchased for the season.
“I thought I knew everything there was to know about Mom,” Reedy said. “But after talking to people, I realized how many she had touched.”
Customers told her items purchased at the store had become family heirlooms, stopping had become part of their northwoods experience.
“It was a good healing time, unbelievably healing. It helped end her story. The last five years really helped me to understand.”
“The hardest thing about closing is saying goodbye to a whole lot of friends,” Reedy said. “Meeting people, getting to know them has been a real blessing.”
Log Cabin Antiques will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2 and “by chance, next week.”
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