Minnesota City Merchants

Several businesses were established in Minnesota City in the years after the 1852 settlement. These included two mills, restaurants, hotels, a brickyard, and more than one general store. Information is limited on the proprietors in those early years but more than one general store was in existence in the city at the turn of the century.

The December 16, 1920 edition of the Winona Republican-Herald newspaper notes that R. J. Krugmeier had established a store in Minnesota City in 1900. "R. J. Krugmeier, who has conducted a general merchandise store at Minnesota City for the past twenty years, has disposed of the same to James Trainor who will continue the business. Mr. Trainor at one time conducted the City hotel at Minnesota City. Mr. Krugmeier plans to remove to Winona to make his home".

This store was located on Mill Street. In later years the building, with attached home,  became the Adolph Martin shoe store.  MCHA archive

C.C. Smith general merchandise store and post office in Minnesota City, 1913  Photo courtesy of the Winona County Historical Society.

Another general store from the same era was owned by C. C. Smith.  Smith served as Postmaster of Minnesota City in addition to being a general merchant.  In 1914 Smith decided to sell his store to pursue a career in farming. The store was purchased by George O. Church and his brother Elmer Church. In 1915 the store reopened as the Church Brothers general store with George Church as postmaster.

Helen Witt and George O. Church standing in front of the Church Brothers General Store on Mill Street of Minnesota City . Photo likely dates from the 1920's. Church was also Postmaster of Minnesota City and like CC Smith the post office was located within the store building. MCHA archive

The Church Brothers store sold goods ranging from food to clothing to farming tools. The store also functioned as a gas station. During the depression, when people were struggling to make ends meet, the brothers allowed people to buy using credit. The store made the papers when it was burglarized twice by a youth gang in 1927.  A more serious crime happened in 1934 when the store was held up at gunpoint by two intruders.  Elmer Church and a customer were forced to lay on the floor while the robbers stole money from the cash register. In 1936 a major fire destroyed the upstairs apartment. Despite these incidents the brothers persevered and the store remained a major business in the city until they eventually retired in the 1950's.

In 1956 the post office was relocated from the store to its own building on Mill Street.  In 1961 Herbert and Helen Saehler Witt opened a new store in the former Church Brothers building. Witt's Market was known for a "penny candy" counter where you could fill a bag with treats for less than a quarter. They also sold groceries and household goods. The store remained open until 1972.

Left photo: Witt's Market 1964  Right photo: Store building as apartments in 2008  MCHA archive

After Witts Market closed, various owners converted the building into apartments. These are still in operation today. In 2017 a plaque was placed on the building commemorating its history.