Nearly 30 years after Main Street Market opened its doors in Egg Harbor, we’ve come to take it for granted. When Dave and Vonnie Callsen opened the store in 1987, few residents believed that even a small supermarket could survive in the sleepy village of Egg Harbor.
A recent meeting of the Buy Local Door County group reminded me how lucky we are here. The Callsen’s hosted at the market, which is just one of a variety of specialty stores, farm markets and groceries that few small towns could hope to have.
These days vacation lodging often comes with a fully equipped kitchen but the kitchen won’t do you much good if you have to drive another 20 miles to find an untested grocery store. Not so on the Door Peninsula where a broad variety of food outlets exist in or near each individual community.
Long before the Door Peninsula became a tourist destination it was a collection of small communities, each with a range of businesses, including grocery stores, that served the logger and fishermen populations that predated the growth of agriculture and tourism. Even today there are still a few historic store fronts that are occupied by local grocery stores. Community groceries and the skills that go with them have been nurtured on the Peninsula for generations.
More importantly, even where large modern buildings have replaced inefficient store fronts the tradition of the local independent grocery has remained. Main Street Market is our local, independent example. Like a diverse urban supermarket, the Market is home to a deli, meat market, bakery and gourmet wine shop. The Market has the right stuff for everyone–from the visitor who becomes a gourmet chef while on vacation to those who vacation with a hoard of hungry kids. From a ridiculously large wine selection to a beer wall full of rare craft brews, it hosts a convenient location, plenty of parking and a remarkably courteous group of clerks that speed you through the checkout aisle. If you are planning your food arrangements for your vacation you don’t have to pack a cooler or stop at your local supermarket. Everything you need is already here at prices that are rarely more than what you will find at an urban supermarket.
When we think “buy local” we often think farm markets, restaurants, and local retail, and we should. But we’re lucky to include our local grocer in this as well.
After two additions and two more generations of Callsens, their market thrives, and the market has become a tourism attraction in its own right. Still, as second generation owner, Kaaren Northrop, says, “the bell curve still prevails on the Door Peninsula and the slow winters are a challenge.” Beyond this, however, as patriarch Dave points out, there are four principles of business that guide their operations–Focus on the customer, deal fairly with your employees, get involved in your community and work your butt off.