ALPENA – For decades, nearly every major port city on the Great Lakes offered a specialty grocery store supplying cargo ships.
In recent years, the operation of these Great Lakes supermarkets has changed dramatically. This is due to the presence of 1,000 foot freighters, as long as three football fields, replacing the smaller boats. Additionally, advances in technology have created smaller crews.
Recently, a Cleveland, Ohio-based Fleet Grocer went out of business, leaving only three US-based Great Lakes Fleet Grocers in operation. These are located in Duluth, Minnesota, Sault Ste. Marie, and at the Alpena marine market.
The Sea Market, originally known as Kannowski Bros., was opened in 1888 by August Kannowski, who immigrated from Germany.
According to Kannowski’s great-grandson, Al Kannowski, his first market was briefly located on Chisholm Street, across from present-day Culligan Plaza. The operation was primarily known as a meat supplier. The operation soon moved just north of the 2nd Avenue Bridge to the site where Alpena Furniture now stands.
For a short time, August ran the market with his brother Otto.
The market would then move to the current location of Alpena’s US Post Office.
Marine Market‘s location on the Thunder Bay River provided access to incoming Great Lakes boats, as well as lumber industry boats and camps.
According to Alpena News accounts from 1955, Al’s father Robert was approached by Harry Fletcher to acquire the Second Avenue property.
According to Al, he has set his sights on the Ripley Boulevard property to build a new Marnie Market structure. Al pointed out that at that time Ripley was a gravel road at the ends of Alpena. After several presentations to committees and city council, the property was rezoned to commercial.
After the 1956 move to Ripley Boulevard, Robert, his son, Max, and longtime employee Ed Schultz continued to operate the maritime market.
While attending Alpena Community College, his son Al began a career spanning over 15 years in supermarket management. It took him and his family to Texas, Ohio, and then Michigan. When his father passed away, he returned to Alpena to join his brother, Max, in operating the maritime market.
Reflecting on a decades-old family business, Al offered up several interesting tales.
The first was when a truck destined for the Huron Portland Cement docks suffered brake failure and slid into Thunder Bay waters.
Another observation was that during the Great Lakes shipping season, the shipping market could take command of a boat steward at any time and meet the freighter at its next port of call, which could be hours away. of road. The timing to meet the boat might be right. However, weather variables and other factors could affect delivery. An example of delays is the annual Mackinaw Bridge Labor Day March, when traffic is not permitted on the bridge.
In 2016, Al and Max started thinking about retirement. In July, the Marine Market was acquired by co-owners Jeff Sheppler and Bradey Smith.
Depending on the season and demand, the market employs four to six workers.
Smith said 60% of his business serves the lower Great Lakes fleet. The rest of the business is focused on retail and supplying regional restaurants. Serving cargo ships can range from ports in Erie, Pennsylvania to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, Gary, Indiana, Detroit, Michigan, ports in northeast Michigan, many ports on the west side of Michigan and , periodically, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
In years past, orders from the shipping market came in by phone or fax, requiring constant in-store monitoring.
“Now with email, it’s much easier to monitor and respond to orders from freighters and other customers,” Smith said. “Even during the winter season, we service freighters that are undergoing preventative maintenance and upgrades.”
Smith continued, “Marine Market offers the largest selection of seafood in Northeast Michigan, produce, an extensive line of sausages and cured, smoked meats, processed deer venison and we grind our beef daily. .”
In a magazine article, “Feeding the Freighters”, former Alpena News reporter Mike Lozon explained how important meals and snacks are for freighters. A good head steward will ensure favorite foods are offered to the crew. For example, it could be a box of donuts from a local bakery.
A Facebook page on the history of Alpena County, Michigan offered many posts of great memories of shopping or working at the Marine Market.
Karol Walchak commented: “My Polish grandparents always bought their kielbasa there. It’s still the best.
Anet Milostan Gilmore said: “I live in the Thumb area. Every time I visit I go to the Marine Market for their garlic bologna.
Former Marine Market employee Ed Ludwiczak worked at the store in the early 1960s.
He reflected, “I delivered supplies to cement boats. Bob and ‘Gramps’ taught me how to cut meat and process venison. Grandfather was a gentle man with a dry sense of humor. I have many memories of this part of my life.
Now, there are only three meat markets and grocery stores serving Great Lakes freighters. Alpena’s marine market is well positioned to grow in the decades to come.