You know it as The Boathouse Restaurant, but long before Doug and Erin Kosch opened the lovely restaurant nestled on the shores of Bowers Harbor, there was a store, a world-renowned fly rod business, and many other businesses located there. Today in Old Mission History, let’s take a look at the legacy of the Bowers Harbor Store, as well as the dock and marina. (Feel free to add your own stories – and corrections to my story – in the comments section at the bottom.)
This photo of the Bowers Harbor Store was taken in 1946. This was a little before my time (I was born in 1960), but in 1946, the store was owned by the Val Wiederoder family. According to the book A Century of Service, published by the Peninsula Telephone Company in 2008, the store was built by Frederick and Chloe Johnson and had been in operation since the late 1800s.
Help Support Old Mission Gazette - Click Here
Bowers Harbor, of course, has a long history that would require an entire book or two to document. Suffice to say that it was a hub of activity from the 1800s on. In November of 1851, a young S.E. Wait was hired to teach school to five young seafaring men on the Schooner Madeline, docked at Bowers Harbor for the winter. And through the years, the dock was used by boats to transport passengers, as well as carry goods and crops to market.
One of those boats was the Fanny Rose, owned by Captain Ed Emory, who shipped produce out of Bowers Harbor and also transported passengers to Marion Island. The Emory family has a long history in Bowers Harbor. Their house and shop were located north of the store, across from Kroupa’s weigh station, and according to my husband Tim, this is where Jon Emory, Sr. (“Jack”) helped design and build the first cherry shaker.
It’s also where his son, Jon Emory, Jr., operated the Diver’s Den Scuba Shop, which later became Big Jon, where they designed and manufactured downriggers and fishing equipment. Helen Emory (Jack’s wife) ran a hot dog stand in the summer months near the beach at the Harbor.
Here are a couple of photos of the Fanny Rose…
Pete Lardie owned the Lena Knobloch steamer, which transported people to and from Traverse City. Pete Lardie also owned a store in Mapleton.
Back to the Bowers Harbor Store. Changing with the times, the dock once used by boats to carry passengers and crops became a docking and fueling spot for pleasure boating. In the 1950s, according to A Century of Service, there was a small bait and engine repair shop by the dock.
On the north side of the store, a take-out pop and ice cream window was opened and drew a steady crowd of swimmers from the beach and those out for treats on a sunny summer day.
The store changed hands a few times. In the late 1960s, the Paul H. Young Company, a world-renowned fly rod company, moved their operations from Detroit to Bowers Harbor, took over the store, and established a marina there.
Paul passed away in 1960, but his son John (known to OMPers as “Jack”) and his kids continued the business. Here’s a picture of Paul in his shop in Detroit, taken from the Paul H. Young Rod Database here.
And here’s an advertisement I found in the Traverse City Record-Eagle dated April 16, 1970, announcing the grand opening of the Bowers Harbor Marina.
Gerald and Carole Kocis owned the store during the 1990s and ran a great little cafe in the back. Tim and I had just bought our property on Bluff Road, and we loved having breakfast at the Bowers Harbor Store, where a lot of the locals would gather and shoot the breeze. The “coffee klatch,” we called them.
The store was later purchased by Doug and Erin Kosch, remodeled and opened as The Boathouse Restaurant. While they are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are planning to re-open on May 28 per Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order.
They do, however, have an excellent take-out/curbside menu right now, which you can check out on their website.