Bowers Harbor Store on the Old Mission Peninsula, circa 1946 | A Century of Service Photo
Bowers Harbor Store on the Old Mission Peninsula, circa 1946 | A Century of Service Photo
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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.

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Bowers Harbor Store on the Old Mission Peninsula, circa 1946 | A Century of Service Photo
Bowers Harbor Store on the Old Mission Peninsula, circa 1946 | A Century of Service Photo

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

Bowers Harbor History: The Fanny Rose at the Bowers Harbor Dock, circa 1920 | A Century of Service Photo
Bowers Harbor History: The Fanny Rose at the Bowers Harbor Dock, circa 1920 | A Century of Service Photo
Bowers Harbor History: The Fanny Rose at the Neahtawanta Dock, circa 1920 | A Century of Service Photo
Bowers Harbor History: The Fanny Rose at the Neahtawanta Dock, circa 1920 | A Century of Service Photo

Pete Lardie owned the Lena Knobloch steamer, which transported people to and from Traverse City. Pete Lardie also owned a store in Mapleton.

Bowers Harbor History: The Lena Knobloch, owned by Pete Lardie of Mapleton, circa 1910 | A Century of Service Photo
Bowers Harbor History: The Lena Knobloch, owned by Pete Lardie of Mapleton, circa 1910 | A Century of Service Photo

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.

Paul H. Young in his fly rod shop in Detroit
Paul H. Young in his fly rod shop in Detroit | phydatabase.com

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.

Old Mission History: Grand Opening of Bowers Harbor Marina, April 1970 | Traverse City Record-Eagle via Newspaper.com
Old Mission History: Grand Opening of Bowers Harbor Marina, April 1970 | Traverse City Record-Eagle via Newspaper.com

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.

The Boathouse Restaurant, February 2020 | Jane Boursaw Photo
The Boathouse Restaurant, February 2020 | Jane Boursaw Photo

Also Read…

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Our cottage was a couple of lots from the store. I used to walk along the beach to get to the store for ice cream. Good memories.

  2. I remember getting the best homemade ice cream sandwich out of the window…. am I remembering right that we use to go down by the store and watch outdoor movies?????

      • Yes that’s exactly what I’m talking about .. we would go down and watch with the migrant kids… it was always a great time… couldn’t understand a lot but it was fun

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  3. My father when a boy worked at a farm in Old Mission, he said the farm belonged to a Felix Weatherhose but I am unable to pull anything up.

  4. Love this history and thanks so much for the charming details! Grew up on Neahtawanta Rd. Remember fun times getting ice cream at the store in summertime:) Remember it like it was yesterday*Sweet memories:)

  5. I was a waitress at Bowers Harbour Inn when I was in college in the 70’s. I would get $1.50 worth of gas at the Bowers store that had one pump . On the shelves of the store they would have all sorts of fry goods that no one ever bought- boxes of Mac and Cheese with a think layer of dust on top! A man and his son worked there. They lived on OMP close to the store. Anyone remember their names? Anyone remember the wonderful Toni who bar tended at Bowers Harbour Inn? She was in her 60’s then and had worked at the Inn when it was a roadhouse selling hamburgers. She shared all sorts of stories about the place. The stencils on the walls of the bedroom upstairs, the specially made mirror in the foyer that was designed to make you look thinner! Lots of folkloric tales about the whole Bowers Harbour area!

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