February 19, 2024
Lake Ann Grocery

Lake Ann Grocery – A Survivor’s Tale from a Historic Michigan Village

Step back in time and venture into the charming village of Lake Ann, tucked away in Benzie County, northwest Michigan, a stone’s throw west of Traverse City. Immerse yourself in the echoes of a bustling lumber era and the remarkable resilience of a community symbol: the Lake Ann Grocery. This venerable establishment not only has a story to tell, but it stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of Lake Ann’s residents.

The Birth of a Lumber Town

In the 1890s, Lake Ann buzzed with industry and promise. William Habbler, an enterprising Ohioan, found himself drawn to the village’s potential, erecting numerous structures, including a sizable sawmill, a variety of other buildings, and an establishment destined for survival – the General Store. Lake Ann’s population swelled to approximately 1,000 residents, its streets lined with many businesses, from restaurants and drug stores to meat markets and livery stables. A train depot for the Manistee & Northeastern railroad and Habbler’s sawmill, employing 125 locals, were the heartbeats of this thriving lumber community.

Lake Ann’s Trials By Fire

Leary Newdepot
Lake Ann Depot 1892 – Courtesy Grand Traverse Journal

However, on July 4, 1897, Lake Ann’s prosperous image was shattered. The first of three catastrophic fires razed the town, consuming 72 of the 88 buildings, including Habbler’s sawmill. With homes and livelihoods turned to ashes, many residents were forced to abandon their beloved village. A spark from a sawmill furnace or a tugboat’s smokestack was the suspected origin of this disaster.

In defiance of tragedy, Lake Ann rose from the ashes, rebuilt only to face the destructive fury of fire twice more in 1914 and 1918. Each fire further dwindled the population, marking the end of an era. The bustling lumber town’s prosperity gradually faded into the annals of history.

The Lake Ann Grocery

Lake Ann Grocery
Lake Ann Grocery – Benzie Historical Society

A Testament to Survival Fast-forward to 1981, a new chapter began with John and Sandy Nuske establishing the Lake Ann Grocery. Occupying the enduring General Store building – a survivor of the three devastating fires – the grocery store served as a testament to Lake Ann’s resilience. This year, 2023, we celebrate the store’s 42nd anniversary, an ongoing legacy of endurance and community spirit in the face of adversity.

A Final Thought About Lake Ann Grocery

Though quieter now, Lake Ann still boasts an enchanting beauty and a rich, captivating history. The Lake Ann Grocery stands at its heart, a symbol of the community’s incredible endurance, a beacon of its past, and a gathering place for its present. As we honor its 42nd anniversary, we remember that Lake Ann’s spirit is encapsulated in this store, mirroring the village’s resilience and undying sense of community.

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Michaela Nolte

Michaela is a history buff and loves to export historical markers and old buildings and seeks stories about Michigan and Great Lakes history. When she is not writing, you can find her with a good book sipping wine on the beach.

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