Sep 16, 2023
ABOVE: Lenny Tvedten is seen with his latest book, which is about the history of businesses and organizations in Martin County.
FAIRMONT– Martin County Historical Society’s Executive Director, Lenny Tvedten, recently received a shipment of his newest book. “Martin County Merchants and Innovators, Creators and Risk Takers” has information on over 70 past and present businesses and organizations.
Tvedten put out a call for submissions on this book back in the spring of 2022.
“The goal was to document Martin County businesses, both current and those no longer in existence,” Tvedten said.
He added that for a lot of businesses, once the owner leaves or retires and the business closes, they may be gone and lost forever. Tvedten wanted to dig up information on those businesses that once had a presence–and a purpose– in Martin County.
“One example of a former business is Del’s Tender Maid Hamburgers, which was next door to the Sentinel. I remember it myself when I first moved to Fairmont. It’s history, brief as it may be,” Tvedten said.
In that instance, Tvedten said that the daughter of the owner, who lives locally, sent in information and photos.
“It’s not long, and a lot of them aren’t long, but some of them people may never have heard of,” Tvedten said.
He stressed that the contents of the book are limited to whoever wanted to participate. If someone from a current or past business didn’t supply information, the business wasn’t included.
In the early stages of gathering information for the book, the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce sent out an email to businesses in the area. Information about it also went out in the Sentinel and Photo Press. Those who reached out were sent a form asking a variety of questions, such as the name of the business and any former names, current and previous owners, previous locations, what the company produced or services it provided, how many people it employed and any unique stories.
“They could write up the history themselves, which we’d edit, or I wrote it up based on the information they provided with anything I could find here in our museum that was about their business,” Tvedten said.
While Tvedten included information and pictures on 74 different businesses and organizations that contacted him, Tom Koeritz of Northrop also supplied information and pictures on 34 Northrop businesses.
“He brought in a flash drive on Northrop businesses. There’s a whole section on Northrop businesses,” Tvedten said.
Several of the businesses included in the book that people may not have heard of or remember include Dick’s Barbershop, Nelson Ice Cream Company, Cliff’s Sales, Moltzen Electric and U Turn Bar and Grill in Dunnell.
“Who would ever know about some of these if it weren’t put down on paper,” Tvedten said.
He said that The Triangle, a drive-in move theater, submitted a great deal of information It was located where Bolten and Menk is now. Tvedten said former employees of it held a reunion in 2015 at the museum and a picture from the reunion is included in the book.
“It’s interesting how some of these businesses evolved,” Tvedten said.
Some examples of business progressions include Bean Town, which was formerly a Mr. Steak and then China King Buffet. Doolittle Carpet and Paint got its start in Winnebago and Fairmont Cast Stone is now Grotte Concrete.
History on some businesses included in the book that people may remember or that are still in existence are Sirloin House, Sherburn Nursery, Day Plumbing and Profinium.
Some of the businesses date back past the 1900s. Crystal Bottling Company is one of the oldest businesses in the book. It was established in 1894 but the business closed and the building was torn down in 1970. The Sentinel, which is the oldest business in the book, was established in 1874.
This was Tvedten’s third book. The first, “Tales of Martin County,” is a compilation of articles Tvedten had written on the history of the county. His second book, “Martin County Veterans: Their Sacrifices, our Freedom,” came out in December of 2021.
Speaking of his third book, Tvedten said, “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Life gets in the way but I decided to give it a shot. I’m pleased with the businesses that wanted to participate. There’s a good variety.”
Tvedten reiterated that the goal was to document any and all businesses in the country that wanted to participate in the project and that another book could be done at some point if there’s more interest.
The book is available now at the Historical Society, Photo Press and Good News Bookstore in Fairmont.
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