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Besslers purchase Woodland Store

Besslers, from left, Brent, Justin and Dennis are three of the six family members that recently purchased the Woodland Store. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Six family electricians will turn the switch on economic development in a tiny town that refuses to go by the wayside.

Two fathers and four sons, all owners of Bessler Brothers Electric, recently purchased the Woodland Convenience Store in Lake George and are working feverishly to reopen by March 1.

The store closed in 2008 when its former owner died. It left a huge void in Lake George, especially when a neighboring tourism business, the Wigwam, also closed shortly after that.

Now Brent, Justin, Dennis, Richard, Danny and Chad Bessler are working to reopen the store at the intersection of U.S. Highway 71 and Hubbard County 4. Just the presence of vehicles and activity around town has attracted interest.

"This is a great thing for our town," said postmaster, next-door neighbor and town booster Iris Olson.

"People have been stopping in to see what's happening," Justin said. Last week even his two pre-schoolers were inside helping, in a manner of speaking.

"It seems like everybody's excited about it," Dennis agreed.

The men have gutted the 1930 era building. It now has new electricity, heating, insulation and windows.

The only accessory they left was the mammoth walk-in cooler.

"It supposedly works," Justin said. "We'll paint it."

The store will stock the usual repertoire of convenience store items: pop, chips, dairy products, hamburger buns and canned goods to complete a meal.

But it's the gas pumps that may attract the most interest. Tourists, boaters and snowmobilers have not had a place to fill their tanks. The Woodland Store closed in 2008 and the Emmaville Store, 10 miles south on County 4, closed in the spring of 2009.

Snowmobilers say when they venture into the northern stretches of the county they have to bring their own filled gas tanks strapped to their sleds.

Lake George hasn't seen a population decrease, but has seen its fortunes change drastically in the last decade.

The lake, once home to a handful of resorts, has none today.

"The land was too valuable," Dennis said. Resorts were purchased, divided up and resold as individual housing units.

Those sales have also brought a steady seasonal population to the town of 300+. The downside is that they aren't weekend tourists who will spend new money in local specialty shops on a regular basis.

The Besslers, who admit they have little experience running a convenience store, have pointed the finger at Justin to run things for now.

"We're electricians first and foremost," Justin said. "We'll hire part-time people when the building season gets underway and electrical duties call."

The store's proposed hours are 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Each brother, cousin, son and father will take a day at the helm. There's plenty of family help, they all say.

"I can't believe all the traffic going by," Dennis said.

The two families are hoping that traffic will stop and enjoy the hospitality of a town that refused to be a drive-through destination.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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