A stroll down 'Memory Main'
A walk along downtown Main Avenue in Park Rapids over the weekend was a stroll through local history and a snapshot of how communities evolve. Businesses posted signs indicating previous occupants, making it interesting to observe the timeline that shapes the most historic buildings downtown.
One of the most recognizable and long-standing figures of downtown Park Rapids is the old Citizen’s National Bank, with the outdoor clock, at Third and Main. Fuller’s Guns and Pawn currently operates on street level. Upstairs, used to be where Dr. John Eiler and Dr. H.W. Thomas both practiced. The Schwarzvald Restaurant has seen decades of food businesses at its 2nd and Main location, including Ruhnke’s Café and Brakken’s Grill. The famous Royal Bar and its legendary burgers used to house the Royal Theater. Hickey’s Tavern and The Spot were once local watering holes in what is now Athletic Leftovers.
The Wild Loon at 206 South Main has a long history of drug stores occupying that space including Skoe Drug, Dinyer Drug, Vacek Drug and Cutler Drug. Ben Franklin was once Johnson Furniture. Next to that is Monika’s now, at one time the Gamble Store. Next door was Park Rapids Bakery. The iconic brick building at the corner of Third and Main is now the Music Shop. The building has seen numerous businesses come and go from the Clow’s Nest to Hiemark-Butler Real Estate to Heimark Jewelry, all the way back to when it was First National Bank. Driscoll’s Café used to be where Lazy One is now. A couple of lumber businesses – Robertson Lumber and Northwoods Lumber – were where what is currently Park Avenue Salon and Park Avenue School of Cosmotolgy. On the west side of Main, Levik’s Pool Hall, The Stag, and National Tea Grocery all did business at one time where Necce’s is currently located. Max Bailley Photography at 309 S. Main is where Fred’s Place and B&B Pool Hall did business, next door to Wimpy’s Café, now Smoky Hills Art. Sears and Coast to Coast both once operated at 305 South Main, where Hair and Body Works is now.
The now vacant Albrecht’s Jewelry at 115 S. Main used to be Ressler’s Meat Market. The Whitefront Café in what is now Cuzzin’s Candy Story at 111 South Main. The storefront evolution continues as downtown is forever changing. Robert Thomas, Class of 1969 stopped to look over the window display featuring the Class of ‘68 at Fuller’s and recognized one former schoolmate in the photo, recalling her mother was so short she could be seen peering through the big steering wheel as she drove through town. “That was kind of scary as a kid riding bike around,” Thomas said. He also recounted a story of going to elementary school at St. Peter’s and nuns watched over lunch to make sure everyone cleared their plates. A classmate didn’t like spaghetti and used to hide his uneaten food and sneak his way out to noon recess. “One time we were running outside and he yells at me to wait up,” Thomas recalled. “He unrolled his socks and out came the spaghetti.”
Thomas, who used to play in local bands when he was younger, pointed to A Better Place bar where coummunity dances were held upstairs. “We weren’t very good so we would change our band name every so often so people would come watch us play, thinking it was a different band,” Thomas said. “After a couple songs people would figure it out and leave.”