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Piece of Akeley history to meet wrecking ball

The building that has been home to industry in Akeley for nearly a century will soon be demolished. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)1 / 2
Hamand City Service Station, with Frebert Meier at the pumps, welcomed motorists in 1938. The brick building’s front retains the original configuration. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

A historical industrial icon in Akeley is soon to meet the wrecking ball, Wicks Wood Products on Broadway is moving from the building originating in 1922 to a site just southwest of Walker.

According to the field superintendent for the demolition, Yancy Spencer of BJ Baas Builders, a 9,100-square-foot Dollar General store will be built on the site.

Work is underway to remove pipe and wires from the existing structure with demolition expected to begin in about a week. Spencer said the Dollar General store is projected to be complete by July 1.

(Dollar General would not confirm this.)

According to Akeley historian Frank Lamb, the building was originally a mechanical garage. Although records are scant, he recalls it was home to a Chevy dealership in the 1920s or ’30s. (His grandfather, Frank Breen, owned a Ford dealership just down the road.)

In 1936 Russell Manufacturing built travel trailers on the site.

The location became Hamand City Service Station in 1938, Claude Hamand the proprietor. He would later move to the north side of the street, where North Country Radiator now operates.

Warner Manufacturing purchased the property in 1948, where wooden tool handles were produced, the business operating with 80 employees, running 24 hours a day.

When "everything went plastic, or oversees," and the market diminished, current owner Don Wicks said the Warner’s building was sold to his father, Duane Warner in 1998. 

"Four generations of Wicks have worked here," Don Wicks said of his grandfather Don, father Duane, himself and son William.

The products gradually shifted to the current flooring, v groove paneling and trim. The company still makes items for Warner’s.

"But the building is no longer functional or efficient," Don Wicks said of spending his time "fixing things" and paying an astronomical electric bill.

It’s thought to be the second oldest structure in Akeley, the former Catholic Church holding "oldest" distinction.

Wicks Wood Products, which employs three, will be located across from Tianna Country Club, off Highway 34. His employees, he said, welcome the move from the antiquated structure.

The building housing Babe’s Cut and Curl, which sat next to the Wicks Wood Products structure, has been sold and will be moved to a new location.