What’s Old is New Again on Chapman St. – Ely, MN

Summer is nearly upon us and the streets of Ely are bustling with canoeists, campers, and fishermen eager to enjoy their trips to the BWCA. Hopefully we’ll talk with many of them at Portage North and Sundog Sports in our new and improved retail space which we look to reopen sometime this June. And as much as we are excited by the possibilities of something new, we continue to be fascinated by the old. Our building at 145 E Chapman St has a long history in the community of Ely and, as we continue in our renovation, each space comes with a plethora of mysteries that help us to appreciate this space in new and different ways. For instance, as we removed the carpet from our retail space, we discovered the old hardwood floor very much intact below. What stories could it tell, if only it could, of dress shoppers visiting Vickies or perhaps of loggers stopping by the Tiger Store to see if they still had parts for their old model-t truck. If our restoration goes as planned, this same floor will once again support shoppers, this time looking to “gear up and get out” with portage packs and gear. We have also found other remnants of the past such as tin ceilings and tin egg-and-dart molding around the beams which have been waiting in hiding above the drop ceiling for 50 years. Perhaps, one day, these could be in the light again too. There are also fascinating mysteries to unravel such as the 1950s renovation which moved the door from the middle of the building to the corner. The lingering relic of this change is found in the concrete top step which interrupts the hardwood near the front of our store. It’s in these quirks and peculiarities that history comes alive as more than walls and floors but as a tangible reminder of the lives and experiences which intertwine with our own in this space. And as we produce portage packs and map cases, dog harnesses and collars, and the sound of sewing machines echoes off the walls, one can almost close their eyes and imagine the sounds of busy shoppers at Bobby Johns or excited children running through the doors of the confectionery. It’s in this space that our own made-in-Ely products continue to write history on these walls for another generation of Ely residents and visitors alike to contribute to and be part of. We hope to share this space with you this summer. When our doors are open, stop in and visit. We would love to talk about history as well as all our favorite outdoor hobbies with you. And if anyone has pictures or memories of the past uses of this space, we would greatly appreciate it if you shared them with us. We’re proud of our products and our company. Here’s to a space that we can also be proud of as we showcase a few small pieces of the history of this great community we call home.

Our building through time. The first photo from 1947 (door is centered), in the 1950s (door in the corner), and today

Hidden above the drop ceiling

Author Bio:

Riley Smith

Riley is the Director of Community Engagement and Public Relations for Portage North and Sundog Sport. He comes from a background in wilderness programing and environmental education with four years of BWCA outfitting and guiding before taking this role. In his free time, he can be found out canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing, capturing photography, and writing.
Posted in

Leave a Comment