Former Marinette resident Michael Leannah has compiled a book of photos and memories of the Lauerman Brothers Department Store entitled, “Something for Everyone.” Leannah will be at a book-signing event in Marinette Aug. 31. <B>EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Former Marinette resident Michael Leannah has compiled a book of photos and memories of the Lauerman Brothers Department Store entitled, “Something for Everyone.” Leannah will be at a book-signing event in Marinette Aug. 31. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
MARINETTE - Long before there were big box stores, shopping centers and strip malls, there was something called a department store; a place where you could find everything you needed under one roof. Back in the day, Menominee had the Lloyd store and Marinette had Lauerman's.

Much attention has been given to the former Lloyd store lately as construction crews are busy converting the 1927 structure into an apartment complex in Menominee's Historic District with retail space on the ground level.

The Lauerman Building on Dunlap Square in Marinette has held the corner spot since 1890. It, too, has been converted into apartments with a retail store at street level.

Marinette native Michael Leannah has taken a special interest in the Lauerman's and the people behind its rich history. Leannah, a school teacher, has written a book entitled, "Something for Everyone."

It's filled with photos and accounts of the store and the people who worked there from its creation until the day the doors closed Sept. 5, 1987.

Anyone who ever shopped at Lauerman's and reads the book will be immediately taken back to a time when the clerks dressed up for work, shelves were fully stock and everything was in its place.

The ceilings were high, the prices were low, service was key and memories were made. Depending on your age, you may remember a grocery store in the basement or record players and stereos on the second floor.

There were elevator and switchboard operators, a lunch counter, toys galore and clothes and shoes for every member of the family.

"It was fascinating to me that I grew up going to that store and worked there as a teenager and I never even wondered what happened to make that place what it was," said Leannah. "My father worked there for almost 50 years. All my brothers and sisters worked there, my mother worked there, we just grew up at that place."

It was a different era. Shopping on Friday nights was more than a routine, it was an event. The following is an excerpt from the book:

"On Friday night, you saw everybody," says Jim Lauerman.

"Man, that was a scramble on Friday night," adds former employee Elsie Mae Bauer. "It was like a can of worms, people all over the place. Nowadays, the stores are open every night, all-night long, It's no fun anymore."

On Friday nights - and at no other time - Marinette police officers were needed to direct traffic at Pierce Avenue and Main Street. The sidewalks were crowded with people bumping and jostling.

One of the items they were no doubt jostling for was one of Lauerman's famous malt cones. Anyone who has ever had one has never been satisfied by any other. It was the first thing you saw when you walked in the Main Street door by the lunch counter.

The special ice cream recipe was made at Von Heimburg's Marinette Produce dairy. According to Frank Lauerman III, the dairy agreed not to sell the mix to anyone else. More information about those famous cones can be found starting on page 72.

Like any successful business, it's always the people who make it special. It was the same at Lauerman's. During its heyday the 1940s, more than 400 people worked in the store.

Toward the back of the book there's a special section that lays out who's who in the Lauerman family and lists hundreds of employees who worked there over the years.

"I just realized that some of these people who are essential to the story are getting pretty old and if someone doesn't write this down, it'll never get written down," said Leannah.

When he first came up with the idea for the book, Leannah said he was just going to dig up a few old photos and pull together some quotes. He planned on self-publishing about 400 copies and would feel good if he broke even on the deal.

"It really turned into something more," he said. "Pretty soon, the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison was interested. It's become bigger than I ever thought it would."