A Brief History
142 S. Main St.
As a young man, George Ludolph was an employee of Frisbie’s Bake Shop and Ice Cream Store. He left Shawano for Michigan where he operated a store until a fire put an end to the business. In 1898, after returning to Shawano, Ludolph bought and operated the bake shop and ice cream store out of a previous one-story wood frame building at 142 S. Main Street. In 1916 he relocated that building and had the present building constructed in order to house a grocery store.
Ludolph’s Grocery was reputed to be the first business in Shawano to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, a distinction which was probably made possible by the growth in truck farming, or vegetable farming for sale, throughout much of Northeast Wisconsin in the late 1890s and early 1900s. He also sold fresh Christmas holly and oysters.
The two known extant photos showing the interior of this building during Ludolph’s tenure, which appears to date from the early 1920s, presents an image universal to grocery stores of this time period. The photographs show a narrow store space of utilitarian design lined on both sides by glass and wood counters, behind which rows of solidly stocked shelves rise to the ceiling, a common arrangement for all types of stores that both limited what an establishment could offer and dictated the means by which they did business. Until about the 1930s, independent storefront groceries, such as Ludolph’s operation, dominated the grocery business in rural northern Wisconsin.
Sales of fruits, vegetables and packaged goods predominated, with shoppers expected to purchase other types of foods at more specialized shops, such as those described previously. Since the shopper’s physical access to most goods was limited by the store space and its arrangement, the proprietor or a clerk often would select, package and, for city residents, deliver groceries requested by the customer.
By 1935, George Ludolph had leased his grocery store to another operator, although he continued to live in the upstairs apartment. By 1938 King’s Tavern occupied the storefront and later it became the home of K&G Sporting Goods.
The demise of Ludolph’s grocery store may have stemmed from new competition for the area’s foodstuffs market. The Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company moved into 118 S. Main Street between 1927 and 1938. This is the first known A&P location in Shawano and remained as such until the grocery store built at 209 S. Main St. in 1947. Based on standard grocery store operations in pre-World War II storefront locations, it appears likely that A&P’s operations represented a subtle but significant change from Ludolph’s and that A&P’s operations changed dramatically between its two buildings. As early as the mid-1920s, self-service and “combination” stores were becoming prevalent nationwide in the A&P chain; by 1932 nearly one third of A&P stores in the United States operated according to one or both of these systems. Unlike its nineteenth-century predecessors, self-service grocery stores placed goods in low stands within reach of the customer, who then directly selected the goods sought; establishments referred to as “combination” stores incorporated goods traditionally supplied outside of the grocery, such as meats and baked goods. Either system, however, required more horizontal display space than the traditional narrow commercial storefront, and in locations where wider storefronts were not available and transportation impediments made outlying areas undesirable, even national grocery chains accepted downtown locations with narrow storefronts in order to be close to established retail traffic.
George William Ludolph was born in Germany on June 19, 1873 and emigrated to the United States when he was 14 with his parents, Konrad Ludolph and Sophia Vaupe. He married Katherine Moriarity on April 23, 1895 in Freeport Illinois. The couple had five children, two boys and three girls. Katerine died on February 28, 1910 and George Ludolph married his second wife, Mary Engle on January 1, 1913. George and Mary Ludolph had two children. George was a baker and grocer by trade. George died on November 11, 1940 after suffering a stroke.