Historic Properties – “Shawano has History”

The Wavrunek Harness Shop


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A Brief History

Wavrunek Harnesses
148 S. Main St.
Shawano, Wiscoinsin

Built in 1898, the building at 148 S. Main Street in Shawano was the home of the Wavrunek Harness Shop until 1939.

Thomas J Wavrunek, born in Bohemia in 1869, was a harness maker and saddler in Shawano.  His family immigrated to America in 1869, arriving in Stangelville, Kewaunee County, where they had relatives.  Thomas never knew his father, since he died just 3 months after arrival. While building their first home, a heavy log fell on his dad and broke his back. He died of his injuries after great suffering. The little family stayed on to work the farm.  Thomas had a brother and a little sister who helped their mother until Thomas was 16 years old.  He then traveled to Manitowoc to apprentice in the art of saddle making for three years.

In 1888 Thomas Wavrunek came to Shawano and worked for a year with the Dodge and Gamble company.  Wavrunek purchased the business from Mr. Fosdick which was located on Main and Division Streets in Shawano.  In 1898 he constructed the building at 148 S. Main Street where he ran his harness business.

Thomas Wavrunek married Mary Boehm from Leopolis on November 22, 1893.  Thomas and Mary moved into their first home on south Main Street in 1898.  Like many families in Shawano they had a cow and chickens in their yard for milk & eggs.  Thomas and Mary had 4 children; Magdalene, Blanche, Joseph, and John.  Joe Wavrunek died in a very tragic accident on Christmas day, when he received a new pair of skates and fell through the ice while trying them out on the river.  Many came to his rescue but he died at the age of 12 years old.

Thomas advertised Light and Heavy Harnesses and was also a dealer in robes and blankets.  He was a friendly fellow who never missed an opportunity to talk with all who passed by his business.   T. J. Wavrunek was a business man and inventor.  He was granted three patents.

    • Harness Trace, patent number791,845 June 1905
    • Adding & Subtracting Machine, patent number 1294853, February 1919
    • Computing Machine, patent number 1536171, May 1925

Thomas Wavrinek died in 1939 and after his death, Mary Wavrunek sold the building to Robert Thimke in 1939 who operated a family jewelry business until 1988.  Thimke sold the building to Herb and Jim Martin in 1988 when they relocated the Martin Jewellers business out of their home on Franklin St. to the Wavrunek Building at 148 S. Main Street.   Jim Martin sold it to his cousin and godson, David Pahl and his wife Heather Pahl in January of 2017 where they continue to operate the business as Martin Jewellers.