With waist-deep snow around his house up the Gunflint Trail, it will be five months — at least — until Tyson Cronberg takes his pint-size Pomeranian-poodle mix, Mario, out in the boat to fish on Devil Track Lake.
But Cronberg needs to look ahead and laugh.
Looking back on 2013 is just too painful.
“He’s an awesome fishing dog and when I catch a fish and am fighting it, he jumps in the lake after ’em,” he said, chuckling. “So I get the fish in the net and then I net Mario.”
When spring finally comes to the North Shore, it will be different next year. For nearly a half-century, Cronberg’s family has run the iconic Beaver House bait shop in Grand Marais.
The square shop opened in 1964 within a long cast of Lake Superior. Like the statue of a prairie chicken in Rothsay or Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, the Beaver House is well-known for the massive fiberglass walleye protruding from the building. Its tail sticks out of the roof and a hooked fish head juts from the second-story corner of Broadway and Wisconsin streets.
The shop originally specialized in shoe repair, but Tyson’s father, Bill, and his uncle, Guyal Anderson, started making fishing lures during the endless winters. Folks would line up for their lures, especially their guaranteed-or-your-money-back Beaver Flicks.
“My brother, Marty, invented them, but I made ’em famous,” Tyson said.
The colorful lures, leaflike blades on a swivel, became so popular, the family quit repairing shoes to focus on fishing.
Bill Cronberg bought out Anderson 33 years ago. Local artist Jim Korf installed his walleye masterpiece in the early-1990s. And Tyson manned the counter all these years.
Tyson and his three kids also made a dizzying assortment of spinners, jigs and floating tackle — all for sale amid their collection of antique glass bottles and colorful murals. They even had an aquarium to demonstrate the lures in action.
Within seven months this year, Tyson lost both his parents, who had been married for 57 years. First his mother, Betty, passed away in February. Bill joined her in September.
“We had a pretty rough year, for sure,” he said.
With bills to pay and his three siblings lobbying to sell the Beaver House, Tyson shrugged: “There’s no way I could come up with the money to buy them out.”
So the place is for sale for $288,000, lures included. Fizzled talks of a sale and transformation into a bar-restaurant might revive soon.
In the meantime, Tyson plans to retool a website to sell Beaver Flicks while lovers of quirky Minnesota folk art grow worried.
“The Beaver House is an example of classic roadside architecture — these one-of-a-kind wonders need to be preserved,” said Eric Dregni, author of “Midwest Marvels” and “Weird Minnesota.
“It would be pretty foolish to tear it down,” he said. “They’d have a real uproar on their hands.”
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