With the warm weather the garage and yard sale scene heats up, beckoning collectors and the curious to rummage around someone else’s household items for sale.
If you’re among those whose “inner picker” calls, keep your eyes open for wooden bowls decorated with hand painted flowers, ivy, fruit and birds and stamped on the bottom with the word “Munising.” They’re a part of Upper Peninsula and Michigan history.
I’m sure I remember my relatives having some of the decorative and functional pieces around their homes, but I had no knowledge or appreciation of woodenware’s importance to the city. It was fun to find vintage Munising Woodenware displayed and for sale at the Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore in the heart of Munising, and to learn more about it.
Munising Woodenware Company actually started as another woodenware factory in Kalkaska, in the Lower Peninsula. When that business burned down in 1910 it moved operations and changed its name to that of its new hometown, and was productive from 1911 until 1955. At its peak it employed 250-300 people.
The woodenware was sold nationally by Sears and Marshall Field, and was so popular that the company expanded to a second manufacturing location in Marquette.
It was in the 1940s that the employees began decoratively painting the plain bowls, but plastic and cheaper imports soon doomed Munising Woodenware. The original factory closed in 1955 followed in 1959 by the Marquette site.
The building next door to Falling Rock is the Munising Wood Products Company, which also sells these pieces of the city’s past; for photos and more history check out the Munising Woodenware website.
Be on the lookout for the name “Munising” on functional plain and decorated bowls; the company also made butter paddles and molds, rolling pins, clothespins and toothpicks—although I don’t think the last items were individually engraved with the word “Munising.”
For ideas on where to eat, stay, shop and play in Munising check out the free Great Lakes Gazette Touraide!
Falling Rock Cafe & Bookstore
104 E. Munising Ave., Munising, Michigan
All stories and photos copyright Kath Usitalo unless otherwise noted