The oldest liquor store in Duluth has changed hands and will take on a new name for the first time in nearly nine decades.
Loiselle Liquor Store, 413 E. Fourth St., was sold by the Loiselle family this spring to Matthew Krueger and Katherine Eagle of Cloquet. St. Louis County property tax records showed the sale price at $360,000 for the two-story building — which was constructed in 1893 as the Goering Block.
Krueger and Eagle plan to rename the business Lake Superior Liquor Cabinet.
Loiselle Liquor Store was established in 1934 — two months after the repeal of prohibition, a nationwide constitutional law that banned alcohol consumption from 1920 to December 1933. The business carried on under four generations of Loiselles at the same Hillside location near the expanding St. Mary’s Hospital — now Essentia Health.
According to the Duluth News Tribune, the Duluth City Council approved nine on-sale liquor licenses for bars and taverns and 20 off-sale liquor licenses for stores on Feb. 5, 1934. Eli Loiselle was one of the first 20 to obtain an off-sale liquor license. City address directories show he established a store at 419 E. Fourth St. (now 413 E. Fourth St.) that same year. The business never changed locations despite decades of city liquor law wrangling.
Duluth Public Library researchers gleaned more information on Loiselle Liquor store history.
Connie Loiselle Jr. told the Hillside News in 1995 that his grandfather Eli Loiselle ran the Deer River Hotel and Saloon until the northern Minnesota lumber industry collapsed in the early 20th Century. Eli moved to Duluth and opened a bowery district saloon. Prohibition ended that business in 1920.
In 1934, Eli Loiselle was the first in line to obtain a Duluth off-sale liquor license, Connie Jr. told the Hillside News. Eli Loiselle died in 1941 at the age of 77. His son, Connie Loiselle Sr., followed by a partnership that included Connie Loiselle Jr and John Loiselle, then Connie’s son Christopher Loiselle all led the store throughout the decades.
“After prohibition, their liquor number was 001,” said Krueger. “This building used to be a plumbing shop and after prohibition hit they turned it into a liquor store.”
While Eli Loiselle may have rushed to city hall for a new liquor store license, the city of Duluth was late to join the nationwide cocktail party.
According to the Zenith City Press, an online Duluth history website, Duluth voted to go dry in 1917, three years before prohibition. That move meant the city had to repeal its own law before it could get the beer, wine and liquor flowing again. The post-prohibition changes in city, state and national liquor laws likely helped drive new business to off-sale liquor stores like Loiselles.
Zenith City Press Publisher Tony Dierckins said prior to prohibition, breweries like Fitger’s in Duluth owned saloons, hotels with bars, and theaters — wherever beer could be sold. The brewers exclusively sold their own brands at these locations which dominated liquor sales. The practice — called “tied houses” — ended with new post-prohibition rules.
“After prohibition, breweries relied much more heavily on liquor stores for retail sales,” he said.
Krueger, a Duluth native, said he purchased the liquor store operation because he knew it was a good business. Krueger also operates the Munger Tavern in a historic train depot just off Highway 2 in Solway Township.
While few changes are expected at the liquor store, Krueger said his wife suggested the new name to put their own stamp on the place.
So when will workers take down the landmark Loiselle Liquor signs on Fourth Street?
“Whenever they decide to get off their asses and do it,” Krueger said.
A message to the Loiselle family for comment was not returned.
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