A landmark Superior collectible store — along with its iconic sign — has been sold to new owners who plan to maintain all its nostalgic charm.
Globe News owner Tom Unterberger announced last week that he has sold the historic building at Tower Avenue and Belknap Street along with all its contents to a partnership group headed by a longtime customer. Unterberger and his wife, Jill, purchased the building with the help of his parents in 1982 and slowly converted its corner newsstand into a retail store filled with books, music, trading cards and a wide variety of vintage gifts.
The store will officially change hands Jan. 1.
The new ownership team includes Jon and Beth Fritsche, of Poplar, who operate Culver’s restaurant franchises in Superior, Ashland, Duluth and Two Harbors; and Danny and Anna Haskins, of Lake Effect Dance and Lake Effect Construction, also based in Poplar.
Jon Fritsche, a Magic: The Gathering card player who grew up in southern Wisconsin, said he discovered Globe News in 2016 and quickly became a regular. He put an offer together when Unterberger began talking about retirement.
Globe News is a unique place where customers can discover something new with each visit, said Fritsche, 34.
“Tom has a little bit of everything for someone,” he said. “I think that’s the thrill and the magic of this place. You really never know what you’re going to find. You don’t know what’s going to come through the doors and you’re always finding something new.”
“That’s the beauty and the fun of it,” he said.
Globe News includes a used record store called the Vinyl Cave and a backroom filled with comic books, sports memorabilia, compact discs and trading cards. A front section features new and used magazines, DVDS, books, greeting cards and gifts among other things.
Fritsche, who has been working as an information technology professional, said he is eager to take over day-to-day store operations and get to know its long list of regulars.
“As much as I love ButterBurgers, it’s more my wife’s passion that it is mine,” he said, referencing a popular Culver’s menu item. “As soon as I knew he was interested in retiring, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come in here and just be the new ‘Tom’.”
Fritsche said he doesn’t plan any major store changes. He hopes to find space for Magic: The Gathering playing tables and wants to establish new online sales opportunities. Changes will mostly target second floor improvements.
“It’s huge, there’s so much space up there,” he said. “The opportunities are just limitless. We don’t have any definitive plans other than to create some rental opportunities for the city of Superior right now.”
Constructed in 1889 as a retail center called the New Jersey Building, the 22,000-square-foot property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was developed by the Land and River Improvement Company which also built the Roosevelt Terrace on North 21st Street. The building features six luxury apartments on the second floor — three are occupied and all are in need of renovation.
Unterberger said the building’s basement shows evidence of utility tunnels that connected to the nearby Board of Trade Building and the long gone Superior Hotel across Belknap Street. He said the famous neon sign was installed by previous owners and likely originated at Globe Shipbuilder’s, a shipyard which operated in Superior during the early 20th century.
The word “news” was attached to the sign and became a calling card for a corner newsstand.
When the Unterbergers purchased the store 40 years ago newspaper sales often topped 150 copies a day. But newspaper and magazine sales began to fall in the 1980s. New markets needed to be explored, he said.
“I’ve always been a collectible guy,” said Unterberger. “I was into comics and music at an early age. It was just kind of natural. I knew we had to change something because demographics were changing — newspapers were dying off, magazines were dying. We had to put in stuff that would actually sell and put in stuff that we actually knew about … the rest is history.”
Unterberger, 66, said it will be difficult to leave the store and all the people who come through the doors.
“I’ve been here so long. I love it. I’ve really made a lot of friends here. It’s going to be tough,” he said. “I’m really good at being able to take a nap once in a while but I’m going to miss the people.”
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