Backroom Treasures

Joynes Ben Franklin

Joynes Ben Franklin is a shopper’s delight. You can find almost anything in that store, from notions to beautiful Scandinavian wool sweaters and shoe aisles to die for, plus everything in between.

In fact, owners Rodney and Julie Carlson and Jim Joynes were seriously considering getting Point-of-Sale stickers for their merchandise recently to make inventory control a lot easier, but the computer program they wanted to buy could only handle 60,000 items.

Not nearly enough.

“We’ve got a lot more than that,” Julie said, and laughed.

Julie Carlson with a small collection of “treasures” they’ve found, including the trophy the store won during a Fisherman’s Picnic parade and a photo of the float. | SUBMITTED

So it’s true­­—Joynes is a store that has almost everything.

But there’s another layer to this story.

Julie’s grandparents, Howard and Rosemary Joynes, were absolutely convinced that shelves should stay fully stocked at all times. So if they had one item on the shelf, they had to have three in the back room and six in other storage areas around town, including at home.

And, they never threw anything away. If it didn’t sell, they just kept it.

One can immediately see what’s piling up here: Stuff, lots of stuff—an incredible potpourri of items dating back to the 1950s and beyond. Julie calls them Howard’s Treasures, and they well might be.

There are little Mini-Tonka dolls, still in their original boxes, hundreds of souvenir salt and pepper shakers of all shapes and sizes as well as sugars and creamers, T-shirts from the ’80s, a complete collection of Beargrease posters (more than one copy of some of them), commemorative tiles for the 75th anniversary of the First Congregational Church, brochures about the opening of the Pincushion Mountain ski trails, old lace-up ski boots, scales for Brach’s candy, a fabric measuring machine, a small cast-iron skillet to melt lead for bullets … the list goes on and on.

And it’s not over yet.

“We’re still finding things,” Julie said. But she doesn’t mind. She loves these treasures from her past.

“We grew up in the store,” she said. “This is in my blood.”

Howard and Rosemary opened the store on Pearl Harbor Day, Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941.They purchased the business from P.E. Alm and renamed the store Howard Joynes Federated Store. At that time, it was located in the parking lot across the street from where the store is now.

Rosemary was a stickler for details and “was very, very businesslike,” Julie said. “She was the perfectionist, he had the busines degree. In 1941, you needed a man to own a business.”

Julie found a duck sewing station. | SUBMITTED

Julie remembers how Rosemary taught her to put stickers on items, for example. They always had to be in the upper right-hand corner. She said she’s pretty sure she put all the stickers on the souvenir treasures she’s found so far when she was a girl.

“And, you weren’t allowed to sit down on the job,” she said.

There was only one exception: During Fisherman’s Picnic, Julie and Jim could sit on a stool so they could reach the numbers on the cash register.

“Rosemary taught us to always give the change back first, not the dollars,” Julie recalls. “And all the dollar bills had to be facing the same way and fanned out. To this day, I train the people who use the registers the same way.”

Incidentally, every cash register ever used in the store has been saved. So are all the ledgers from the original P.E. Alm store. They go back to 1914, Julie said.

What other treasures are there?

There’s a great collection of cards by John H. Spelman, III, many in the original packages, which included 10 cards with envelopes for $1 each.

Spelman was an art teacher in Grand Marais who did linoleum and woodcut prints. Betsy Bowen, a nationally recognized woodcut printmaker here, took classes from him. “She told me that he inspired her,” Julie said.

A few of the ledgers from the P.E. Alm store, which go back to 1914. | SUBMITTED

The store also has old promotional posters from companies like Lee and Carhartt, which have never been put up and are in pristine condition.

In the back storage area, there’s one shelf, which they call Howard’s Shelf, where one can find an amazing array of things. There is a good selection of outdated cross country ski bindings by Solomon and Besser, for example, as well as skis. “We have a pair of black Head skis with yellow bottoms with bamboo poles.”

They did find a collection of red long underwear or union suits on that shelf a few months ago, and put them in the store. They’ve been popular.

Much more undoubtedly awaits discovery in the “treasury” of Howard and Rosemary.

When Julie, Jim and Rodney decided to tear down the old hotel next to the store, they removed boxes of things that had been stored there.

Julie found a souvenir tea cup and plate. | SUBMITTED

Julie is still going through the boxes and discovers something almost every week.

What is she going to do with it?

“I’m not sure yet,” she says. But everyone will get to a chance to see some of it and perhaps purchase a keepsake or two. A table at this year’s Fisherman’s Picnic comes to mind, she added.

One thing for sure­—new discoveries “just keep coming,” and that’s just fine with her. She’s going to love using her latest treasure ­—a 1969 Joynes Department Store calendar. The dates are the same as 2014. It’s already up on the wall.

By Joan Farnam

This story was originally published in the February 2014 issue of Northern Wilds Magazine.

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