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120 years and counting, Mann's Store serving Washington Island community

Mann's Store on Washington Island is the only year-round option for the community to buy groceries on this secluded portion of northeast Wisconsin, and owners say they're planning to keep it that way.
Posted at 5:57 AM, Feb 08, 2024

WASHINGTON ISLAND (NBC 26) — It's a family business—five generations in the making—going strong since 1903.

Mann's Store is a Washington Island staple, and it's the only year-round option to buy groceries on this secluded part of Northeast Wisconsin.

Fifth-generation owner Josh Mann says not much has changed at the store through the years, other than how customers pay.

This family business has stood the test of time, dealing with all sorts of struggles like the pandemic and winter weather woes that can often affect the store's supply of goods.

"So, sometimes there's weather in the winter. There could be snow storms and whatnot. The ferry sometimes doesn't run if it's too windy. So, that's one of the biggest struggles," Mann said.

But, Mann says thanks to the community's support, they've been able to stay in business through the decades.

"The community appreciates us being open almost every day of the year. The only day we're closed is Christmas day. We appreciate them coming in and supporting us, and we support them as well," Mann said.

After growing up on the island and moving west for a few years, Mann says he always knew he would be back.

"I want to be here, because I want to continue to help the community, and I want to continue supporting my family, and continue supporting the legacy of this place. That's very special to me," Mann said.

Aside from manning the beverage side of the grocery store, Mann stays busy with other work—like coaching basketball and working as a personal trainer.

Like most islanders, he's embraced other jobs, but he stays focused on the store.

"What's really the secret to your success? I can't imagine being in business with my siblings. So what's your secret," NBC 26 Today's MacLeod Hageman asked.

"The secret to success is that everyone just really has their own job, and they just stick to their own job. If everyone tried to do everything it would never work," Mann explained.

"When people walk through those doors. Is it kind of like they're walking into your home," Mac asked.

"Yes, absolutely. I remember being a kid in this grocery store, and my sister and I would be rollerblading around," Mann replied.

From playing in the aisles as a youngster to cashing out customers at the register, Josh Mann says taking over the family business has always been a dream.

"I always wanted to be a part of it, for sure, because I know how special it is to my family. So, I always wanted to be part of it," Mann said.

Mann says they've talked about expanding the business to another location, but that idea is years down the road.