CBD oil has seen an increase in popularity in recent years but not much is known about the new supplement.
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It comes from the hemp plant which is a cousin of the marijuana plant.
According to Island City Vapors, Harvard Medical School and other sources, despite popular belief, CBD cannot get a person high.
According to the World Health Organization CBD also has no dependence or abuse potential.
“To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD,” the World Health Organization stated.
Because of its close relationship with marijuana Katie Jensen, Winona State University health and wellness promotion coordinator said she believes CBD has been more popular.
“I think that is why people are drawn to it a lot of the time,” Jensen said. “It’s almost like a forbidden fruit.”
According to Harvard Medical School, CBD is legal on some level in all 50 states. The federal government puts CBD in the same class as marijuana but doesn’t enforce it regularly.
In Minnesota, as of Jan. 1, 2020 products with CBD can be legally sold if conditions outlined in Minnesota Statue 151.72 are met.
CBD products are sold now because products derived from hemp were removed from controlled substances laws which many took as an indication that selling CBD products is legal, according to a MinnPost article.
The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy said selling CBD products is not legal, according to a MinnPost article but no enforcement ever happened.
Harvard Medical School also stated the legality of CBD is expected to change because of a bipartisan consensus in Congress to make the hemp crop legal. That would make it hard to prohibit CBD.
One major issue people have with CBD is the lack of research and information available.
Jensen said when typing CBD into Google or other search engines what most likely will come up is companies marketing the product and stating CBD a miracle drug or a cure-all.
“There has been a lot of inflations of how good it can be for different people,” Jensen said.
Research from Harvard Medical School showed the most effective use of CBD oil is for Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, which are some of the worst child epilepsy syndromes.
The FDA approved Epidioles for these conditions which does contain CBD.
The FDA does not regulate CBD overall, which is the same for supplements and vitamins people take every day.
Another common use of CBD is for anxiety and insomnia.
Studies have suggested that CBD helps with falling and staying asleep.
There has also been research on CBD effects on chronic pain.
According to Harvard Medical School, the European Journal of Pain used an animal model to show that when CBD is applied to skin it can help lower arthritis pain and inflammation.
“Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat,” Harvard Medical School stated.
For each of these conditions, there are options of how to take CBD.
Someone who uses it has the option of ingesting, apply to skin, smoking, among others.
An article on the Harvard Medical School website stated more human study needs to be done to know the true effects of CBD on pain and other conditions.
Ben Rayburn, first-year Winona State student, said he uses CBD oil for his Tourettes and Asperger’s syndromes, anxiety and depression.
He said he decided to use CBD oil because there is not any medication specifically for Tourettes and with his combination of health concerns it’s hard to find something that works.
Raybrun said he has tried every anti-psych, ADHD, and anxiety medication, each time getting strange side effects.
He said he likes CBD oil because it’s easy to use and has helped with all of his conditions.
“When I use it regularly like I am supposed to it really reduces my anxiety and my Tourettes goes down,” Raybrun said. “They are reduced by I would say a good 75 to 80% of what they normally would be.”
Harvard Medical School and Jensen recommend talking to a doctor before using a CBD product.
“If you decide to try CBD, talk with your doctor – if for no other reason than to make sure it won’t affect other medications you are taking,” Harvard Medical School stated.
Rayburn said he was told by Island City Vapors, a local shop that sells CBD products that if a medication reacts poorly to grapefruit CBD products are not recommended. He did not know why that was.
Prices for CBD products range depending on the product, the seller and the quality.
Rayburn said at Island City Vapors a bottle of CBD oil that lasts about a month is about $150.
The Friendship Center in Downtown Winona needs more parking as it is the number one complaint from members.
The issue comes mostly because the Friendship Center serves the senior citizens of the area, many of whom have a harder time walking long distances or making it across the street in the time allowed.
Roxy Kohner has been a member of the center for almost 11 years. She said sometimes she will come to the center an hour before an event to wait out a close enough parking spot.
“I have driven by and without a place to park I had to turn around and go back because there wasn’t anything within the walking distance that I can do,” Kohner said. “I have also staked out parking. So I have come an hour ahead of time and I will park and do something in my car till I can watch and see someone pull out.”
Malia Fox, director of the Friendship Center, said this is the most frequent complaint the center gets.
A report from 2018 state there is adequate parking for the City of Winona.
The report titled “Parking Study: Downtown Winona” was created by Walker Consultants. They studied an area of 42 blocks between the Mississippi River, Winona Street, Broadway Street and Kanas Street.
Walker Consultants found that in the study area there were about 4,030 spaces available of which about 3,205 spaces were for public use.
Parking continues to be a problem for the Friendship Center despite the findings in the Walker report.
Winona Major, Mark Peterson, said parking has been an issue for the center since it started 40 years ago.
“The complaints are very real which is why the city has been looking at a solution to solving the problem,” Peterson said. “The past couple of years the city has seriously been considering moving the center.”
There will be a meeting on Nov. 13 to discuss parking further.
There was talk from the city about knocking down the old middle school auditorium and creating a parking lot there.
According to Kohner, that would not fix the problem.
“That is a band-aid because many of us have limited mobility. So even if we do have parking you’re talking two blocks away,” Kohner said. “I won’t be able to go two blocks either. I can go a block if a stretch it, half a block is perfect.”
One quasi-solution the center had was making a deal with Wesely United Methodist Church which is next door to them. The Friendship Center can use the church’s parking area as long as the church does not have an event going on.
The parking the church said the center can use is not reserved for the Friendship Center. It is public parking.
The center has a membership of 1,000 people with an average daily attendance of 125. They also have staff coming in and out of the building every day.
According to Fox, the Main Street Square Development across the street has hindered their membership.
“In the last 6-8 months that this development has been occurring, we are watching our numbers drop for the first time in 25 years,” Fox said.
Rhythm @the River was attneded by people of Winona and the surrounding area on Sunday, Sept. 15, at Levee park.
The event included dance lessons, live music, craft beer, and food trucks.
Organizers spent between $12,000 and $15,000 to organize the event.
Lee Gundersheimer, arts and culture coordinator at WINONArts said many sponsors believe in WINONArts and helped pay for the event, in addition to fundraising.
Rhythm @ the River is an expanded 2018 version of “Swinging in the Streets.”
Organizers said the event was moved to Levee Park and made it bigger because last year 400 people participated on Third Street.
Rhythm @ the River was created as a part of a series of events that WINONArts puts on according to Gunersheimer.
“The event is part of the Dance Plein Air events in WINONArts, the City’s initiative to bring as many folks together with the arts and through as many different art forms as possible, dance being one of them,” Gunersheimer said.
Winona State Students Emma and Scout were on their way to study at Blue Heron and decided to see what was going on.
The two got snow cones at one of the food trucks and sat down in the grassy area of the park to enjoy the music.
“I really like the Spanish music,” Emma said. “I think we definitely would come to this again.”
Rhythm @ the River was also the kick-off to Project FINE’s Welcome Week.
Welcome Week helps create a more welcoming community for immigrants and people who have relocated to Winona, according to Gunersheimer.
The Winona Public Library brought children books to Island City Brewery for the monthly Tales on Tap event.
On Wednesday, April 3 thePublic Library hosted Tales on Tap at Island City Brewery.
Tales on Tap occurs on the first Wednesday of every month. The library started the event in January.
According to Douglas Irwin, CEO of Island City Brewing Company the library hosts the event for no cost.
Samantha TerBeest, librarian, said the event is a fun and relaxing time for those who attend.
“The purpose is to provide adults with, one relaxation, and second, bring them back to childhood,” said TerBeest.
Leslie Albers, volunteer reader, read three children’s book that went along with the theme of coloring.
The books were “The Day the Crayons Quit,”“The Day the Crayons Came Home,” and “Red: A Crayon’s Story.”
Along with the readings, the library provided coloring pages, coloring utensils and a plate of meat and cheese.
There was also a chance to win an adult coloring book and coloring utensils.
Albers has been reading since she was a child. In college, she and her roommates would read English detective books aloud to each other.
Now she reads to her grand children.
“I have been gifted with the gift to gab,” said Albers.
Because of that gift, Albers said she loves to be in front of a microphone. Especially, if she is reading something.
She saw a poster in the library asking for volunteers to read.
Albers said she did not even think before she volunteered to read at the event.
There is not always an audience at Tales on Tab.
On Wednesday there were three tables full of people. After the first book was read there were only a few people sitting at the bar. None of these people took the coloring sheets or participated in the drawing for a coloring book.
TerBeest said some people find themselves at the brewery the same day the event is happening, and others mean to be there.
“I was telling (Albers), people are not going to listen to you,” TerBeest said. “They are going to do their own thing. Like these guys over there and the guy behind us, they will listen sometimes.”
Irwin said his staff has said the event is not very big.
“From what my staff is telling me, it seems like there wasn’t a big turn out for that event,” Irwin said.
TerBeest said in February the library had a pajama contest at the Tales on Tab event that she believed to have a good turnout. The prize was a $10 Target gift card.
As of now, the library is not planning on doing the Tales for Tab event over the summer months, according to TerBeest.
TerBeest said those who play Book Bingo want to have Wednesday nights back for that event.
TerBeest said the library may bring Tales on Tab back in the fall.
Winona had a brewery before the town had its own flour mill. The history of Winona breweries can be traced back 170 years.
That first brewery in the area was Gilmore Valley Brewing which started in the 1850s shortly after Winona was settled by immigrants. Later Gilmore Valley Brewing became C.C. Beck.
The Rochester Post Bulletin reported the first breweries had a few things in common.
One was that all of them changed owners and names a few times before they closed.
The other was that most of them were founded by a German immigrant.
Bub’s Brewing Company, which exists today but in the form of a bar restaurant, was started after the Gilmore Valley Brewing Company. The company does not make beer anymore.
Originally the brewery was named Weisbrod Brewing Company and was run by Jacob Weisbord.
Peter Bub, who would eventually own the company started as a brew master and foreman.
When Weisbrod died of Typhoid fever in 1870, Bub became the manager of the brewery.
Bub later married Weisbrod’s widow and became owner of the brewery, changing the name to Bub’s Brewing.
This was the only brewing company that was able to survive during the prohibition because they sold soft drinks and near-beer, which had an alcohol content of less than one percent, according to the Post Bulletin.
The brewery eventually closed because of lack of an advertising budget and struggle to find cans and bottles to fit the volume discount, according to the Post Bulletin.
The most recent brewery to open in Winona is Island City Brewing Company. The taproom and brewery opened in 2017 on St. Patrick’s Day.
There were some issues for partners ,Colton Altobell and Tommy Rodengen, when renovating their section of the building they share with Jefferson’s Pub and Grill.
Renovations started in May of 2016, according to the Island City Brewing Company’s blog.
Altobell and Rodengen started the process hoping for a fall opening date. The partners were caught in the licensing process for longer than they hoped.
In a video on the company’s blog, the two owners stated they wanted to be a part of the community and by 2021 they wanted to be selling their beer regionally.
“As a member of the community of Winona we hope to exist as a landmark and destination in town. A place where families, friends and neighbors can gather to enjoy good conversation and enjoy fresh local made beers and house made sodas,” Altobell said in the video. “We hope to give back to the community too and be a part of Winona in every way we can.”
The brewery now hosts events like “The Battle of the Brushes” and a drag show with Winona State Full Spectrum, a LGBT club on the Winona State campus.
Altobell and Rodengen do not run the brewery. As of March of 2018, Douglas Irwin became the Chief Effective Officer (CEO) of Island City Brewing Company.
Irwin said in an email that his favorite part about running a taproom and brewery is the people who love it.
“I get to share my passion with many more people, and I get to do it as my job,” Irwin said. “The long days are worth it when you have strangers tell you that they love your beer and really enjoy your taproom experience.”
For many locals in Winona, creating a sustainable environment plays an important role in combating climate change.
Members of Winona Women for Healthy Communities have been active in addressing this contemporary concern.
On Saturday, April 15, members of the group held an art workshop at the Winona Arts Center, where attendees made art for a local version of the national People’s Climate March.
The march will occur Saturday, April 29, in downtown Winona and will bring attention to changes in climate.
Organizer of Arts Day and Winona Women for Healthy Communities member Mary Kaye Perrin said sustainability was the main theme of the art workshop.
Paint, brushes and watercolors were available for attendees to make posters, and decorate umbrellas as a way to show the abundance of rain that has occurred this year.
“People need to pay attention to the recent downpours of rain and flooding,” Perrin said.
According to Perrin, the march aims to make people more aware of the effects of global warming and reflect people’s concerns on the current regulations. This issue, she said, affects a community like Winona with flooding, loss of apple crops and loss of natural resources.
Through the march, the group will also support the Minnesota renewable energy goals and the progress being done toward them, Winona Women for Healthy Communities member Emilie Falc said.
In Winona, Falc said the group is trying to help locals continue to work on issues related to clean air, clean water and offer good jobs to encourage healthier communities.
“We don’t want to lose momentum toward those sustainability goals and legislation that would reduce them,” Falc said. “ We would like for people in the community to come forward and to talk about what their needs are.”
The event at the Winona Arts Center gave attendees, both children and adults, a chance to show sustainable efforts while expressing their creativity.
Attendee Julian Kohner was painting a butterfly with yellow and green colors, and his mom was holding the brush with him.
The canvas, paints and umbrellas were supplied from donations, and most of them were recycled items, Falc said. The art center contributed to the initiative by providing the space for the workshop.
Falc said the expenses for the march are low and volunteers will provide the music and PA system.
Nancy Bachler, one of the art workshop attendees, was outlining the red and yellow paint for the poster “Sustainable Future Now” with Lynette Powers, another organizer and member of Winona Women for Healthy Communities.
Bachler said about 98 percent of all scientists agree climate change is a real threat to the world, and that is why people need to be concerned about such issues.
Sometimes people can show individual efforts by simply recycling and being aware of the changes in the environment that affect health, Bachler said. Water is being polluted, she said, and the air quality is not as clean as it used to be.
“There really is an important connection to health, wellbeing, and the earth,” Bachler said. “We are trying to help people make their own part, while having fun.”
Besides sustainability, Falc said another important theme is local effort.
“We want to celebrate what we are already doing in Winona,” Falc said.
According to Falc, Winona is involved in making sustainable choices and Winona County has recently shown its contribution by purchasing energy from the solar garden, a solar power plant whose electricity is shared by more than one household.
She added people will come together at the march to support not only solar energy and solar gardens, but also geothermal, and wind energy in the community as sustainable energy sources.
In terms of sustaining local foods, Falc said the group is involved with supporting community gardens, local and organic family farms, orchards and farmworkers.
“We want to make it easier for local growers to sell their foods,” Falc said.
Because the march will start next to the Mississippi River, participants were making fish kites to symbolize the creatures people share the river with. Other posters displayed pollinators and apple trees that are under threat because they cannot evolve quickly to adapt to changes in climate.
“We need to use our creative energies to come together as a community,” Falc said. “And inspire people to choose the resources we already have.”
Another attendee, Marv Camp, was bending over a table and coloring the letters for an “Earth Day” poster in red and green. Camp said he hopes to be part of the April 29 march.
“Seeing our current political scene, it’s great that we can make an impact in our small community and hopefully on a bigger level, too,” Camp said.
With a vision for a better and sustainable future in mind, Perrin said she encourages making better choices every day by choosing to bike, and walking for clearer air instead of driving.
To promote walking, she added the group will work to make safer streets and crossings and improve public transportation including evening and weekend busing and more routes.
On Saturday, April 29, Perrin said she hopes for a great attendance from the community and invites people to bring giant apples or suns, and decorate umbrellas, skateboards, bikes and posters to express their commitment to climate justice.
Perrin said, “This is our vision for a better future and a better world for our children, our grandchildren, and ourselves.”
Simplicity and uniqueness are at the core of the new Island City Brewing Company’s philosophy.
Simple in design and original in beer choices, the brewery has been a venue for Winona residents, since it opened on 65 E. Front Street on Friday, March 17.
I was able to attend the brewery on a Thursday afternoon; at a time people decide to buy a beer after work, as a study break or to just relax.
Colton Altobell, owner of the brewery, welcomed me and offered me a beer of my choice. With his short but right to-the-point description of each beer, I picked the one I thought I would enjoy the most, called the ‘High Forest.’
While we were chatting, I also noticed four posters hanging by the taproom that characterized each beer. It definitely helped me to make my choice.
The beers at the brewery are full of personality – whether it is a light or dark ale.
Altobell said the original idea was to offer a range of flavors that would allow both beer lovers and beginners to find their own favorite drink.
“We create a variation of styles, unique to our brewery,” he said.
Their choice of flavors tries to meet seasonal demands too. At this time of the year, Altobell said it is more appropriate to offer lighter beer, compared to a fall season that will see darker color in prevalence. To him, it feels instinctual to make these considerations.
Since the opening, the IPA style beer, the current most popular style of beer, has been the most consumed at the Island City, Altobell said.
I thought the detailed menu guided customers through their decision. The beers are divided into styles, alcohol by volume content, availability, malt and hops and there is also a description for each kind, with suggested food pairings.
The menu referred to Latsch Local as a California Common style of beer, with firm, grainy maltiness and caramel flavors that give it a fruity taste. Altobell said Latsch Local is a light ale with a cold press coffee flavor in it.
Typically, coffee beer is darker but the one at the brewery is lighter. I could taste the coffee right away, and the beer afterwards. It was an unusual experience for me, and I through the two flavors did not go well together.
The Lost Compass beer is an IPA style, with an alcohol by volume content of 5.2 percent, a northwest pale malt and different kinds of hops. The beer is described as balanced, layered with depth and character, releasing something new with each sip. I liked it more than the first one, and thought it left a strong sour flavor in my mouth.
The third choice, and the one I picked, is the High Forest, a red ale style beer, light in alcohol and calories, with an alcohol by volume content of 3.5 percent and pilgrim hops. The description said the beer emerged on the idea of the color red, and the red ale delivers “supreme refreshment in the simplest way possible.”
Sometimes, I find myself having a hard time finishing a whole beer, but the red ale was definitely simple in flavor and easy to drink.
For the last choice, the Moonlight White, Altobell warned me I would taste a bitterness flavor.
Traditionally, Altobell said this beer is served with fruit or herbal syrups for added sweetness and complementary flavors. The bitter flavor, he added, comes from the hops, which give aroma to the beer.
The beer is a Berliner Weisse style, with an alcohol by volume content of 5.6 percent, pilgrim hops and wheat malt. It is described as a northern variation of the white beer style enhanced with complex flavors of stone, fruit and citrus.
Half of beer drinkers like the Moonlight White and half do not, Altobell said.
I had a chance to try the last beer with an additional cranberry juice flavor, and I thought it was too sweet with the extra flavor.
“It just depends on how you’re feeling. This is supposed to be a fun experience,” Altobell said.
When someone comes in the brewery, Altobell said he talks to the customers and tries to recommend a kind they would enjoy. Sometimes, people change their minds on a specific flavor, as they explore their options.
After sampling the beers, I was glad I chose the smooth, simply flavored red ale.
Half way through my beer, I watched Beertender Jovy Rockey serving customers at the counter and cleaning up the empty beers on the tables. Beer glasses of all sizes were set on the back shelves of the taproom, which Rockey kept filling as customers were coming and leaving.
When Altobell was thinking about a name for his brewery, he wanted to conjure a positive connotation and said Island City connected with the history of Winona, which used to be referred to as the Island City.
In the past, Winona was home to a brewery called Bub’s Brewing Company, Altobell said. It closed in 1969, and later the building was turned into an antique store.
“Breweries have always provided a product local people can enjoy,” Altobell said. “It’s deep rooted in Winona’s history.”
Growing up in town, Altobell was aware of the needs of the population, and thought Winona would be a perfect place to open a brewery because beer is a well-consumed product in the area.
He said a varied population of students, locals and tourists who pass through town would enjoy local products. By talking to a few residents in Winona, he saw the opportunity to do something different and create a place for gatherings and events.
Before starting the brewery, Altobell ran a youth summer camp for 10 years in Northern Minnesota, where he connected with his partner Tommy Rodengen, who had been involved in the brewery business for a while. After camp, Altobell worked in the Twin Cities in a few breweries.
While he was defining his business plan with Rodengen, Altobell said they had a complementary skill set that would work well if they started a business together. The two spent six months doing market research and finding the equipment they needed.
“Where Tommy had learned the brewing process, I picked up more on the operations side and the tail end of the brewing process, packaging and carbonating,” Altobell said.
One of the biggest issues was finding a place that was spacious enough to fit all the tanks where beer is produced and a taproom. The building itself, he said, has a lot of character on its own. His team tried to expose the building back to its roots and make it a warm and welcoming environment.
With the renovation, Altobell said he was able to put together with his partner a space that conveyed both a sense of antique with the wooden tables and the use of bricks, but also a sense of strong place in Winona.
“I wanted to feel connected to the history of beer and brewery of the town,” Altobell said.
The wood and the soft light are additional details to make the space feel more comfortable. Some people play cards while others study or spend time with friends.
“We didn’t have a specific mindset,” Altobell said. “We wanted to create something that would fit.”
When I first walked in, almost every table was full. The light was filtering through big square windows that afternoon, warming up the room. Soft music playing in the background was a lovely addition that allowed guests to talk while enjoying their beers.
An hour later, the tables were all taken, requiring some guests to stand by the taproom. A couple of young men were playing cards while a group of five people sat down the longest wood table in the center of the room. An older man who was part of the group said they had just left a funeral, to explain why they were wearing black.
The design of the room was balanced and logical: the owner made all of the uses of a brewery fit in one space. While workers produce the beer at the end of the room, guests in the taproom taste the final product of that work.
The space gave me a sense of order and cleanliness. There were a few small vases on the windowsills and the right amount of tables for both customers and workers to easily move through the room.
I was also caught by the well-thought proximity of the bricks with the adjacent wall that showed a hand painted map of Winona. It made the entryway look more inviting. The contrasting vibrant red tones of the bricks and the warm tones of the wall seemed like a perfect combination of colors to convey that sense of antique, and relaxation.
It seemed to me as if I was brought back in time.
When I went back to the brewery on a Friday night, the atmosphere was different. More than 50 people were talking. Some were standing and others were sitting in groups. In the back of the room, I noticed a buffet and some cupcakes and later found out most of the people were celebrating a birthday.
Customer Irina Holahan said it was her second time visiting the brewery and she had already tried all the beers. On Friday, she was with her husband and a group of friends from work, who had not been to the brewery before.
“I can really find myself here. I like that it’s different from the typical bars downtown,” she said. “Winona needed a change.”
Customer Bradley Larson was at the brewery on a weekend and said he wanted to play some games but the room was busy and he was not able to use them.
Larson added the brewery could have offered food options, and he thought there were not enough choices of beers.
“They only have four as of now, but I would expect that to change as they gain a better footing, especially during fall and winter, at a time different types of beers are brewed,” he said.
That brought me to thinking small food options could accompany the beers and make the experience even more pleasing.
Because it was more crowded than Thursday, waiters were collecting empty glasses and washing them non-stop through the night. Some customers were placing their empty glasses with a pile that had accumulated on the end corner of the counter of the taproom.
As Altobell was going over the brewing process, he said beer is made with four basic ingredients: water, grain, hops and yeast. From those four ingredients, it is possible to produce an endless variety of products, he said.
Altobell said beer making requires a lot of treatment and his team is careful with all steps of the process, such as water treatment, boiling and fermentation. When the grain has been milled, mixed with hot water and the sweet wort has been separated from the grains, fermentation begins. During this step, the yeast will convert the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Carbonation will then naturally occur from fermentation.
Island City Brewing Company Cellarman James Scudamore is in charge of parts of the brewing process, such as the monitoring of the yeast and fermentation. He has helped Altobell since October, when they were renovating the place.
“I enjoy working with the guys. I’m always open to new ideas and experimentation,” Scudamore said. “It’s nice to be able to work in this environment.”
Four people work on the production site, he said, and six on the taproom.
The taproom is Winona’s space to use for meetings, artists and music events, Altobell said.
Without a TV in the room, Altobell wants his brewery to become a place where people can commune with each other, talk, study and relax. The music is quite low, similar to a coffee house in a way, he said.
Through April, the brewery will be a venue for Mid West Music Fest and have more music on the weekends during daytime.
During the following months, Altobell plans to expand his choices of beers to eight and create an established landmark place in Winona. His hope is to be able to distribute the beer in liquor stores, bars and restaurants and expand his mark out from Winona in nearby areas as well.
Altobell said, “We have the capacity to brew a big volume of beer, more than we can consume.”
The Island City Brewing Company is an ideal place for a town that welcomes a great beer culture.
“When I first started, I was totally optimistic and thought everybody was going to love my stuff,” Hunt said. “After a few months… that wasn’t going to happen.”
by Allison Mueller
The red brick building on the corner of Main and Third Street is one of many old structures in Winona’s historical downtown. What makes this space unique is what waits to be discovered downstairs.
Along the Main Street side of the building, a steep staircase leads curious customers to a hefty door. A large red and white “A-Z COLLECTABLES” sign hangs above the entry to this hidden shop of treasures.
The creak of the door as it opens and reveals the shop’s unique contents is enough to give any antique collector goose bumps. Narrow pathways are carved throughout the basement space that holds a nine-person maximum occupancy.
To the right, past the collection of old lunchboxes suspended from ceiling pipes and an arrangement of still-packaged toy cars hanging on a wall, shop owner Neil Hunt sits surrounded by mountains of his treasures. He inspects the locks one of his regular customers, Michael, has brought in.
Hunt has owned A-Z Collectables for more than 23 years, and said he looks to buy things of personal interest to add to his ever-growing collection of antiques and collectables.
“I don’t buy what I don’t like,” Hunt said. “I’ve always liked books and kitchen items, antique lighting, definitely toy cars. The stuff I really don’t want to part with I take home. I have several hundred cars here, but at home I have another couple hundred.”
Originally from Eastern Michigan, work with a natural foods bakery brought Hunt to the co-op in La Crosse two or three times a week to deliver bread. He often stopped at donation stores and yard sales in the area to acquire unique items and then sold them.
Hunt said, “A friend of mine who I was selling my pickings to, she was one of my regular dealers I sold to, kept saying, ‘If I was as old as you are, I’d open my own shop.’ And finally, I did.”
A-Z Collectables opened in 1993 in half of the street-level space where the kate + bella clothing store is. After a few years, Hunt needed more space and moved his business downstairs.
“When I first started, I was totally optimistic and thought everybody was going to love my stuff,” Hunt said. “After a few months… that wasn’t going to happen.”
Hunt’s “stuff” encompasses a vast range of items including nonfiction and classic books, hand-painted pottery from the 1950s, old kitchen tools, antique lighting, games and more. There is also an entire corner of the shop dedicated to antique Winona items – bottles, toy mascots from schools, buttons and local calendar plates.
“I can probably make a collection out of just about anything you hand me,” Hunt said. “Whether it’s a collection that would be worth anything, or that anybody else would want, that’s totally up to debate.”
Hunt, who has been retired for a few years, acquired different jobs to support his buying and selling habit. The job he was at the longest was with RGIS Inventory Service, which required him to travel to western Wisconsin and southern Minnesota. He said he could only open his shop several days a week, but the days were not consistent.
Now A-Z Collectables is open weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 12:30 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Hunt said business booms during the summer compared to winter where he “just squeaks by.”
Hunt said during summer he makes a profit. When it comes to antique shops, he said the more the merrier in terms of attracting customers.
“It’s not like antique shops compete,” Hunt explained. “We compete when it comes to buying the stuff, but when it comes to selling, you need several to attract collectors looking to buy and think this is a good town to go to and make it worth the visit.”
According to Hunt, his antique shop is one of around three left in town. He said when he started there were six or seven shops in Winona. Much of the collecting market lives online, Hunt said, with sites such as eBay and Etsy. But, in addition to tourists, there are always the regulars who stop by the store.
One of these regulars is Dale Hadler, who has been coming to Hunt’s antique shop for four years. Hadler said he occasionally brings in items to sell, but stops by a few times a week to buy items, specifically antique things made of die-cast and aluminum.
“Back in 2013 I moved to Winona and I was curious about this place so I came down and checked out this shop,” Hadler said. “He has a nice collection… it’s a little bit of everything.”
Hunt said he is surprised at some items that sell. He explained how years ago he had one of his largest single sales when a couple came to the shop and bought several boxes of Fire King dishes, totaling several hundred dollars. They packaged the vintage glassware and brought it back to the store they were opening in Japan.
He also recalls an instance where a buyer purchased a $10 bucket from him that ended up being an antique lard pail worth $1,000, which Hunt found out once the buyer called him back to share its worth. Hunt had mistaken the pail for an old kid’s sandbox bucket.
“What made mine unique and what threw me off, was that it didn’t say lard on it, but it had a cute little picture of a pig on it,” Hunt said. “That was one of my larger missteps, which will happen with antiques.”
Hunt said he now looks online to research the items he acquires. He will also tell people who bring in items to sell him if they are better off trying to sell their items online.
“Some things will sit here for years, but on eBay, if it’s priced right, it’s gone in two weeks,” Hunt said. “I buy things on eBay, but I don’t sell. I need to, just to thin out some of my things.”
The abundance of antiques stacked and piled while strategically organized in A-Z Collectables offers a journey through history – something a buyer would not experience online.
Hunt said, “When you walk in the door here, it doesn’t take you too long and you understand the character, heart and passions of the guy that’s running it.”