This is the fifth Zup’s grocery store in Ely to open its doors

There will be a new Zup’s grocery store opening to the public on Wednesday and by our count, it looks like this will be the fifth one.
In the Echo archives we found information that the first Zupancich Brothers Store opened in Ely in 1916. “Grandpa” John Zupancich started the first store on the southeast corner of Sheridan between Third Avenue East.
The store carried meat and produce but also dry goods, shoes, fabrics and even hardware. Over the years there would be two major additions as the business expanded. John specialized in a variety of sausages and over time he eliminated the dry goods and focused on meat, produce and groceries.
By 1929 many changes were made. Gone were the colorful livery barns which lined the alley behind the store. Deliveries were made by horse and wagon. The store was fully modernized and the meat department enlarged for improved sausage making equipment.
The Zupancich family lived upstairs including John’s children: Angela, Joe, Eddie, Ludwig, Bill, Leonard, Albert and John.
John taught his sons well. They would go on to open stores in Babbitt (taking over the former Piggly Wiggly), Tower, Silver Bay, Aurora and later in Cook.
Albert started the Tower store in 1949 and his sons opened the store in Aurora. Joe and his son Joseph specialized in meats. By 1983 Leonard had retired and John worked in the Ely meat department.
Eddie drove the truck that initially delivered fresh produce to the stores. He sons Eddie Jr. and Bernard would operate the Silver Bay store starting in 1964.
Our files tell us Ludwig died shortly after his return from WWII. Bill left the grocery business to operate a fishing camp on Crooked Lake and later on Lac La Croix.
On January 21 and 22, 1949 Zup’s held a grand opening for their “new” store, with an open house and prizes given away. This store had on-the-floor refrigerated and frozen food units. It also had air conditioning and fluorescent lighting.
That store opened with two checkout counters that were increased to three as business rapidly grew. The store was modified to handle incoming meats and produce and to allow loading trucks from area resorts which regularly backed in to obtain supplies.
Zup’s started its own truck service so supplies could be hauled from Duluth, Superior and other areas, saving shipping costs and insuring that fresh items remained fresh.
In 1949, the Zup’s market was rated as one of the most up-to-date in northeast Minnesota. When the 1949 store opened under the management of the brothers, the two checkout stations were manned by Virginia Herala and Irma Germek. Frances Slabodnik was the bookkeeper, Rosemary Redmond and Jennie Folio were the clerks.
You could buy polish sausage for 50 cents per pound, a can of pork and beans was 15 cents and tomatoes were 17 cents for a No. 2 can. Different days for sure.
After three openings on the south side of the street, Zup’s made a big moved in 1983, opening on the north side of Sheridan on December 12, 1983. They would operate out of that store until Oct. 11, 2021.
After purchasing Northland Market and the former Shopko building, Zup’s has put in place a home for the future. There’s much more space at 32,000 square feet compared to 17,000. There’s 4,000 new items and more variety than ever before plus a new liquor store.
Congratulations to the Zupancich family for over 100 years of providing meats and groceries for the community. This sure looks like a good start on the next 100 years.