TRAVERSE CITY — The Terrace Shopper, a little store with a big history, has witnessed 72 years of change at the intersection of Munson Avenue and Eighth Street.
The shop’s original building was constructed in 1947 alongside a quiet country road. Today, heavy traffic on the four-lane street zooms past all day long.
“In 1947, this was a little crossroads far out of town,” said Wes Nelson, who bought the business in 1968 from its second owner, Henry Springer.
Nelson’s family still owns the Terrace Shopper, 504 Munson Ave. Now retired, Nelson met in the store recently with his son, Daryl, who runs the business, and two grown children of the store’s original owner, Henry Cotter.
Henry “Van” Cotter was born in 1951. The family has pictures of him sitting in diapers in the front display window of what then was the Terrace Delicatessen.
“Dad and his partner still owned the store then,” Van said as he glanced around the store’s fully stocked shelves on fine July morning.
Neither Van nor his sister, Jen Butcher, live in the area. They visited town this month to bury the ashes of their mother, Marge Cotter, who died in April, 2019, in North Carolina. Henry died in 1983. Marge had married Henry in October 1948, soon after he opened the store. But Henry and Marge sold the business soon after Van was born, and moved out of state.
Marge took a job at the newspaper in Elyria, Ohio. The family eventually moved back to Traverse City, where Marge worked for the Record-Eagle for 20 years until her retirement in 1992.
The Terrace Delicatessen, meanwhile, underwent a metamorphosis.
The Nelson family took ownership, and also acquired the Holiday Shopper convenience store, 5356 U.S. 31, near Acme.
Traverse City grew up around the Terrace Delicatessen. Both roads grew to four lanes and the intersection acquired a stoplight. Traffic levels grew steadily through the decades. The building received an addition and rents out space to a tenant, at one time a Subway restaurant, now Blue Heart Tattoo.
Customer preferences changed over the decades. At one point in its history, the store operated a cloth diaper service and a full line of groceries.
Van and Jen smiled as they wandered through today’s incarnation of the store their father built, comparing it to the old snapshots they’ve looked at in family photo albums they grew up with.
For years, Jen said, the store sold meats and fresh fruits and vegetables, along with everything else a local grocery typically stocked. The business catered to people who lived in nearby neighborhoods and to those who hopped in a Studebaker, Kaiser or De Soto to pick up supplies for dinner. Times changed, supermarkets proliferated and people sought different merchandise in small neighborhood stores, including the Terrace Shopper.
“It changed with the times,” Wes Nelson said of the business.
“Now we do what we’re good at,” son Daryl added. “We changed from a small grocery store into mostly a beer, wine and liquor store.”
Decades ago, the Terrace Shopper stocked a total of 12 kinds of beer. Now, Daryl said, the store adds an average of 12 new beers every month. Today’s wide variety of soda brands also was unimaginable back in the early days.
“The Coca-Cola guy would show up and ask, ‘How many eight-packs do you want?’” Daryl said. That was all he needed to know, because the truck carried only a single flavor: Coke.
“The whole concept of a convenience store has changed,” said Wes.
The Terrace Shopper remains a busy neighborhood enterprise. It’s open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., until midnight on Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.
“There’s enough business in the morning, you might as well be open,” Daryl said.
As if to prove his point, two customers breezed in and squeezed past the chatting group of Nelsons and Cotters as the low morning sun sliced across the floor. It didn’t take long for them to find what they needed in the convenience store, so they soon squeezed back past.
The store had three employees in 1968, Wes said, five now.
Today, the Terrace Shopper sits at the bustling intersection of Munson Avenue and Eighth Street, across the street from a gas station and a bakery, next door to a radio station, and just down the road from restaurants, motels and Munson Health Care’s Foster Family Community Health Center.
The neighborhood is no longer the quiet little crossroads where Henry Cotter opened his store in 1947.