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Lineville Road has been boon to Howard-Suamico

By Paul Srubas

HOWARD-SUAMICO – It’s been a little over a year since Suamico’s Shopko store closed its doors for the last time, but, although it remains depressingly dark and shuttered, the 80,000 square feet of emptiness is far from being the kiss of death for the Lineville Road commercial district that perhaps many expected.

Even in the midst of a pandemic on a recent weekday morning, the district was still a bustling affair, with people zipping on and off the access points along the busy road to get to the shops to buy gas, groceries, clothing, dietary supplements, cell phones, or a host of other products.

If you can’t find it on Lineville, you probably don’t need it – unless it’s peace and quiet you’re looking for – and you can get your nails done, your back adjusted and your teeth cleaned while you’re at it.

And the strip is still in growth mode, with the addition of Ahnapee Brewery, apartment buildings and restaurant space on the east side of Interstate 41

In 2019, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said Lineville averaged 14,800 vehicles per day.

The stretch of road dividing Howard and Suamico – or linking them – has become sort of a mini-version of the villages’ own Miracle Mile or Ashwaubenon’s commercially vibrant Oneida Street, all within the span of a few blocks.

It took barely 15 years to get that way.

Carl Vanderveren remembers when it was all farm fields and woods.

The Victor and Lettie Peters farm on Lineville Road is shown in the background of this picture from the 1930s. This became the Art and Florence Peters farm and a portion of it was sold to the school district to become Bay Port High School. They were neighbors to Carl Vanderveren, and part of his farm was also used for Bay Port. Howard-Suamico Historical Society Photo

Vanderveren, 80, now of Townsend, farmed in that area in the last 30 years of the previous century, on land where his grandfather had homesteaded.

The Vanderveren farm was at the corner of what is now known as Northwoods and Lineville, but it wasn’t even Lineville back in the old days, Vanderveren recalls.

It was just County M, and it wasn’t any kind of major thoroughfare like it is now: it didn’t used to go any farther east than Cardinal Lane, he said.

He still remembers the names of his neighboring farmers running all the way down past Velp Avenue: Luedke, Vervoren, Caelwaerts, Peters, Pelegrins, Stoskoph, Tilque, Hussin, Casper, Hoff.

“The first development was when the Howard-Suamico School District bought land from Stoskoph,” Vanderveren said, referring to farmer Ed Stoskoph. “Everything else was all ag there, the whole works, but it just mushroomed. All the property, the bars, the bank, the Piggly Wiggly, all of them just popped right up,” as soon as the school district bought additional land and built.

Vanderveren kept farming until 1998, but eventually he sold off his land, with much of it going to the school district.

For the Village of Howard, which has had a well-established industrial park in the neighborhood for several years, Lineville simply represented the outer edge of one of its commercial districts.

This one stopped at Lineville only because Suamico blocked further growth north, and Suamico incorporated as a village to protect its borders.

But for Suamico, development of Lineville as a major route to the schools represented a commercial opportunity that really didn’t start until the early 2000s.

It all happened so fast, in an area that has now become so much a part of the cultural landscape, that people are having a hard time recalling the order of growth, but it started around 2004, said Suamico zoning administrator Steve Dunks.

“It started with the Townline (Pub & Grill) and the Kwik Trip,” Dunks said. “The Townline went in in 2004, and Uncle Mike’s came in about the same time. Kwik Trip was 2005.”

The old Town Line Tavern, on the corner of Lineville and Cardinal was Joseph Pelegrin’s Hall and Saloon, it then became Joe and Dorothy Kutska’s Town Line Tavern and was eventually sold to the Luedke family and was burned down in 1994. The new Townline was built on that site and eventually rebuilt across the road. Once Townline moved out of the new building, it was Chasers Tavern and now it’s Timsan’s. Howard-Suamico Historical Society Photo

East of there had been an implement dealer, Leo Van De Yacht’s well-drigging operation, a ministorage, and some houses, Dunks said.

“Jeff Nolder of Midwest Expansion came in and bought out Van De Yacht’s and Lamers, and moved Lamers to its current location, and brought all of that into his development plan.”

That development plan came to be known as the Urban Edge Towne Centre, the strip of commercial development at the southern edge of the not-very-urban Village of Suamico.

It began with the Gutter Bowl complex in 2006.

“Shopko was supposed to come in at the same time, but there was a forced-main issue that got it delayed,” Dunks said.

Shopko built and opened in 2008, the same year the Country Inn went up, he said.

The strip of shops on the east end, the one housing the Bottle Room and Papa Murphy’s Pizza and others, went up in 2009, according to Beth Sheedy, whose business Beth’s Boutique was one of that complex’s first occupants.

Sheedy said the heavy traffic on Lineville has been a boon for her store, which sells jewelry and women’s clothing, but it all got even better when Festival Foods joined the development site in 2013.

“That was huge,” Sheedy said. “That grocery store was huge for us. We’re getting people from all over the state because of it. I’m shocked at how many people we get from places like Escanaba that love the Festival.”

This comparison image shows Lineville Road in 2000 at the top and Lineville Road in 2020 at the bottom. Bay Port High School, still under construction in 2000 is shown on the top left, with Urban Edge Towne Centre on the bottom right. Press Times Photo

At the ripe old age of 15, the Urban Edge has been a work in progress from the very start, with new buildings going up as in-fill, even as it experienced the ebb and flow of occupants.

Longtime occupants like Lou’s Bootery closed, while others, like La Java and the Oilerie, relocated.

The big blow was in 2019, when Shopko closed.

Whether the problem was with Shopko itself or just the effects of internet sales on big-box retailers, it’s hard to say, but its demise was a hit, and the coronavirus isn’t helping efforts to get the building re-occupied, Dunks said.

The presence of wetlands in the area limit the expansion of the commercial district, so it’s important to get a new tenant in there, Village Administrator Alex Kaker said.

There’s also potential room for expansion within the existing development.

The area is expected to gain in value as plans are realized in coming years to expand Lineville Road to four lanes.

The project, to be paid jointly by the two villages and Brown County, is planned for 2024.

It will improve traffic flow in and out of the shops and allow attractive street-scaping.

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