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An Endangered Downtown Gem

The two-story brick building located at 162 Front Street is most often referred to as the “old Wine Shop,” however; to be more historically correct the structure should be more aptly named the Kunz building. The founder of the original business and the building in 1861 was Peter Kunz, one of the early German immigrants to Washington County. He was born in Bavaria and when he was just eighteen years old, he came to America.

A shoemaker by trade, Kunz first opened a cobbler shop in Lowell and later he was a farmer near Bonn, a community laid out in 1835 by early German settlers. He married Mary Zumbro of Fearing Township and they started a family. The Kunz family moved to Marietta in 1858 where he bought the Richards General Store on Greene Street. Unfortunately, the great fire of 1859 took not only that store, but also many others buildings in the 100 block of Greene Street. This did not deter Mr. Kunz. He obtained a lot at 50 Front Street, as stated in the Polk City Directory of 1860 before street addresses were changed, and erected the two-story brick building astride Foundry Alley where it stands today in 2017.

Peter Kunz’s store was listed as selling dry goods. Both of his sons assisted in the business at various times. His son, Frank, was a partner from 1880 to 1885 when his father retired. Peter Kunz, Jr. had worked in his father’s mercantile business from boyhood until 1881 when he decided to have his own dry goods store on Front Street across from the future site of the post office. Upon the retirement of his father, Peter Kunz Jr. closed his own store and took over the business at 162 Front Street. The popular store had a complete line of fancy and domestic dry goods for ladies and gents including cloaks, furs, and dress goods of domestic and foreign origin. Advertisements for the store in the newspaper and the Polk Directory suggested that the business was successful. Kunz and his wife, M. Ella Biszantz, lived on the second floor with his family until 1902 when they moved to 508 Third Street. Son, C. Frederick Kunz, worked in the store and eventually took it over from his father. After the devastating flood of 1913, Frederick closed the store and joined the Turner-Ebinger firm, a popular and expanding dry goods store that was located across the street.

Between 1914 and the mid 1940’s, the building with various owners served as a dry goods store, a saloon, a bakery, a dinnerware company, a meat market, and used furniture stores. All of the endeavors included a variety of men and women who attempted to make a “go” with small businesses. Around 1946, this nearly ninety-year old building found its niche as the Wine Shop. Campbell J. Mike and Eugene Chidester started the unique shop, complete with home delivery. Mike continued in the business for over 25 years. During many of these years the second floor with the address of 164 Front Street had roomers or renters living in three apartments.

With the departing of Campbell Mike, Benjamin and Catherine Bain purchased the property in 1976. It was Mrs Bain, listed as the president of the Wine Shop that poured her time and love into expanding the merchandise. A variety of wines, beer, champagnes, Sherries, and other beverages from around the world were on display to tempt customers. To encourage the palette of potential customers to be open to variety, Bain uniquely offered an empty six-pack container for the customer to fill with a variety of beers instead of buying six of the same kind. That was discouraged in other places. The Wine Shop included a variety of gourmet food items and coffees. Due to illness, Mrs. Bain had to leave the store and her daughter, Babette Bole, assumed ownership in 2004 and operated it until 2012. The building has remained vacant as of 2017. In 2015, the city of Marietta had concerns about the decaying condition of the one hundred and fifty five year old building. Presently, a large placard with a white X on a red background is attached to the front window denoting that the building is unsafe for firefighters to enter in case of fire. The preservation of this historic building is in jeopardy as the sands of time wears away the mortar of the bricks and stability of the walls.

This building with a long and fantastic history is on Marietta Main Street's Endangered List. By having an Endangered List we are hoping to bring attention, help and love to the buildings on the list and the owners who may be struggling. We would love to get behind saving 162 Front Street but its time is limited. Show your support by donating to Marietta Main Street's historic preservation fund!

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