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Although Mitch always had an interest in clothing, longtime friend John Ostrand triggered his interest in retail.
“John was a cook at Al Johnson’s practically from the beginning,” Mitch says, “and then he opened a men’s clothing store, Telemark Boutique, behind Al’s.” Ostrand talked Larson into accompanying him to a clothing trade show in Dallas about 20 years ago “and I got the bug,” says Larson.
Her first cash register could calculate no sale greater than .99 and the majority of her business was actually conducted through a barter system.
Basically, bolts of cloth, boots, hatpins and pocket watches were exchanged for eggs and butter.
“Door County is about family, about outdoor activities, about entertainment and bringing people together,” believes On Deck Clothing owner Mitch Larson.
The Larson family has been part of Door County’s extended family and traditions for generations, dating back to the late 1800s.
Mitch’s father, Wink Larson, was a pioneer thinker, an early entrepreneur in Door County.
Clothing provided information about the status of the person wearing them.
Bunda ran other retail stores throughout the area, including Sturgeon Bay and Oshkosh.
In a quirk of fate, Bunda also leased the Lundberg General Store on Main Street in Fish Creek for a year during the 1930s.
Hazel Elquist Larson, Mitch’s grandmother, was born and raised in the Town of Liberty Grove on land that’s now part of Newport State Park. The store featured cloth, groceries, shoes, watches and other necessities of the day.
Her father, Emil Elquist – Mitch’s great-grandfather – was the carpenter who helped build Ephraim’s Edgewater Hotel and many homes in Ellison Bay. Son William Bunda took over the store in 1912 and made it a fixture of Door County life.