Thursday, February 28, 2013

John and Edward Finholm

As a young boy Johnny used to love playing store.  He would set up a sawhorse table on the street in Olalla where he would sell fruits, vegetables, berries, bottles, etc. to the infrequent passersby.  Then as a teenager, Johnny worked for the Olalla Trading Company at age 17 and found that he did in fact have a natural affinity for mercantile marketing and dealing with the general public.

When Johnny and Eddie were young and still living in Olalla (Eddie was in high school) they used to go to Horseshoe Lake to the dances held there with their friends.  One night in 1932 a young lady, Frances Larson, was dancing with Eddie.  Frances was a classmate of his in school.  He introduced Frances to Johnny and Ted.  As Frances said in her oral history "I guess the sparks kind of started flying because Johnny asked for the next dance and the next dance and the next dance."  So from then on, Frances and Johnny went steady, got engaged in 1933 and married in 1934.

His uncle Leander Finholm and his cousin Hugo had moved to Gig Harbor from Olalla when Leander purchased 80% of the stock in the Inland Island Telephone & Telegraph Company in 1926. 

In 1933 Johnny bought the J. C. McKee Meat Market.  It was housed in a building owned by the Stanich brothers near the Shorline Restaurant and he rented the building for $17 a month.  The building included a gas pump and an ice machine.  Rents have certainly risen in that district over the years haven't they?

Axel Uddenberg had a grocery store nearby but he was also building a new store.  So he asked Johnny if he would be interested in buying the existing grocery store.  The year was 1935, the country still suffering from the Depression, but Johnny said yes.  He bought the grocery store for $3,000 and renamed it Finholm's Market.  The store only sold groceries so Johnny moved his meat market into the adjacent building and combined the two buildings into one store.  

His brother Eddie (Edward) was driving a truck for Pioneer Sausage in Tacoma.  Because Johnny needed another meat cutter, he hired Eddie to join him in the new store. and they became partners  The butcher shop handled not only the usual meat needs of the homemakers but also the custom cutting and wrapping meat for the farmers and hunters.  Due to the increase in business, and the fact that very few people owned freezers, Johnny and Eddie added a cold storage building and 700 lockers to the store.  They rented the lockers so that people had somewhere to keep and freeze their meats, vegetables and fruits.  Their father, Alfred, built all individual 700 lockers in 'cabinet' style.   Finholm's offered credit to all those in need; many paid their bills when they were able but many more did not.  Johnny refused to go after them for payment; he collected the bills and after selling the store and moving up to Franklin Street he threw all the old bills away.

Johnny and Eddie's mother died in 1941, and father, Alfred, sold the farm in Olalla and moved to a new house in Gig Harbor which he built just a few blocks from the Finholm Market.  Johnny and Eddie's brother, Ted, also moved to Gig Harbor when their father did.  Only their uncle Johannes remained in Olalla.  

In 1935 Johnny and Frances purchased the property at 8815 North Harborview Street.  They lived on the water and Frances opened a dress store on the street front.  In 1945 Johnny and his wife, Frances, built a three story structure, Finholm Building.  Johnny and Frances lived in the upper level, the street front was leased to various merchants over the years, and the basement apartment was lived in by relatives and also leased to many school teachers over the years.

And then, in 1946, the waterfront area became incorporated into a class four town.  With the incorporation into the Town of Gig Harbor, Johnny took on more and more leadership activities within the community.  He was one of the first elected council members and served for eight years.  That was followed by twenty years in the Planning Department.  He and Eddie started the first fire department following incorporation using volunteer firefighters.

In 1949 Johnny purchased the parking lot across from Shorline Restaurant where the original community bandstand once stood.  

In 1970 the brothers sold the market portion of Finholm's Market to Johnny Warsick but Eddie took it back in 1973 until 1979 when the market section was sold to Terry Groshong and the slaughtering business to Don Pack.  After Johnny retired he went commercial fishing with George Ancich in Alaska.  Johnny cooked for the crew while they were out.  Johnny and the Slavonian community had a great relationship through the years.  He supplied many of their boats with provisions when they left for fishing.  In fact, the Slavonians made him an honorary Slovenian and nicknamed him an "ich" on the end of his name.

At the time of Johnny's death in 1998 he had also been a 65-year member of the Gig Harbor Lions as well as an active member of the Peninsula Lutheran Church.  Eddie was also a long-term member of the Lions, Elks, Eagles, St. Nicholas Catholic Church and one of the founders of the Gig Harbor Golf Club.  All this including working with his brother on various community improvement activities.  Eddie died in 1996. 

The Finholm Stair Climb was once just a path up the hill.  The children used it to go to and from school as well as visiting with their friends and family living above North Harborview.  Eddie even used it to get to and from his home and the store.  Johnny used to take a bucket and clean it up every evening and keep the weeds and brush from overtaking the path.  The Gig Harbor Lions built the stair climb to honor the Finholm family for their long service on behalf of the Lions organization.  

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