Bio: Zasoba, John (Store - 1966)

Contact: Ken Wood

Surnames: Zasoba, Owen, Nietsch, Blodgett

------Source: Marshfield News Herald (Marshfield, Wood Co., Wis.) Friday, February 4, 1966

John Zasoba Store in Withee Has Carried on for 61 Years

Withee--Quaint, but still in use because it performs an occasional service to the community, is the store established here almost 61 years ago by John Zasoba.

Unpretentious on the outside, the little frame building sits on the west side of the village business street and is believed to be the oldest building in the community. For upwards of 75 years it has been part of the Withee scene and story, and once was a bank and a saloon.

The inside, at first glance, seems like a hopeless confusion of unrelated articles, but upon second and third inspections, the visitor spots boxes of shoes, rubber footwear, a pile of overalls, harness gear, and a variety of other items.

This year the Zasobas are observing 60 years of marriage and almost 61 years in the store business. At the ages of 85 and 79 they are grateful for good health and full lives.

They met while Zasoba, an immigrant from Russia, was a section hand, and later a section foreman, on a little lumber company railroad used to haul logs from nearby timber tracts to the John S. Owen Company sawmill in Owen.

In May of 1905, when the lumber company discontinued the rail system, Zasoba decided to go into business for himself, relying upon a shoe repairing skill learned in Russia from his father, "the best damn shoemaker there ever was."

In the midst of a rural area, Zasoba's shoe repair service, and his store with its stock of shoes, rubber footwear, roofing materials, suit cases, farmer's work clothing and harness gear was heavily patronized for years.

Business hours in those days were somewhat different. The store opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 10 p.m. six days a week and was open until noon on Sundays.

When Zasoba brought his bride home to Withee in January of 1906, he carried her - figuratively at least - across the threshold of a store instead of a home.

Mrs. Zasoba spent many years helping her husband in the store. When there were no soles to be stitched to shoes, or leather tops to sew onto rubber footwear, she was doing housework in a few rooms back of the store where the couple lived the first 10 years of their married life. Now they have a comfortable house four doors west of the store.

Residents and former residents of Withee, now in their middle years, occasionally remind Mrs. Zasoba of the days when she helped repair their shoes while they were youngsters in school.

During the years when the business flourished, the couple attended trade conventions in Milwaukee, Stevens Point, Green Bay, Eau Claire and Madison.

Advancing age has slowed Zasoba down a bit, but almost every day finds him spending some time in the store, ready to help any customer seeking some hard-to-find item among the store's remaining wares. An old-fashioned heating stove in the store hasn't faded from the scene, and during the past month, Zasoba busied himself stoking the stove with boards cut into stove lengths.

Mrs. Zasoba doesn't spend time in the store anymore, but still displays much of the vigor and enthusiasm that have marked the teamwork of the couple's three-score years together. She does all her housework and pursues a hobby of needlework.

More than 20 of her hand-embroidered bed covers have gone to relatives as gifts. At the present time she is hand-stitching a lavish bed cover enlived with the outlines of 48 of the 50 United States and the official bird of each state. As much as two days of needlework have been devoted to the embellishment of a single bird, Mrs. Zasoba says.

The partnership between the Zasobas began with their marriage on Jan. 24, 1906. The bride was Clara Baehr, born Jan. 24, 1887 at Dorchester, Wis. Her husband was born in Russia on May 1, 1880, and came to the United States in 1887, working in paint factory at Brooklyn, N. Y., long enough to save the cost of a rail ticket to Curtiss, where he had an uncle, Fred Neitsch.

From saving accumulated while employed by the Owen Lumber Company, Zasoba provided funds to bring his parents, his sister and three brothers from Russia to Curtiss at intervals between 1898 and 1904. Two of the brothers and a sister are still living.

They are Mrs. Alice Blodgett, Topeka, Kan., Casper Zazoba, Kansas City, Mo., and Peter Zasoba, Withee.

The Zasobas became the parents of three sons, one of whom, Lloyd, was fatally injured in an automobile accident in 1932. Elden lives in Omaha, Neb., and Clinton is a resident of Franklin, Wis. There are three grandchildren.



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