What’s it like living up here in NW Wisconsin? (going shopping)

When people ask about what it’s like to live in Northwest Wisconsin, one of their first questions is about shopping.  The details will vary, depending on just where your new cabin or home is located.  But here’s a general idea of what you can expect.  First, the bad news.

Small towns like Gordon, Wascott, or Trego have gas stations and convenience stores.  Slightly larger towns like Solon Springs or Minong will have a small grocery store.  They’ll have a hardware store, and sometimes a couple other stores—typically a gift shop or a sporting goods store.

For larger grocery stores and chain stores, you may need to drive a little further—maybe to Hayward, Spooner, or Superior.  If you’re driving very far in the summer, you may need to bring a cooler and ice to keep your meats safe and keep your ice cream from melting.

For the nearest mall, large bookstore, or big box electronics store, you’ll need to go to Duluth, Eau Claire, or the Twin Cities.  There are no big box stores in Gordon.

But here’s the good news.  First, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the quality and selection of wines available at certain local grocery stores—and even at one local hardware store.  Similarly, local hardware stores sometimes have a huge selection that’s disproportionate to the size of the building.  They’re in the business of preventing trips to that big orange store in Superior.  But when you do need to go there, it’s not so far.

The forty or fifty miles to Superior rarely takes as long as driving halfway across the Twin Cities.  And if you’re only heading into the closest town, those five or ten miles can go faster than five or ten blocks in big-city traffic.  We generally save up errands, and then combine three or four of them in the same trip.

Once you arrive at your local grocery store, you’ll be able to save even more time by pulling right up to the front door.  You won’t have to cross a quarter-mile parking lot, and you won’t have to wander through a giant, cavernous building when all you want is milk, bread, and pork chops.  On especially busy Saturday mornings, however, we’ve sometimes been forced to park almost 100 feet from the front door of the hardware store.

But when you go to a larger grocery store in towns like Spooner, Hayward, or Superior, you should realistically expect to part at least 100 feet from the front door.  If it’s busy, maybe 120 feet.

Shopping up here isn’t bad.

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