History

The Rich History Behind Peninsulas North

Contributor: Leslie Schneider

The Peninsulas North team has been as busy as Sturgeon River beavers since opening in the spring of 2018. The latest Peninsulas shop offers the same high-quality, Michigan-inspired gifts, apparel and home goods as the Berkley-based store. 

And while Peninsulas North is relatively new to Owners Robert and Sherri Jameson, its roots as one of Michigan’s premiere gift shops go back nearly 70 years.

Let’s head back to 1950. “Soapy” Williams was Michigan governor, Detroit’s Red Wings had won their 4th Stanley Cup Championship and a loaf of bread was 13 cents. That same year, a gentleman named Alexander Webber retired from the Detroit police force and moved to Cross Village with his wife Sophie.

Alex and Sophie Webber, along with daughters Pearl and Virginia, spent quite a bit of time in the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula. In fact in 1941, Virginia married a Cross Village native, Walter P. Harbus. They had a son, Walter A. Harbus, who was raised in Cross Village by his grandparents, Alex and Sophie.

The Webber family was drawn to the beauty of the north surrounding the Land of the Cross. Situated at the end of historic M-119 (also known as Michigan’s beloved Tunnel of Trees running along Lake Michigan), Cross Village was home to Legs Inn, which was famed even back then.

(These days, the Smolak family has been operating Legs Inn for an astounding 90 years. No wonder the State of Michigan designated it a Historic Landmark Dining Destination.)

In the early 1950s, the Webbers found the perfect spot right across the street from Legs Inn. The building itself was rumored to have once been a bar and dance hall in Petoskey that was picked up and moved north to Cross Village in the 1940s. So the Webbers moved in and opened Webber’s Gift Shop.

Inside, they offered Great Lakes travelers souvenirs, native arts and crafts, and Sophie’s hand-crocheted items. Out front, visitors were greeted by hitching posts and a white picket fence, as well as the same large rocks there today.

In 1955, Alex sadly died of a heart attack. He was just 57. Fortunately, Sophie took the helm of the gift shop until her death in 1976. Virginia’s son Walter became owner in the early ’70s and his mother ran the shop from 1976 until her death in 1986. Walt and his wife Susan Harbus carried on his grandparents’ legacy, operating the shop well into the 2010s.

Which is where the Jamesons come back into our story. Like the Webbers, they succumbed to the same sweet call of the rustic village in northern Michigan that has drawn so many over the decades. Traveling through the village, they dreamed of a location up north to share their exceptionally designed, mostly custom, primarily Michigan-made products with a vintage vibe.

In July 2017, they took a deep breath and signed the papers to purchase the storied gift shop. And, thus, Peninsulas North was born. So, why not head north through the Tunnel of Trees? Enjoy some amazing Polish food, drink up the beauty of Lake Michigan and meander a bit. Breathe. Chill. And don’t forget to take a little of it home with you.

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Above photo: Founder Alex Webber with his grandson Walter A. Harbus in times long past

Shop founders Sophie and Alex Webber, in the early 1950s

Virginia Webber and Cross Village native Walter P. Harbus married in 1941