A few months before the McQueen Drive In (see previous post) opened its doors in 1950 on Highway 23-73, another small business was establishing its roots up the road at 200 South Fulton Street (Highway 23-73).
Thomas (Jr.) and Kate Sosinsky moved to Princeton in July 1936 and operated a tavern, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, at 1002 West Main Street (today Drunky Brewster’s but better known in local history as the Western House) until ill health sidelined Tom about 1946. He passed in 1947.
Kate Sosinsky built a one-story building at 200 South Fulton in 1949 that housed the appropriately named Little Market, a small grocery store with lunch counter operated by her oldest son, Bob, 22, who had been living in Milwaukee.
Bob’s brother Bill (William F. “Slug” Sosinsky), two years younger, assumed management of the business in December 1953. Bill and his wife, Bernadine, purchased the building from his mother a few years later.
Kate remained a fixture at the business for many years, washing dishes and handling other duties, as the Sosinskys turned the niche into a community icon.
Princeton residents from the 1950s-1980s fondly remember the Little Market and the Sosinsky family, which grew to include Joanne (my classmate at St. John’s Catholic), Tom, Judy, Carol, Tim, Bill, Cathy, and Mike. A Princeton Times-Republic writer in 1978 jokingly alluded to the youngsters as “a conveniently conceived plan for a steady flow of employees.”
Judy (Sosinsky) Gorsuch gave me more information about the “help” this week: “When the girls got old enough, they had the jobs of doing dishes and waiting on tables. The boys had the hard job of keeping the pop cooler full. Sometimes that was a hard job! Also, every Monday night we had to scrub the floor on our hands and knees – no mop. Then on Tuesdays during the summer we got to go either to White Lake swimming or sometimes we went to Wisconsin Dells.”
I would bet the entire Bartel family fortune that my dad was there on Friday, Dec. 1, 1978, when the Little Market served free coffee and doughnuts in honor of Bill and Bernadine Sosinsky’s 25 years of service to the community. (See pdf at bottom of file.)
My father never drank coffee at home. Pepsi was his beverage of choice. But when his work allowed, he enjoyed a coffee break at the Little Market. He liked the vibe, the neighborly, family atmosphere, and the banter, aka bs.
The Princeton Times-Republic writer who penned the article celebrating the store’s 25th anniversary captured the appeal: “Many laughs, yarns, and practical jokes have originated from the Little Market. Anytime you enter the restaurant you may hear one of the steady customers in a reminiscent mood, relating some of the tall stories, mostly true, and recalling all the belly laughs that have occurred. Sometimes you can see a stranger raise his eyebrows, or shake his head, never knowing for sure if he heard the truth or a tall tale.”
In the early 1950s, before setting an evening closing time, the restaurant/grocery was open from 4 a.m. “until the last customer went home.” Milk, butter, eggs, produce, meats and bakery goods were available, in addition to short-order meals. Deep fry equipment and gas grill expanded the market’s offerings. Ice cream, pop machine and a rack of comic books attracted youngsters.
When it opened, the Little Market had one coffee pot. Coffee was poured from the pot into Thermos containers and then customers’ cups. Sosinsky later purchased two 100-cup coffee makers and added an automatic coffee maker in the 1970s.
“The busiest time of the year is always around deer hunting season and then we have been staying open 24 hours a day over the first busy weekend,” Bill Sosinsky told the newspaper in 1978. “… Many of the customers that come in throughout the years frequent the same chair or stool day after day, year after year.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Gerry Baumann, PHS Class of 1960, when he visited his hometown from Texas a couple of weeks ago. He grew up at 205 N. Fulton Street. We talked about Princeton in the 1950s, and one of the things that stood out was his recollection of the semi-trucks parked along the highway around the Little Market.
“You could tell it was a good place to eat by the number of trucks,” he recalled.
The Sosinskys made major changes to the Little Market in 1980, eliminating the grocery section and expanding the space for restaurant customers. The work was done by Bill and Bernadine’s sons-in-law, Lonnie Gorsuch and Michael “Big Mike” Murphy.
Princeton Times-Republic, May 15, 1980 – “A new entrance, almost no groceries and the look of a restaurant greets the customers at the Little Market, a family business at 200 S. Fulton. The grocery and short-order lunch counter operated by Bill and Bernadine Sosinsky for the past 26 years is almost exclusively a restaurant now. An extensive remodeling and reorganization has been done recently. All the grocery shelves have been removed and the only food items available are bread, milk, eggs, and cold milk. About 40 people can be served at one time at the tables that are a new addition, and the counter space. The counter was extended and there are new cupboards, new grill, new air conditioner and new floor. The walls are paneled at the bottom and papered with an early American design. … The front has been changed and the entrance with a ramp has been moved to the side.”
The Sosinskys sold the restaurant to Ken and Gloria Dahms in 1981.
Princeton Times-Republic, April 30, 1981 – “Bernadine and Bill Sosinsky, who built and operated the Little Market for over 27 years, were honored at a surprise appreciation party Saturday evening in St. John’s Catholic School gym. … The party planned by their children … was a complete surprise. They were greeted by customers, neighbors, relatives, and friends with the best wishes for the future.”
The party’s program included a tribute from Dr. Sam Garro and presentation of several gifts, including a citizens band radio scanner.
Bill Sosinsky passed in 1992; Bernadine in 2020.
The Little Market’s new owners had big shoes to fill. They were up to the task and operated the business, with a new name, for 16 years.
Princeton Times-Republic, April 30, 1981 – “When Ken Dahms and his wife, Gloria, of Berlin began looking for a business venture about a year ago, he never dreamed that he would return to Princeton. He graduated from Princeton High School in 1980 and left Princeton shortly after. But he has returned! On April 15, Ken and Gloria became the new owners of the former Little Market, owned by the Bill Sosinskys, which they renamed the Golden Fox Café.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 7, 1997 – “Carol Ladvina has ventured into a new career as she has opened the Homestyle Café in Princeton recently. Ladvina bought the Golden Fox Café on July 1st from Ken and Gloria Dahms and spent a couple of weeks cleaning and painting before opening on July 14th. The restaurant is located on STH 23 and Water Street. Carol and her husband, Ron, live in Montello. … Their daughter, Danielle, helps out in the café. Some remodeling was done, and the outside was painted along with a new sign being erected.”
Ladvina sold to James and Betty Peters, who opened Mom’s Korner Kitchen in February 2001. Brian Farley and Jill Dietz of Montello purchased the property in 2007, opened Jillian’s Home Style Restaurant and became the building’s third longest-tenured occupants.
Farley and Dietz operated Jillian’s until June 2020 when Alys Wild and Mark “Lumpy” Lemke purchased the business and renamed it The Wild Yard Bird. The new sign went up in February 2021 amid a worldwide pandemic.
Facebook, Nov. 29, 2021 – “It is with a heavy heart that we have to announce The Wild Yard Bird is done. We are officially closed. I didn’t want to let the bad news out on Small Business Saturday in spirit of the day. With food and supply costs rising and the lack of ability to find help or even afford it if we could, the decision has been made. … We would love to stay in contact with you and have enjoyed being a nice spot for y’all to meet and eat . With respect, bona fortuna to all. – Lumpy”
The former Little Market building returned to Farley and Dietz in December 2021. It is for sale and within the past year has been occupied by “Brian’s Bargain Bin” gift shop. (Farley and Dietz also operate Jillian’s Corner Cottage gift store at 102 South Fulton Street.)
Please let me know if you have any corrections or additions. Thank you, again, for reading and caring about local history.
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