By Sterling McGinn

Businesses have come and gone since Newberry was founded in 1883, but one in particular has stood the test of time.

Foster’s Ace Hardware, a staple in the local community, is celebrating 141 years in business. It is the oldest continuously operated business in town and has been owned by the same family since its inception.

Other milestones at the store this year include the 50th anniversary of the Indian Spring Plaza, Ace Hardware corporation’s 100th anniversary, and co-owner Jim Foster’s 50th year working at the store.

Almost everyone who has ever been in the store knows Jim, but he is commonly referred to as “Buco” – pronounced “Buck-o”.

“My grandfather Sid nicknamed me that when I was a toddler, and the nickname stuck,” he said. “I think half the people in the area know me by that.”

“Buco” has been named grand marshal of this year’s Kiwanis Club Independence Day parade.

“It’s an honor to be grand marshal—I never dreamed that would happen to me,” he said.

Just one year after Newberry was founded, M.R. Manhard, an uncle of James C. Foster, opened a hardware store on the dirt streets and board sidewalks of town. This store was located on the corner of West Helen Street and Newberry Avenue, in the building most recently occupied by Duke’s Sports Shop.

In the early 1880s, Newberry was essentially a company town, with much of its business trade reverting back to the Charcoal Iron Co.

Stores like Manhard’s changed the landscape, and Newberry officially became a village in 1885.

M.R. Manhard’s sister, Mary, was married to Thomas Foster. Their son, James C. Foster, was born in 1869 in Smith Falls, Ontario. While James C. was very young, his father died. Mary and her young son followed her brother M.R. to the Upper Peninsula. M.R. operated a very successful store in Marquette and opened the store in Newberry in 1883. Mary Foster raised her son James in Newberry and he eventually purchased, or was given, stock in M.R. Manhard and Co.

James C. started working in the Newberry store and was promoted to managing the store.  He later took full ownership and changed the name to J.C. Foster. The store moved across the street into a building later occupied by Somer’s Market.

James C. also operated one of the earliest automobile agencies in Newberry, selling Ford products. They shifted to Buick vehicles in the 1920s. He also ran a grocery business, had a large farm in Lakefield Township, and owned stores in McMillan and Engadine.

James C. married Tena May Campbell, a member of another pioneer family, and they had 10 children.

James C. died in 1924 at the age of 55 following a surgical operation. A great feeling of loss was felt through the Upper Peninsula at the time of his passing. He had served as mayor, had been a member of the village council, was an active Mason, and was associated with many other organizations.

His second child, Sidney Foster, assumed ownership of the business to support his mother and his siblings.

Sidney Foster was one of Newberry’s most beloved and well-known citizens. His civic interests and humanitarian efforts made the community a better place to live and visit. He was married to Martha McMahon and the couple had two children; James and Carole.

James took over management of the business in 1956 and in 1962, Sidney and James Foster moved the hardware store to the west side of the 300 block of Newberry Avenue at the present site of Renze Power Sports. The hardware store remained at that location until 1974.

Sidney and his son, James, embarked on the construction of a 40,244 square foot shopping center known as Indian Spring Plaza. The plaza opened for business on June 4, 1974, and the hardware relocated there.

Sidney died in 1975, and the business was then owned by his son James.

In the 1960s, the business affiliated with Truevalue; in 2002 Fosters switched to Ace Hardware.

The business is now owned and operated by the fourth generation: siblings Patty Schaffer, Jim “Buco” Foster, and Tom (Sid) Foster.

“It is quite an honor to be the oldest business in the Newberry Area,” said Buco. “It has been a great business to be in, and without the support of the community we wouldn’t have been in business this long,” Buco stated. “It is like my second home.”

Anniversary festivities will take place at the store on Saturday, June 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Activities will include free hot dogs, entertainment, giveaways, and a 20 percent off bag sale.

“This marks an exciting milestone for us,” said Patty Schaffer. “It’s been an honor to offer our customers a more personal kind of help when completing their home projects.”

After 141 years, four generations, and countless dedicated employees, Foster’s has exemplified Ace Hardware’s motto: “The place with the helpful hardware folks.”