Main Street – Mahtowa, Minnesota

Mahtowa, Minnesota (near Barnum, in Carlton County) (map) is probably the smallest town profiled in this series. My visit was an accidental stop from up north to down south.

Mahtowa is notable for TJ’s Country Corner, which is a thriving corner store and sausage purveyor on Old Highway 61. TJ’s claims to have the best tasting sausage on earth, or anywhere else. As Carl Sagan often said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. This claim I cannot verify, though it tasted good. Their wurst hearse is a notable, and risqué, piece of roadside Americana.

TJ's Country Corner

TJ’s Country Corner

TJ's Wurst Hearse

TJ’s Wurst Hearse

The age of the store can be roughly determined by its location on Old Highway 61.

Old Highway 61

Old Highway 61

Old Highway 61 was replaced by new US Highway 61. US 61 was downgraded in this region at some point to Minnesota 61. Though it still runs more or less continuously, Highway 61 has been functionally replaced, I-35W now serves the corridor from Duluth to St. Paul.

The now discontinuous Old Highway 61 paralleled the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad whose abandoned tracks have been converted to the Willard Munger State Trail and a local playground.

Willard Munger State Trail

Willard Munger State Trail

 

Playground at Munger Trail in Mahtowa

Bicyclists on Munger Trail

Bicyclists on Munger Trail

The main part of the town (on the other side of the “tracks” from Old Highway 61) has the smallest regular street grid I have seen. There are six streets (five of which are unpaved), 3 east-west and 3 north-south). The East West Avenues are North, Central, and South. The North South Streets are numbered from 1st to 3rd. Even Jesse Ventura could navigate this.

Aside from the Country Corner, there is a small bookstore and some very small churches serving the surrounding countryside.


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5 Responses to Main Street – Mahtowa, Minnesota

  1. Monte Castleman
    Monte Castleman July 1, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    Only one point as far as highway routings- US 61 was never changed to MN 61 in the area, it went directly to County 61 when I-35 was built. The only MN 61 only exists from Duluth onwards and only from 1991. The two lane bypass was part of an early 1950s effort to improve (and in some cases convert to expressway) major highways before the interstate system took over.

  2. UrsineMSP July 1, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Bear is a connoisseur of all things Eat. Bear has been to TJ’s. Bear strongly approves of the sausage. And the fact that he can still find Blatz beer and Sundrop soda there. 😀

  3. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele July 1, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Here’s some great US 61 history, including alignment change dates, from DeadPioneer: http://www.deadpioneer.com/routes/US61/index.htm

  4. Holly Weik July 1, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    TJs is also a great snack stop on Munger trail expeditions. We started making it a point to stop and buy some wurst on the return legs of our Munger trail rides to Duluth. Our limiting factor was how much weigh tot add to the BOB trailer and whether we could get back to the car and drive home to S Minneapolis before it thawed too far. I regret never seeing the Wurst Hearse in person tho!

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