This tackle is one-of-a-kindDon’t look for Beaver Flicks at Cabela’s or Gander Mountain. Don’t look for them at most tackle shops.
By: Sam Cook, Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
Don’t look for Beaver Flicks at Cabela’s or Gander Mountain. Don’t look for them at most tackle shops.
The only place you’ll find these home-made fishing lures is at the Beaver House in Grand Marais, the little shop at the corner of Wyoming and Broadway with the huge walleye growing through the building.
That’s where Bill Cronberg, 76, and his son, Tyson, 45, have been selling Beaver Flicks for the past 37 years.
“My brother invented them,” Tyson says on a recent weekday in the shop. “But I made ’em famous.”
Beaver Flicks are, as Cronberg says, the simplest things. A swivel, an O-ring, a slender willow-leaf blade and a hook. Three for $2.49, no matter the size. They’ll catch any kind of fish, he says.
“I tell people I guarantee them to catch fish in the summertime. I double-guarantee them for ice-fishing,” Cronberg says.
Don’t bother trying to figure that guarantee out. Like a lot of what you find inside the Beaver House, the guarantee is largely for entertainment purposes. But Cronberg knows Beaver Flicks work. He points to mounted fish around the store that he has caught with various Beaver Flicks. A 10-pound walleye. A 5-pound splake. A brook trout he estimates at 4½ pounds.
Cronberg’s brother Marty, then 17, came up with the simple lure all those years ago. The name was logical, Tyson says.
“Beaver, because it’s from the Beaver House. And it’s a flicker,” Cronberg says.
Young Devon Byers, 8, from Ames, Iowa, comes into the shop with his parents, Will and Stephanie Holloway. They’re fresh from a trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, headed for home. Cronberg gives Devon a Beaver Flick.
“I’ve been giving them out for 30 years,” he says. “I give ‘em out because I know I’m going to see your face again.”
Bill Cronberg and the late Guyal Anderson, a noted Cook County fly fisher, opened the Beaver House in 1964. Guyal tied a lot of the shop’s flies — and also ran a shoe repair business in the shop. The men also made and sold ice in days before every convenience store had an ice cooler.
Bill bought out Anderson’s interest in the store about 30 years ago.
Bill Cronberg still makes lots of lures for the shop, although he was unavailable for an interview because of his health the day we visited. Noted Grand Marais fly-tier Dave Asproth still ties flies for the shop, Tyson said. Of course, the shop also sells a full line of live bait, too.
The giant walleye that seems to protrude through the front of the building is a tourist magnet. Its tail protrudes through the roof. It was created, mostly from fiberglass, by local artist Jim Korf in 1990 and 1991. It takes two years to make a walleye that big.
“It’s common to see people taking pictures in front of that building,” says Shawn Perich, who publishes “Northern Wilds” magazine in town, “probably because there’s a walleye sticking out of it.”
Perich likes it.
“Of all the walleyes here and there in Minnesota, and that creepy Paul Bunyan on Highway 34, this one has class the others don’t,” Perich says.
Every inch of the store-front is painted or covered with lettering. Murals cover two sides. Glass bottles found at old dumps fill all the windows on one side, lending the notion that the store has almost nothing to do with fishing. Tyson’s folks collected those bottles. They sell, but not as well as Beaver Flicks.
The name “Beaver Flicks” has proven confusing to some would-be customers, Cronberg says. His dad had a sign made that sits out front on the sidewalk. It reads: “The Beaver Flick is a fishing lure.”
“My dad had to make that sign,” Cronberg says. “He had people wondering if we were a fishing shop or a porn shop.”
Besides Beaver Flicks, the Cronbergs — including Tyson’s three children — make lots of other tackle: floating rigs, spin-floats, “Little Joe” spinners, night-crawler harnesses, yarn flies, strip-ons, jigs and more.
Oh, and hookless Beaver Flick earrings in two sizes.
“I tell the women customers I like the glow-in-the-dark color,” Cronberg says.
Many of the lures are displayed in the cut-off bottoms of milk cartons, because that’s the way Bill Cronberg always did it. The shop is small, and nearly every inch is covered with tackle.
“They do have a surprising selection of tackle there,” Perich says. “If I’m looking for something and can’t find it, that’s where I go.”
An aquarium up front demonstrates a lure’s action under water with the ingenious use of an upside-down windshield-wiper mechanism. On Wednesday, a Beaver House Spin-Float went back and forth, back and forth in mesmerizing repetition.
Bill Cronberg’s hand-lettered signs are everywhere in the shop. Don’t miss the 30-day guarantee:
“We guarantee our fishing equipment will catch fish in 30 days. If not, come back and we’ll give you another 30 days.”
And if you really like the Beaver House fishing gear, you should check the sign on the ceiling over the lake trout lures: “The entire shop, $499,361.03”
For which you’d get a lifetime supply of Beaver Flicks. All with that double guarantee for ice-fishing.