Saturday, June 30, 2012

Main Street Stories: Simon Grube Cigar Factory

331 S. Main in 2008 (Photo by Eric Bothwell)
A recently published encyclopedia of Michigan history and culture entitled The Michigan Companion (Detroit: OmniGraphics, 2011). tells us that Detroit was once known for cigar manufacturing. In that narrative we find this information:
During the last half of the 19th century, Detroit became a center for the tobacco industry in the United States and by the 1890s was one of the largest centers of cigar manufacturing in as well. ... At its height [in the late nineteenth century], the cigar industry employed about 12,000 workers who produced 205 million cigars a year.
Not far from Detroit, the village of Rochester had its own cigar factory right here on Main Street. The small, one-story building at 331 S. Main was built by Simon Grube in the fall of 1891 to house his cigar factory and tobacconist business, as noted by the Rochester correspondent to the Utica Sentinel on October 10, 1891, when the paper told its readers: "'Sim' Grube broke ground today for his new brick cigar factory. The new building is to be situated on the west side of Main street, between Harrison's shoe shop and the Barger lot,  Mr. Grube having purchased the site from Ben Harrison."

331 S. Main in 1961 (Photo by the late Walter Dernier)
Although Grube operated his tobacco business in the building until 1920, it is his successor who is better known  and associated with that location.  Grube, who was born in Northampton County, Pennsylvania in 1845 and emigrated to Rochester along with a large number of other families from his native county, sold the business to Frank Butts, who continued in the cigar and tobacco business there for another two decades.  Butts was also a native of Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

After Frank Butts retired from business, the building which had served as a cigar factory and tobacco shop for the first half-century of its existence became the home of Avon Cleaners. In the 1960s and 1970s it was the home of Cam and Phyllis Soule's appliance store, and in recent years has housed a number of specialty shops including the Cose di Lusso wine shoppe and the Simply the Best $10 Boutique.

The Simon Grube cigar factory celebrates its 121st birthday this fall.

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