Northwoods Newcomer:

Good benches make good downtowns

By Larry Werner


On a cold, rainy day-before-Memorial Day, Ann and I were having a latte at Peter & Annie’s and chatting with Vickie Komarek, the owner. She told us she’s getting a bench in front of her store, and we told her that made us very happy.
We are big fans of benches in front of stores.
Many years ago, to celebrate our 10th anniversary, Ann and I spent a week in Fish Creek, Wisc. a lovely village about halfway up the Door County peninsula. We went to Door County with our best friends, Bob and Debbie Jansen, and we went back five more times to this place where folks go to visit art galleries, quaint shops and restaurants where I can get my favorite fish – perch.
Bob and I enjoy looking around gift shops for a few minutes, but we tire long before our wives do looking at what Bob calls “stuff nobody needs.” So after we’ve seen what we need to see in a shop, we retire to the benches that are in front of nearly every store and gallery in Door County’s villages.
One day, while sitting on one of those benches waiting for Ann and Debbie, Bob came up with one of his ideas. For those of you who have met my best buddy, it won’t surprise you to hear the idea was a bit wacky: He suggested we write a book entitled, “The Benches of Door County.”
Yes, the title is a takeoff on “The Bridges of Madison County,” a best-selling novel and movie that was set in Madison County, Iowa, where there are lots of covered bridges. In Door County, there are lots of benches, and we talked for hours about photographing and interviewing old guys like us who sit on benches waiting for their wives to come out of shops and galleries.
 OK. Maybe it wouldn’t make a great book. But benches make for great shopping districts. Wouldn’t it be nice to have benches to sit on when you’re shopping downtown? Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a few minutes people-watching on Second Avenue after having a bite to eat at Nezzy’s or The Spot or The Corner Bar?
I like walking Cumberland. And I sometimes take a break on one of the few benches we have downtown. The board of ETC, our arts council, used some money left to the organization by deceased patron Jim Cervanka to buy a bench that sits in front of the arts center.
It’s a nice place to sit.
Poet Robert Frost wrote a poem called Mending Wall about a fellow who believed that, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Frost didn’t like the idea that a structure that keeps people apart is considered good for the relationship between folks who live next door to each other.
Benches, I think, do make good neighbors. They bring people together, unlike walls.
I’m glad Vickie is going to have a bench where I can sit and enjoy my latte. It would be nice if Cumberland, like Fish Creek, had benches outside all the shops and restaurants.
We could call them, “The Benches of Barron County.”
Larry Werner’s email is



Cumberland Advocate

375 2nd Ave, PO Box 637
Cumberland, WI 54829
Phone: (715) 822-4469
Hours:  8:30 AM–4:30 PM M-F