By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN Through Memorial Day, Cokato Museum visitors can walk back in time and see what business was like in Cokato in its newest exhibit, “Cokato is Open for Business.”
The exhibit features memorabilia from the various stores, service stations, car dealerships, manufacturing plants, and restaurants that have called Cokato home.
Many of the items on display are considered giveaways, or promotional items, for customers, some of which were geared toward the business.
For example, an ice pick from Cokato Ice Delivery, piggy banks from the local banks, and a 7-UP bottle opener from Cokato Bottling Works.
Other items were purely promotional such as ashtrays, rain gauges, thermostats, night lights, and coffee mugs.
The museum staff has tried to group them into separate business categories.
One section deals with service or “filling” stations, which at one time sprinkled the town in various locations. These stations will be the theme of the 2014 Cokato Historical Society calendar.
Cokato Museum Director explained that gas stations weren’t what the are today. “The nature of the business has changed dramatically,” Worcester commented, particularly the size and scale and the services offered.
Not only have gas stations moved to self-service gas pumping, but many have also grown to include tire shops, convenience stores, and miniature restaurants.
One of the most unique items on display is a seltzer water bottle from Cokato Bottling Works, dating back to the 1910s.
Also part of the display are several shirts and jerseys representing the business. Some of the shirts are work shirts, while others are team shirts, such as the Northland Canning baseball jersey and the Cokato Bakery bowling shirt. Some memorabilia is more recent, as are the T-shirts from Brandel Electric and Iron Horse Grill and Saloon.
“We tried to cover as large of a time frame as possible,” Worcester said. By doing this exhibit, it has also shown him that there are a lot of gaps in the museum’s collection.
It goes to show that the collection “depends on the generosity of folks to chronicle the town’s history,” Worcester noted, adding that it’s important people keep the museum in mind, even if it’s by allowing the staff to scan photos.
Worcester also noted that this is first time many of the items shown have been on display.
In addition to the exhibit itself, there are four frames displaying business cards from around Cokato. Visitors are challenged to find the business card that is displayed twice.