I’m on the road this week, seeing some interesting things on the way to Texas. But this adventure harkens back to June and our extended family trip to the Wisconsin Dells.
Josh Pahigian takes us to San Francisco and McCovey’s restaurant as place No. 67 in “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”
I’ve never been to San Francisco, and there’s nothing too unusual about a sports-themed restaurant, though Josh seems to like them.
But how about a baseball-themed shoe store?
Alternative baseball place No. 67A: The Shoe Box, Black Earth, Wis.
Like I was saying, we were at the Wisconsin Dells in June, and it’s full of fun places to explore.
We planned a side trip to tour the Cave of the Mounds, which is about an hour south of the Dells.
Along the way, in the small town of Black Earth, we spotted a shoe store with a giant boot and a cow outside.
I confess I have a fondness for giant roadside fiberglass art. Who doesn’t?
On our way back from the cave, I pleaded for the opportunity to pull over and get some photos of the cow and boot, and the family humored me because I behaved reasonably well in the cave, at least as well as can be expected.
Jumping out, I discovered that this wasn’t just any cow, but a cow wearing a Cardinals cap. Then I noticed there were Cardinals logos all over the place. Official, MLB Cardinals logos.
Keep in mind, weren’t in Missouri or southern Illinois. We were in Wisconsin, Brewers country. And these people probably are still stinging from the Cardinals beating the Brew Crew in their only World Series appearance.
Having already pushed my family’s patience to their limits, we hopped back into our cars without poking into the store to find out about the Cardinals thing.
Later I looked up the store’s Web site.
“Steve Schmitt bought a store in downtown Black Earth from his father in the early 70's. They had sold a wide variety of merchandise, including footwear. Steve determined that footwear was the area of focus and closed out all the other merchandise. The store remained in downtown Black Earth for many years and Steve had to add on several times. In 1986, he moved to the busy intersection of highways 14 & 78 and has been there ever since.
“Steve is here about 80 hours a week and this business is like his home. He has four daughters. The eldest, Amy and her husband Paul, manage The Shoe Box Baraboo, which is the only other Shoe Box Store. Jill and Emily work full time at the main store in Black Earth.
“The Shoe Box is one of the largest shoe stores in the USA. We have an incredible selection of over 300,000 pair in stock and feel that there is no reason when a customer walks in that we cannot find something for them. We represent over 180 major shoe companies and we offer most of them at discounted prices.”
OK, that’s a lot about shoes and nothing about the Cardinals.
Then I learned that Schmitt is co-owner of the Madison Mallards, and independent league baseball team. The team’s site reveals that he is a huge Cardinals fan.
Hey, I get it. If I owned a store, the chances are there would be Mets logos all over and posters of Tom Seaver adorning the walls.
Heck, I have a Seaver Starting Lineup figure on my desk at work and a tasteful display of Mets pins.
I don’t know how Schmitt gets to use MLB trademark logos on his signs, or why Brewers fans haven’t stormed the place in protest. I briefly considered tipping the cow over the 2006 playoffs and Yadier Bleeping Molians, but I knew I'd never be allowed to stop at a roadside attraction again.
It will just have to be one of those mysteries, and one of the reasons to keep your eyes peeled when passing through small towns.