PINE ISLAND — Even after more than five decades in a business, it's not easy to retire.
"When you do something for 55 years and enjoy it, it's hard to give it up," said Wally Klopp.
Klopp and his wife, Susan Klopp, plan to close the Von Klopp Brew Shop at 51146 US 52 Boulevard for good later this month.
"I'm going to turn the key in the door for the last time on Sept. 27," he said. "We're really going to miss the customers."
The Klopps have been high-profile figures in the cheese and wine/beer crowd in southeastern Minnesota since Wally's father purchased the Pine Cheese Mart in 1955.
Wally Klopp built the "new" 3,000-square-foot, chalet-like store in 1965 to replace the original 1942 barn that was left behind in 1959, when the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation routed US 52 around Pine Island. The store quickly became a landmark along U.S. 52 for travelers as well as locals.
Along the way, the Klopps launched a companion business, the Von Klopp Brew Shop. Klopp first opened a Rochester store in the Wallin's West building, now Newt's North, on the U.S. 52 North frontage road, near the Furniture Superstore, in 2004.
In 2011, the Med City's Von Klopp Shop moved to Rochester's Barlow Plaza. The Pine Island Cheese Mart closed in 2014, but the Brew Shop business remained active there. The Barlow Plaza shop then closed in 2017 and consolidated with the Pine Island shop.
Klopp isn't sure what will happen with the 50-year-old building along US 52. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has signaled an interest in expanding the highway in that area.
"It's in limbo," he said. "MnDOT has messed with us several times over the years."
Besides the 1964 move, MnDOT opened the Elk Run interchange in 2013 across the highway from the Klopps' business. The median crossing between the northbound and southbound lanes of US 52 in front of the Pine Cheese Mart was removed. That made exiting to the store very tricky for the 75 percent of Klopp's store customers who come from the south.
MnDOT also took out the store's direct access from US 52 in the early 1980s. It was deemed as causing a traffic hazard and was replaced by the recently removed median crossing.