Frostman Fish Market in Wausau. Photo courtesy of the Frostman famiy

By Mitchell A. Skurzewski

For Wausau Pilot & Review

A locally-owned Wausau staple closed its doors for the final time last week after three generations and 74 years in business.

If you enjoyed a fish fry at such locations in the Wausau area like Relocation Pub & Eatery or Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant, you were enjoying fish from Frostman Fish Market, 108 S. Second Ave. in Wausau, which closed on Friday.

In addition to delivering their products to restaurants, bars, grocery stores, delis and churches, the Frostmans also sold products directly to families in the community at the family’s west-side shop. Cooked shrimp with their specialty seasoning was the most popular item, said current owner Guy Frostman Jr., particularly during the holidays.

But don’t let the shop’s closure worry you. The company is still selling their products after merging with Merrill Distributing.

“This partnership was a perfect fit for us as both of us are third generation companies, both of us provide great customer service and both are located in Central Wisconsin,” Frostman announced in a Facebook post announcing the store’s closing. 

Sherry Frostman, who is Guy’s sister and also a co-owner, is retiring, while Guy Jr. will join the Merrill Distributing family.

The fish market was founded by Guy Jr. and Sherry’s grandparents, Uldrick and Ina Frostman, in 1947. Uldrick had been living in the Washburn area and was a Great Lakes fisherman. When sea lamprey invaded the Great Lakes and decimated the fish populations in the 1940s, Uldrick decided to change course – but not before selling his fishing boat, which is currently on display in a museum in Cornucopia, a small community on the shores of Lake Superior in Bayfield County.

The Frostman siblings say Uldrick traveled the state a bit looking for a town he liked that could support a fish market like the one he envisioned. He liked the feel of Wausau, and it was on the train route to get fish from northern Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region. 

Soon, the family found a routine. Uldrich and Ina would cook shrimp at home, and the Frostman children would help remove the shells. Ina and the children would then walk from their home on the east side of Wausau, through the city’s downtown, then over the bridge to the market.

In 1960, Uldrick’s son and his wife, Guy, and Lois Frostman, bought the market and carried on the tradition. Lois worked at the market taking orders and handling retail sales. She and Guy would bring the kids to work with them from the time Guy Jr. was small enough to nap in a fish crate and Sherry just old enough to start helping. Then, in 1990, they passed the family business onto Guy Jr. and Sherry.

Uldrick Frostman photo provided by the Frostman family

Since 1990, the brother and sister duo have not only kept the family business going, they expanded. Through it all, they had just one part-time employee: Bailey Frostman, Guy Jr.’s son. Together, they focused solely on the customer, giving them the best possible product and service.

“Sherry and Guy (Jr.) did it all from the purchasing, selling, deliveries, running the retail store and so much more,” said Nancy Frostman, Guy Jr.’s wife.

For nearly three quarters of a century, the Frostmans were well-known in the Wausau community for their fish and seafood. But, Nancy Frostman said, the past 18 months-plus, Wausau has been even more supportive.

Photo provided by the Frostman family

Guy Jr. said the decision to close Frostman Fish Market was a difficult one but the timing seemed right.

“Everything we did, boiled down to the customer and helping them,” Guy Jr. said. “To be a small business and to compete you had to provide good customer service and we thrived in doing things to make the customer happy.”