Two Million Worms Sold!
Ann’s Bait Shop, Bolton Landing
On March 13, 1960 Anneliese Brickner arrived in the U.S. to join her husband Roger. The two had been married the year before in Germany while Roger was in the service. He had been discharged and was sent back to the States.
The young couple moved in with Roger’s parents, Milton and Frieda Brickner. Roger returned to work as a boat mechanic after his stint with Uncle Sam. The elder Brickners worked for the U.S. Postal Service (Frieda was the Postmistress in Bolton Landing). Anneliese had nothing to do. She wanted to work.
By the start of the summer the enterprising couple decided to sell bait out of the basement of the house they shared with his parents. “Roger wanted to call it Ann’s Bait because Anneliese was too long to fit on the sign,” says Ann. “She had to sell the bait, so it should have been named after her,” her daughter Heidi, 50, adds.
The couple nurtured the bait business, often digging worms from their own garden to sell to anglers. Two years later they bought a mobile home which was set up on the eastern portion of Milton and Freda’s property. Ann was happy to move out of her in-law’s house.
They moved the bait business out of the basement to a storage shed which was attached to the house trailer, added a couple of refrigerators and continued to sell worms. Ann said that three or four years later they outgrew the small space so they purchased a good-sized metal shed to house the ever-expanding business.
According to Ann, the couple began selling some hooks and sinkers as well as adding tanks for live bait, minnows and crayfish. By 1968 the business was thriving. They needed to expand once more so they sold the trailer, moved into a small house on the property and built a full-sized shop next door.
Heidi remembers hunting for night-crawlers when she was eight-years-old. “It was fun for me but it was hard work for my parents,” she recalled. Back then they would buy worms in flats from wholesalers and package them by hand. “I didn’t mind touching the worms but I refused to break them in half,” Ann said. “To this day I can’t put a worm on a hook.”
Moving into the new building propelled the business to the next level…tackle and fishing accessories. They saved the shed for much needed storage space. Ann said she didn’t like handling the crayfish. “I was always afraid one would bite me,” she said.
She recalled a funny story in which a burly man came into the bait shop in the mid-‘70s and wanted to buy a dozen crayfish. “I very slowly and carefully plucked them out of the tank one by one. He said ‘that’s not how you do it…let me show you’ and he reached into the tank,” she said, as she began to chuckle.
“Wouldn’t you know…one of them bit him on the hand. He let out a shriek and flung it across the room,” she said, now laughing hysterically. Ann said she just continued to slowly count out the 12 crayfish as the man shook his hand in pain. “I didn’t even charge him for the one he flung across the room…we never found it!”
Several celebrities have been in the bait shop as well. Ann said Eric Clapton came into the old shop one summer to purchase a fishing license. “I saved a copy of it because it had his signature on it,” she said.
In 1985 Roger and Ann bought a house on Sagamore Road and urged their daughter Heidi to move back to Bolton Landing from Harrisburg, Pa. Heidi returned to Bolton Landing in 1986 and went to work for the Sagamore. In 1992 she went to work for Dr. Serlin and in 1994 she built a new house on the site of her parent’s old house.
In 1996 Roger was taken ill and could no longer work in the bait business. Heidi began helping her mother at the bait shop that year, often putting in long hours. In 2000 Heidi purchased the two-story building located next to her house. In 2002 the bait shop moved again into larger quarters. Roger passed away in 2005 and in 2007 Ann turned the business over to Heidi.
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the local business. According to Heidi, that year Ann’s Bait sold approximately 3,669 dozen worms. She called it a typical year. Do the math…that’s over two million worms during the last 50 years. “When I die, I am going to be cremated,” Ann said. “That way the worms can’t get their revenge on me.”