Ernie Lantto in front of Lantto's Store, circa 1963. Photograph is from the Cokato Enterprise Collection.
For 112 years the Lanttos store has been a fixture in French Lake. The store legacy began when Finnish immigrant Abraham Lantto purchased Bergstrom Store in 1908 for $800. The store stocked a variety of items including dry goods, clothing, shoes, landscaping tools, and poultry. The store even sold ice, most of which came from French Lake itself. Initially, dairy products were not sold in the store as most of the French Lake residents were dairy farmers. Over the years the store became a social hub, a place where people gathered together to share the latest news.
Chris and Vicky Lantto standing in front of Lanttos Store,, early 1990s.
Eventually the store passed from Abe to his son Ernie in 1950, and later to his grandson Chris in 1976. Throughout their ownership of Lanttos Store, the three men supported the community of French Lake through kind gestures, helping with fundraising, and sponsoring community activities. During their ownership, Abe and Ernie gave apples to regular customers during Christmas. In the 1990s Lanttos Store sponsored sleigh rides for people in the community. It also co-hosted KRWC’s radio show segment “Coffee at Lanttos” which helped promote events, businesses, and organizations in the community.
The store has faced its fare share of adversity over the years—rebuilding after the French Lake fire of July 30, 1928, surviving the Great Depression, and other financial pitfalls. When Chris Lantto took over the store in 1976, he diversified and grew the business, eventually moving it into new facilities kitty corner to the original store in 1997.
On October 16, 2020, the Lanttos turned the business over to Jacks, marking the end of an era but leaving behind a legacy the community of French Lake will never forget.
Lantto's Store, late 1990s.
Jennifer Kotila, “Chris Lantto shares history of French Lake and Lantto’s Store,” Enterprise Dispatch (15 October 2012) http://www.herald-journal.com/archives/2012/stories/lantto-store.html.