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Pine Knot News Staff 

Bislow was 'Mr. Mahtowa'


February 8, 2019

Thomas Michael Bislow, 74, of Carlton passed away on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019 in his home.

Considered by many as the beating heart of Mahtowa, Bislow and his TJ’s Country Corner store put the small city on the map with fabulous locally made potato sausages and brats — the store’s motto is “Our Wurst is Best” — and unique celebrations, such as the annual beard and moustache contest, the vintage snowmobile meet, the Rat Rod Rendezvous, twice-a-year “chicken swaps” and, of course, the bratwurst festival. There were other events happening more regularly, such as the street market outside the bright yellow store on Sundays May through September.

Bislow didn’t hail from Mahtowa or start out life as a marketing genius.

He was born Dec. 18, 1944 in Two Harbors to Chester and Harriet (Ecklen) Bislow. He graduated from Crosier Seminary High School in Onamia. On June 5, 1971, he married Joanne Ruzic in Cloquet. Bislow worked as a printer at the Pine Knot until 1977, when he and Joanne bought the old Co-op building in Mahtowa and started TJ’s Country Corner. (The “T” is for Tom and the “J” is for Joanne.”) He also had Country Printers, which he operated out of the store for more than 20 years. They celebrated the store’s 40th year two years ago, and close to 400 people attended that event.

Too see his impact on Mahtowa and Carlton County, one need only peruse the guestbook for Bislow at

A message from Tom Richards and Gretchen Madson said it well:

“The growing number of heartfelt tributes to Tom Bislow is but one indication of the difference this kind, caring and thoughtful man made in the lives of his army of admirers,” they wrote. “Tom was a creative, astute and successful businessman who seemed to care as much about people and community as sales. His “It’s a beautiful morning” reminded us that, yes, life is good, we’re still here and we ought to appreciate that, taking every opportunity to live life well and be good to one another. Mr. Bislow’s Neighborhood will never be quite the same now but, in his honor, let’s all try to do our best to carry forward what Tom taught us … Thank you, Tom Bislow, for everything you did for those of us who were privileged to have known you!”

Eric Lipponen remembered Bislow on the Pine Knot News Facebook page:

“I remember meeting Tom the first time at the Carlton County fair … making TJ Bucks on his old-fashioned printing machine … and also personally knowing and greeting my family each and every time visiting TJ’s. Such a kind guy and will be missed!”

In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the Moose Lake Food Shelf. To sign the guestbook and offer an online tribute, see

Tom is survived by his wife of 47 years, Joanne; two daughters, Sarah (David) Jurek of Carlton and Amy (Art) Crossley of Mechanicsburg, Pa .; brothers, James (Betty) of Buffalo and Kevin of Two Harbors; sister, Mary (Bill) Crader of Seattle, Wash .; and four granddaughters, Cambria and Kaia Crossley and Kendra and Janaya Jurek.

A gathering of friends and family was held Wednesday, Feb. 6 at Atkins-Northland Funeral Home in Cloquet as this issue of the Pine Knot News went to press.

TJ’s Wurst was served.


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