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LOCAL

Bosse's owner Steve Liebert, longtime fixture in downtown Green Bay and De Pere, has died

Jeff Bollier
Green Bay Press-Gazette

GREEN BAY - Stephen Liebert, the longtime owner of Bosse's IJʿ & Tobacco, a fixture of downtown Green Bay and now downtown De Pere, died on Sunday at age 80.

Known by many as Steve, Liebert was the second generation of his family to own Bosse's and only the third owner in the store's 126-year history. He started to work in his dad Norman's newsstand in the 1950s, and would eventually be joined at the shop by the third and fourth generations of his family who plan to continue to operate Bosse's at its new location, 107 S. Broadway St., in De Pere.

Longtime customers, friends and family members remember Liebert for his generosity, warm welcomes, good conversation and business acumen. They took to the internet this week to share memories of Liebert and Bosse's on his — interactions which span decades.

Steve Liebert, longtime owner of Bosse's IJʿ & Tobacco, died on Nov. 12. In the days after his passing, someone laid a bouquet of flowers and taped a copy of Liebert's obituary at the window of Bosse's longtime downtown Green Bay location at 220 Cherry St.

A couple of days after his death, one can find a simple bouquet and a copy of Liebert's obituary taped to the front of Bosse's former downtown Green Bay storefront at 220 Cherry St. Bosse's IJʿstand was a mainstay of downtown Green Bay for nearly 125 years before it relocated last year. But the memorial, which in certain light reflects other markers of downtown life like Hotel Northland, is a small token at a historic landmark. 

Liebert's family sent the Press-Gazette a statement on Thursday which said they will remember Liebert's kindness, selflessness and humor. They also thanked the community for the outpouring of support.

"Our family would like to thank everyone who has reached out with sympathy and such kind words for Steve," they wrote. "We are heartbroken by the sudden loss of our father, father-in-law, grandfather and husband. Our faith as well as the love and support of wonderful family and friends will help us through this difficult time."

From left, Sandy Liebert, Steve Liebert, Lisa Mitchell, Kayla Mitchell and Steven Mitchell at Bosse's IJʿ & Tobacco's newer location in De Pere. The Lieberts and Mitchells are second, third and fourth generation of the family owners of Bosse's.

'Green Bay has lost an icon'

Jeff Gahnz, a vice president at Nicolet National Bank, befriended Liebert during years of trips to Bosse's and interactions with him at St. Paul Lutheran Church, where Liebert was very active.

"Green Bay has lost an icon. He was a very good businessman and even more importantly, a very kind man," Gahnz said. "When you walked in (to Bosse's) and saw Steve was there, you knew you were going to have a fun conversation, no matter what it was about."

Jeff Mirkes, Downtown Green Bay Inc.'s executive director, got to know Liebert over 25 years of visits to Bosse's for a snack, newspaper or friendly conversation. Steve was kind to everyone who came in and a “wonderful” business owner, Mirkes said.

"The downtown Green Bay business community extends condolences to Steve's family," Mirkes said. "Everyone knew Steve. Everyone went in to pick up a newspaper or a snack. We have such fond memories of Steve."

A photo of a young Steve Liebert next to a Bosse's IJʿ Depot vehicle.

Born and raised in Green Bay

Liebert was born in Feb. 21, 1943 and attended St. Paul Lutheran Grade School where he would meet his future wife, Sandra "Sandy" Howey. Liebert in 1961 graduated from Green Bay East High School and went on to study at UW-Oshkosh. He and Sandy would marry in August 1966 and have three children, Lisa, Scott and Amy.

Liebert enjoyed playing, and later coaching, baseball and basketball. He liked to watch Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers games with his grandkids. Steve, along with Sandy, was very active in the St. Paul Lutheran Church community.

Steve Liebert, of Bosse's IJʿ & Tobacco

Liebert and his family run business that put community, family first

Art and Joe Bosse founded the newsstand and tobacco shop in 1898 on the corner of Cherry and Adams Streets. Joe Bosse hired a 12-year-old Norman Liebert as a paperboy in 1922. Norman Liebert took over the business in 1943 when Joe Bosse died, the same year Stephen Liebert was born. 

Like his dad, Liebert started to work at Bosse's as a kid in the 1950s. He and Sandy took over ownership in the 1990s when Norman retired. Liebert's daughter and son-in-law, Lisa and Steven Mitchell, joined him at the shop and continue to run the business today. The Mitchells' daughter, Kayla, marks the fourth generation of the family to work at Bosse's.

One example of Liebert's kindness and generosity always sticks with Gahnz. After he and his daughter watched a Marvel movie, they took a trip to Bosse's during which she mentioned she'd never had a comic book. Gahnz wanted to find her a vintage comic more like one he grew up reading, but couldn't find one on the shelves. He told Liebert what he was searching for, Liebert paused for a moment and dug into a pile of paperwork.

He pulled out a really old Spider Man comic. Not a collectors item, just a comic he hadn't thrown away. Gahnz asked him how much it'd cost. Liebert told him zero.

"'It's more important to me to give you your daughter's first comic book than it is to take your money,'" Gahnz recalled Liebert telling him. "He gave my daughter her first comic book."

Bosse's IJʿ & Tobacco, 220 Cherry St., was founded in 1898 and has been a fixture in downtown Green Bay since. The retailer will have to find a new home by the end of 2022, though.

Under Liebert, a visit to Bosse's remained a cherished memory for generations of Green Bay residents

The Liebert family has ensured Bosse's remained a special place to Green Bay residents, young and old alike, who regularly stopped in for an ice cream from the cooler, a comic book, a Coke from the soda machine, the latest newspaper, or a cigar.

In a comment on Liebert's memorial page, Cliff Christl, Green Bay Packers historian and a former Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter, called Liebert a great guy who cultivated a business that is "a Green Bay institution." Liebert shared with Christl many stories about the Green Bay Packers' presence in downtown Green Bay for Christl's ongoing work on Packers history.

"To several generations of Green Bay natives — mine as someone who grew up here in the 1950s and '60s, certainly previous ones going back even much earlier and probably more recent ones, too — Bosse's was a landmark, much like Kaap's, Prange's, the Northland Hotel and maybe one or two other businesses," Christl wrote in an email. "What's more it was  — and still is — a family friendly business like few others."

Steve Liebert, longtime owner of Bosse's IJʿ & Tobacco, died on Nov. 12. In the days after his passing, someone laid a bouquet of flowers and taped a copy of Liebert's obituary at the window of Bosse's longtime downtown Green Bay location at 220 Cherry St.

Visitation, service to be held Saturday

Visitation and funeral services for Liebert will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18.

Friends are welcome to attend the visitation from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 514 Clay St. The funeral service will follow at noon at the church with Pastor Jon Zabell officiating. The family has asked for expressions of sympathy in lieu of flowers.

IJʿ information can be found at .

Bosse's will be closed the day of the funeral.

Contact Jeff Bollier at (920) 431-8387 orjbollier@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at.

Press-Gazette reporter Natalie Eilbert contributed to this report.