In 1888 when Ernst Karlsen established his general store, Venneshamn was a thriving village. The natural harbour made it a perfect location at a time when communication and transport mainly took place by sea. You can gain an impression of this by looking through the photo album, where you will find a set of old pictures of the landscape in the past. Two headlands protect the site from rough winds from most directions. The harbour is exposed to wind and waves from east and north-east, which normally are not very rough. In the past, Venneshamn was the nearest ice-free port for vessels from the town Steinkjer and the rural districts around Beistadfjorden. During the second part of the 19th century, the rural districts along the northern shore of Trondheimsfjorden and Beistadfjorden constituted the core region for builders and owners of square-rigged sloops in Norway. A large number of the vessels worked as coastal freighters for the seasonal fisheries in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway. Seamen also found that Venneshamn was a suitable harbour off-season or when their vessels were laid up. In the photo album, you can find photographs of an authentic sloop (Pauline), which still sails today.
In the late 19th century, regional steamers started to sail regular routes along Trondheimsfjorden. For almost a century, Venneshamn was a port of call on the route between Trondheim and Steinkjer. As can be seen from a set of old photos of the harbour in the photo album, Venneshamn was a lively place for some considerable time.
Ernst Karlsen (1857-1902), who grew up on Lillegrande, a farm three kilometres north-west of Venneshamn, was the son of the farmer Karl Ulrik Olsen Lillegrande and his wife Kristianna Pedersdatter. Ernst dropped his plans to become a teacher in favour of a business career. In 1888 the firm Ernst Karlsen was founded and Ernst Karlsen remained the business name for four generations of storekeepers. The general store was run as a family business for 120 years.
The customers came from the rural districts of Framverran, the southern and the northern shores of the strait Verrasundet, and the western part of Inderøy. The latter had to travel a few kilometres by sea to make their purchases. Ernst Karlsen was not just a grocery store, it also provided farming requisites. In addition, the storekeeper had a dairy for making cheese, as he had a supply contract with 25 local dairy farmers (1888-1893). In addition, he was a commission agent (1890-1930) for the dyer Hans Berg in Steinkjer, a fishmonger, and a shipping agent (1889-1970s). The harbour facilities were important for the loading and storing of goods shipped from merchants in Trondheim, for the onwards shipment of locally fished fresh cod and salt herring, and for passenger transport in general.
For almost a century (1894-1975), members of the family successively served as the local postmaster. Affiliated to the general store was a bakery run by bakers from two generation of the Talseth family (early 1900-1972). During the decade (1958-1968) before the country road was extended southwards, one out of three ferry quays for the ferry service operating across the strait was in Venneshamn. The road extension was the first milestone in the history of communication by land. The next milestone was the completion of Skarnsund Bridge in 1991. The bridge connected the Fosen peninsula to the main (national) road network. However, these improvements combined with changing trading patterns and shopping practices among local people were unfavourable for business at the family-run store.