Son of a Swiss immigrant, Latsch first lived in Dodge, Wis., where his father taught and farmed until an accident left his father crippled, and the family moved to Winona and began a grocery business. He took over the successful company in 1909 when his father died.
Latsch was born in 1861, and grew up in an era when steam-powered packet boats plied mail routes up and down the river and when lumber mills shrieked and whined in the island city. Latsch by all accounts was a generous and giving man. Although he was one of the richest men in Winona, Latsch never owned a car and was rarely seen riding in one. He also never owned a motorboat, preferring his little canoe to get around. A hardworking, unassuming and modest man, Latsch never married. He lived at 267 East Seventh Street, but only used a portion of the house, and many of his closest friends never even knew where he lived. He was a loner, a quiet man, an eccentric millionaire who loved nothing more than escaping to the rugged Mississippi backwaters in his little boat.
Latsch felt a strong need to give back to the town that made his business thrive. “I made all my money in Winona, and I am going to leave it here for the benefit of all the people of the area,” he was known to have said. And give back he did, from the nearly 20,000 acres of land he donated to the public in Minnesota and Wisconsin, to hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the Winona General Hospital, local churches and the Margaret Simpson Home and Welfare.
The former Kupietz building, on the national historic register and deemed locally significant, was built in stages between 1860 and the 1880s and was the main building historic figure and local philanthropist John Latsch and his father used for their wholesale grocery distribution center, Shortridge said. Shortridge redubbed the Kupietz building the “Latsch Building,” in honor of the Latsch & Sons wholesale grocery that once operated in the space, owned by the Winona hero John A. Latsch. He explained to the HPC that the renovated building would still pay homage to the warehouse style features of the old building. Comparing it to the polished 111 Riverfront building next door, he said, “It’s going to be a little funkier.”