September 15, 2011

Small Stores before the chain

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Correspondent

Uptown was composed of many privately owned Mom and pop stores the only chain stores were The Dime stores Woolwoth and Kresge
There was an A& P or National Tea food store on Broadway between Wilson and Leland.
But for the most part all the food came from small stores. All small stores had a meat counter with at least cold cuts,, if not a small meat selection.

Spencer's was in the lower right section at 4742 Kenmore, There were a lot of basement stores in the Area. Masons Deli was on Lawrence on the south side of the street just a few doors east of Kenmore, another basement store was on Lawrence just west of Kenmore, we bought most of our food at Staars on Leland just east of Kenmore, I used to love working the long handled claw to get boxes from the top shelf. right across the street was another basement store, name long forgotten
My friend Aki lived on Sheridan just south of Leland, they had a dry cleaners and laundry.
And in all cases there was always a curtain that separated the store from the living quarters.

Aki and I became friends as soon as we met some time in about 1946 The war was over. During the war they were in an interment camp in California and migrated to Uptown with a lot of other Japanese families, Aki had great parents and two beautiful sisters, they opened a dry cleaners and lived in the back of it.

Now me and Aki found a way to make money, we knew every store in Uptown that paid bottle deposits, so very early every Saturday and Sunday Morning we would head to the park with our wagons bikes and a couple of boxes. we would pick up all bottles and return them to the proper stores and collect the deposit.
Now the trick was to take the bottles to the store that sold that brand, 2cts for small bottles 5cts for qt size and 10cts for 1/2 gal size
Thats right folks 1/2 gal beer bottles Tavern Pale was the most popular '
we would also take a small shovel and window screen and sift the sand around the concession stands, always picked up money, now I have a metal detector
but its not as much fun now as it was then,
If pickings were slim at the park, we would ride through the alleys and look up on the back porches, if we spotted a sizable amount we would volunteer to take them off their hands.

We made enough to keep us going the movies, roller skating and Riverview and the big treat was buying the salami ends at a deli for 5cts/
At the S.W. corner of Wilson and Kenmore was Angelos Pizza. Aki and I went in one day and he ordered a pizza I said what's that, he said he didn't know, but he heard they were good and they came from Italy. he was right and I was hooked.
Life was good


bill Matteson said...

This in from a reader:
I remember those basement stores. We went to a little one called Terry's on Broadway about a block north of the post office. They had cold cuts, bread and everything we needed. There was also a grocery store on Lawrence just past the El station that both my Mom and Grandmother went to. My sisters and I collected empty bottles from my Grandmother. When she had enough she let us take them back to the liquor store on the Northeast corner of Lawrence and Broadway. Of course we got to keep the money. I think the spot where the liquor store was became Peter Pan some years later. We were even able to go and pick up beer for my Grandmother. She would call the order in and we would pay for it and pick it up. Of course we did bring it back to her. Keep up the good work. Enjoy the stories.

Unknown said...

Now, instead of that, there are a lot of Chicago Condos for sale. Reminiscing the past is a very refreshing thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Remember the grocery store in the basement of Goldblatt's? don't remember the name, but remember the foul smell of Limburger cheese coming down the metal staircase.


bill Matteson said...

HIllmans Grocery was the name of the store.. loved the hot dogs sold there
Bill Matteson


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