Part of growing up on the south side of Chicago was spent shopping along Archer Avenue, between Kedzie Ave. and California Ave. This was before Walmart and all the others became so prominent.

I can remember "Archer Avenue Big Store" a department store that took up a good portion of the block just north of Sacramento Avenue. This was an old fashioned, private owned department store with worn out hardwood floors, and wide terrazo stairs leading to the lower level. I spent most of my time on the lower level looking at the toys when I was young, and then graduated to the decorations and housewares around Christmastime as I grew up. I purchased my first set of miniature Christmas lights for $3.99 sometime around 1979. Before then, most Christmas lights I knew of used the large, colored glass bulbs, so it was a treat to get a set of the tiny ones.

Another well known store on this section of Archer was Neisner's, a variety store that sold everything from greeting cards to mothballs, clothes to vases. The old five and dime with a lunch counter! Where have those days gone?

My mother would take us there for lunch occationally, where we would sit at the counter on the swivel stools attached to the floor and watch the cook make our lunch. The long Formica counter held a variety of juice fountains that cycled the different colored juice to the top of the clear, rectangular container where it dripped down the sides creating a fountain of juice. Soft drinks were served in paper cone cups placed inside aqua colored plastic holders similar to the ones shown here. conecupsodacup1When the cup was in the holder, an hourglass shape was created. Using a straw to get the last drops of juice out of the pointed end of the cone cup made a lot of noise!

After lunch it was off to the toy department! I still have a little red firetruck, Santa Clause figure and assorted other toys and decorations from that store. Neisner's had some other prominent features of dime stores of the time: A photo booth where you could get six pictures for a quarter; a record bin where you could get a 45 rpm record for under $1, and an original stamped tin ceiling complete with tin crown moulding.

Neisner's closed in the early 1980's, but was replaced with another variety store called McCrory's. I worked there for about seven years from high school and through college; it was close to home and a fun place to work. While ripping out some old shelves in the store basement, I found the cast iron Neisner's sign that was originally mounted on the brick facade of the building.

The sign is about 14 inches long and weighs at least three pounds. It's part of my small collection of things from the past that I won't part with.

5 cents to a dollar? Where can you buy anything anymore for 5 cents?


Anonymous said...

I remember shopping and dining there. I'll never forget Linda, a Puerto Rican waitress who always served us with a smile, and Angie, a store clerk, who often strolled over for a break and hoisted herself onto one of the high stools. To a kid, the candy display at Neisner's seemed endless. The delicatessen that was once located at the front of the store sold the greatest, crunchy Kaiser rolls.

winslow said...

my sister won a contest painting (I think it was for Thanksgiving) the window of Archer Ave Big Store. She won a rabbit

Anonymous said...

I remember the Neismers store in downtown JOliet, Illinois. I was very young & have only limited memory but do remember various things about it. as I got older (young teen 1960's) it had already closed. seems like I remember it rignt next to or close to the Grants store (Chicago st. downtown).
I sure miss those days! wish it was like that yet today.