Earlier this week I wrote a post about the business district that ran through the Hollywood Park neighborhood on Chicago’s far north side, calling it a small town Main Street. I had no idea. It wasn’t a small town, it was practically a shtetl, an old world town with a large Jewish population.
As it turns out, a lot of neighborhood kids were related to the owners of Bryn Mawr Avenue businesses. And if they weren’t relatives, the business owners had close ties to the neighborhood. As Julie Levin Freireich pointed out, we all knew someone who worked at or owned one of the shops on Bryn Mawr.
Harry Block was lucky enough to call the owners of the Hollywood Bowl “Aunt Helen” and “Uncle Joe.” Helen was his grandmother’s sister, but Harry still had to pay for his candy. Harry’s first job was delivering presciptions for Irv Plotkin. “Pay was 10 cents per delivery plus tips!”
Harry set me straight about Irv’s Barber Shop–it wasn’t on Bryn Mawr after all. I should have remembered: Irv’s was around the corner on Kimball, next to Whirly’s, where I had lunch every Saturday. Harry also knew Hollywood Hardware Morrie’s (Maury?) last name: it was Munson, and Arnold Munson was in Harry’s class at Peterson.
The shop next to the florist at the corner of Bryn Mawr and Kimball wasn’t a Kosher butcher. It was the Hollywood Fisheries, owned by the Greene family. They had a daughter, Suzie Greene, in–you guessed it–Harry’s class at Peterson School. There was, Harry adds, another fish store, owned by the Zaretsky family just off Bryn Mawr on Kedzie.
Zaretsky’s shop was next to Lerner’s Hot Dogs, where, once again, Harry had a classmate, Jay, and I also had a classmate, Mark. Next to Lerner’s was Lazaar’s, which was a Kosher butcher, or more accurately a meat processing plant. My mother got our salami and hot dogs there. Even my Zeide, my grandfather, in Pennsylvania, got his salami and hot dogs there. He lived in a small town outside Johnstown, where there wasn’t a Kosher butcher. Twice a year we brought salami and several pounds of frozen Lazaar’s hot dogs to western Pennsylvania.
Arlene Silverman Andresen, whose cousin Debbie was one of my earliest friends at Peterson, possibly had more relatives connected to Bryn Mawr Avenue businesses than anyone. “The Plotkin Pharmacy was owned by my Aunt Bea and Uncle Irv,” Arlene told me. “They owned the building and lived in a house which was attached to the pharmacy. Sometimes I would help out behind the counter. I also had another uncle who owned Milt and Morrie Shell on the corner of Bryn Mawr and Kedzie. That seemed to be the neighborhood hang out! My mom ran Irene’s dress shop for years. Another one of my aunts ran Factor Shoes.”
My former classmate Lenny Low reminded me about Doris and Sam’s newstand at the corner Kimball and Bryn Mawr. You couldn’t miss Doris–the outfits! the hats! the sunglasses!
Lenny told me that at Irv’s (and Bob’s) barber shop they would put a muscle-man body under your picture. He also remembers K Brothers Grocery Store, Marty’s Slot Car Racing, a tailor shop, the great burgers from Morrie’s, the best beef and kishkes from Al’s Butcher Shop, and Levin’s TV Repair.
This is how another grade school friend, Steve Dubow, remembers it:
“On the north side of the street from Spaulding to Christiana, there was the Grocerland, Victor David Men’s Store, Factor’s Shoes, Irene’s Dress Shop, Klein’s Jewelry (later moved across the street), Hamilton’s Card Shop, Jewel, Melin Cleaners (my sister worked there), Ben’s Fruit Stand and Lerner’s Bakery. Other stores on the street that come to mind were a Dutch Mill candy store, Fan’s Fishery (where we bought our lox and smokefish), Hollywood Fisheries and most important, the Raceway, where we raced our slot cars. There was also a small storefront Chicago Public Library on the corner of Sawyer across from the Laundromat.”
Bill Tong is another Peterson alum and son of a family-owned Bryn Avenue business, Tong’s Tea Garden. Actually, his family had two Bryn Mawr Avenue businesses, as Bill explained to me: “Probably the oldest business on Bryn Mawr still operating under the original name is Biltmore Cleaners. My dad told me it had been there since the 1940s. He first came to the neighborhood in 1947 to operate The Lee (predecessor to Tong’s Tea Garden.)”
Bill identified more business owners: Frank was the owner of Whirly’s, the Dong family owned the Chinese hand laundry, and Morrie Gershowitz owned the Certified.
Merle Citrin Monroe recalls:
“a school supply store named Hamilton’s and a beauty shop between Christiana and Kimball, near the Hollywood Bowl. I ate my first pizza at the Tower of Pizza. Factor’s was the shoe store with one of those floroscopes for your feet. Don’t forget the tavern (anyone remember the name?), Lichtman’s Bakery and Bernie’s Jewelers, which also sold those fountain pens we needed for learning cursive. There was a magic trick store just north of Bryn Mawr on Kimball and a children’s clothing store east of Spaulding. The mom of one of my classmates worked there for years.”
Several people remember a Chicago Public Library branch at Sawyer and Bryn Mawr. I don’t. But Marshall Kravitz told me the Albany Park branch opened in 1962, the year after my family moved into Hollywood Park, so that may explain why I never went to Bryn Mawr branch.
Bill Tong and Julie Levin Freireich gave me the history behind Bon-Shar women’s clothing store: (Bon)nie and (Shar)on Sadowsky, both Peterson School classmates, were daughters of the store’s owners. Julie also told me her cousins are the Zaretsky family who owned the fish store on Kedzie.
And who knew the snack shop on Kimball and Bryn Mawr was a DeMar’s before it was C.V’s? Correction: DeMar’s opened on the southeast corner of Peterson and Kimball in 1960 or 1961. Previously it was a restaurant called Green Gables. For a while it was Rancho Luna, a Cuban restaurant where my father ate a lot. Now it’s Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Thank you to all the contributors for sharing your memories. They add up to a historical record of a specific place at a specific time, but for several generations Mom-and-Pop shops were integral parts of many Chicago neighborhoods. In fact, you might even say they were the neighborhood.
You’ll find more photos under the Photos tab of this blog. If you think of something we missed, add it to the Comments.
Photo credits: (1) 1935 photo of Bryn Mawr, Chicago: Growth Of A Metropolis, Harold Meyer and Richard Wade, p. 345. (2) Night photo of the corner of Bryn Mawr and Spaulding, courtesy of The Point and Shootist. (3) Tong’s Tea Garden photo, courtesy of Bill Tong. All other photos by Frances Archer.
Sources: For those of you who can’t get enough, Bill Tong created a great historical resource for a Peterson School class reunion.