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NorthCoast

Grand Rapids Retail History

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Being a big history, albeit sometimes trivial history, buff and having spent so much of my time laboring in a grocery store, I just thought it would be neat to have a thread to discuss the general topic of the history of Grand Rapids grocery stores and retail in general. For our 'experienced' members it can be a chance to reminisce and for the young pups like me its an opportunity to learn about what living in the Grand Rapids metro area was like and what it looked like. I think it would really interesting to hear stories and see pictures of the days when....

-28th Street was a vibrant corridor of retail

-The grocery market was not dominated by Spartan and the supercenters (Prevo's, Ashcraft's, Great Day, Eberhard's, Kroger, etc)

-All of the great department stores

Just some examples...

So many history books seem to focus mostly on events up to the end of World War II and for some reason skip the total latter half of the 20th Century. It's sort of a shame.

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I think it would really interesting to hear stories and see pictures of the days when....

-28th Street was a vibrant corridor of retail

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When I moved to G.R. in 1982, there was a slice of a retail store on the then-Monroe Mall. It was called "The Morning Calm" and it was a real zen oasis. Always very quiet. However, rarely any customers.

I remember buying a bed frame from Phoenix Antiques, on Burton near Division. There was an Army/Navy store near there, also.

`~~zenstyle, rambling aimlessly

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In regards to 28th Street.. the stretch from Division to Kalamazoo is pretty vacant from what I've notised.

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In regards to 28th Street.. the stretch from Division to Kalamazoo is pretty vacant from what I've notised.

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28th Street was fun in the late '60's - 70's but, nothing beat shopping downtown during the holidays. I think back then most people did a good mix of both. That would be before "Monroe Mall" which, IMO, was a big mistake. Driving Monroe from Amway Grand to Division made you look which made you say let's stop and shop - year around. Great places like Daane's or Granny's Kitchen could draw you outside of downtown now and then, and into other outlying places. For downtown, I like what I'm seeing from all of your posts / pics...you all do a great job in promoting a wonderful city.

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I've been around long enough to remember the Christmas displays in the downtown Wurzburg's. That was such a treat and I always looked forward to bundling up and going down there with my parents during the holiday season. I also remember catching the bus (I think at Cherry and Lake Drive) and going downtown sometimes with my sister. I bought my first "Nancy Drew" book during one of those excursions, from Steketee's, I think. I also remember shopping for school clothes at Steketee's downtown with Kim Zimmer (from Guiding Light). She and I were neighbors/classmates. Not really good friends, but we did some things together with others from the neighborhood (I was living in Cascade by then), particularly when we were in Jr. High School.

And I also remember the opening of Eastbrook Mall, checking out the inside of the mall itself before most stores were even open. Don't know how we got in there, but I seem to remember walking through it, gaining access through the Wurzburg's end which was already open, apparently. And I know my friends and I were so excited about shopping at the new Woolco's in Eastbrook. I bought a lot of 45 records there. East on 28th Street, for several years even after Eastbrook opened, there wasn't much until one reached Cascade and 28th Street was no more than 2 lanes wide starting at East Paris (I think it was E. Paris). I recall the location of D & W in Cascade prior to where it is today. Anyone else?

How's that for some history!?

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I've been around long enough to remember the Christmas displays in the downtown Wurzburg's. That was such a treat and I always looked forward to bundling up and going down there with my parents during the holiday season. I also remember catching the bus (I think at Cherry and Lake Drive) and going downtown sometimes with my sister. I bought my first "Nancy Drew" book during one of those excursions, from Steketee's, I think. I also remember shopping for school clothes at Steketee's downtown with Kim Zimmer (from Guiding Light). She and I were neighbors/classmates. Not really good friends, but we did some things together with others from the neighborhood (I was living in Cascade by then), particularly when we were in Jr. High School.

And I also remember the opening of Eastbrook Mall, checking out the inside of the mall itself before most stores were even open. Don't know how we got in there, but I seem to remember walking through it, gaining access through the Wurzburg's end which was already open, apparently. And I know my friends and I were so excited about shopping at the new Woolco's in Eastbrook. I bought a lot of 45 records there. East on 28th Street, for several years even after Eastbrook opened, there wasn't much until one reached Cascade and 28th Street was no more than 2 lanes wide starting at East Paris (I think it was E. Paris). I recall the location of D & W in Cascade prior to where it is today. Anyone else?

How's that for some history!?

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So many history books seem to focus mostly on events up to the end of World War II and for some reason skip the total ladder half of the 20th Century. It's sort of a shame.

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Would you feel better if we referred to them as memories?

I'm not trying to make anyone feel old...I just think its important to keep these stories and such alive.

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Boy, memory lane time again.

I remember taking the bus downtown with Mom (she didn't drive and anyway, we had just one car). The bus was green and yellow and probably had a standard transmission. We picked it up at Plainfield and Sligh.

There were three big downtown department stores. Herpolsheimers (where the GRPD is now) was the newest, having built a new building in 1949. Herps also had the monorail train the basement, along with a little coffee shop where we usually ate lunch. Herps' old building became the Wurzburg store, which I think was the largest of the three stores. Wurzburgs had the great Christmas parade, the window displays and that is where you saw Santa. Santas at the other two stores just weren't worth consulting.

Steketees was my mom's favorite, probably because it had the classiest merchandise, as well as a beauty parlor and a nice restaurant for ladies who lunched. I remember that our family bought its first decent wall-to-wall carpeting at that store. (Talk about one-stop shopping).

In addition, there was a Sears store downtown as well as Houseman's and May's for clothing.

You are right, raildudes Dad. It isn't history at all. But it's all gone, nonetheless.

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I remember going downtown with my Grandma and seeing the Christmas decorations crisscrossed overhead along Monroe Ave (tacky 1970 kind of stuff) but we loved it. I remember having a Pancake breakfast at Herps with Santa, and then going down to ride the train in the basement, and getting a toy that was dumped down some sort of Toyland pipe!

Out at Eastbrook was Tillie the Talking Christmas Tree (which scared my younger brother), and Great displays with animitronic people.

From what I recall I think my Mom and Grandma did most of their shopping at Steketee's Herps and Gantos. I remember the dark bargain basement at Steketee's, and the candy counter on the first floor. I think it was there till the end with the same old lady working the counter.

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Wurzburgs! Ah yes! Had what I think were the only escalators in town at the time - and am I correct in remembering that the escalator handrails were aluminum?). Used to get all my Cub Scout uniforms and supplies there and at Steketees (or as we called it: Stek's). Did the Herpolshemiers thing often (again, as we called it: "Herps"). I also remember having ice cream sundaes at the soda counter at the Woolworth's on the SW corner of Pearl and Monroe before Monroe was extended straight south. Those were the days when my dad worked at WZZM TV 13 when it occupied the bottom couple floors of part of the Pantlind Hotel. Their studios were in what is now the 1913 Room.

Sears downtown - ah yes. Anyone else remember that their Auto Center used to be in the basement of what is now the Forslund Condos across from the Amway Grand on Pearl St? I remember my dad getting tires and car batteries there - pretty scary little ride down into the bowels of that place in the old man's 60 Chevy station wagon!

I remember when the convergence of 28th and EBL was a flashing light in the middle of no where. Only things out there were the old motel where Lowes now is... and a little concrete block building just west of it that housed Landman's Sport Center - basically a field where they sold tiny campers and row boats. We used to rent a pop-up camper there every summer for our family vacations. At the time, civilization really stopped about at 28th and Kalamazoo as you headed east.

As a child growing up near Cascade Rd and I96 at the time - I was often asked "Where is that?" "Why do you live so far from town?" It truly WAS a TRIP into town when we went "downtown". I used to ride my bike right down the middle of Cascade Rd (two narrow lanes at the time) all the way to Cascade to the little drug store out there to buy candy bars and bubble gum...

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I remember when the East Beltline was a two lane road from I-96 to Plainfield. The trees were so close to the road, when it snowed they would droop over the road like a canopy. It was really beautiful, and it really wasn't that long ago. I think that Blvd was built in the mid to late 80's? I also remember, but not as well, the construction of the Blvd from I-96 to the Malls. That was the late 70's. They moved a big house from one side of the road to the other. It's a Tudor style house near Midland Drive, on the east side of the Beltline. I recall the Tudor look came about because of the move. That was a pretty popular look for new homes in the late 70's.

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I remember having a Pancake breakfast at Herps with Santa, and then going down to ride the train in the basement, and getting a toy that was dumped down some sort of Toyland pipe!

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I seem to remember Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer being down there also, and he would have a present for you come down a slide after you got done talking to him. Or was this at another downtown store?

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I remember going downtown with my Grandma and seeing the Christmas decorations crisscrossed overhead along Monroe Ave (tacky 1970 kind of stuff) but we loved it. I remember having a Pancake breakfast at Herps with Santa, and then going down to ride the train in the basement, and getting a toy that was dumped down some sort of Toyland pipe!

Out at Eastbrook was Tillie the Talking Christmas Tree (which scared my younger brother), and Great displays with animitronic people.

From what I recall I think my Mom and Grandma did most of their shopping at Steketee's Herps and Gantos. I remember the dark bargain basement at Steketee's, and the candy counter on the first floor. I think it was there till the end with the same old lady working the counter.

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Out at Eastbrook was Tillie the Talking Christmas Tree (which scared my younger brother), and Great displays with animitronic people.

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Tillie must die!!! That thing gave me the creeps.

A few random things I remember (I may be off on some names):

Going to Herpolsheimers in the early 80's during a preschool trip and riding the ceiling train. That also scared the heck out of me.

I also remember how in the early 80s, when you drove east past where K-Mart was (Now Burlington Coat Factory), there was absolutely nothing. It was as if you went from shopping centers to country in an instant, with Erine's (sp?) water park being the only thing between you and the airport.

My first trip to the City Center in 1988. The inside was incredible. I had never seen a mall with more than one floor. The place was totally packed.

And who could forget stores like Witmark (A Witmark sign is still visible by North Kent Mall, or whatever they call it now), Best, and Hills.

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The water park was Arnie's Fun Land. It sat up behind where Art Van is today.

*fish

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Wurzburgs! Ah yes! Had what I think were the only escalators in town at the time - and am I correct in remembering that the escalator handrails were aluminum?). Used to get all my Cub Scout uniforms and supplies there and at Steketees (or as we called it: Stek's). Did the Herpolshemiers thing often (again, as we called it: "Herps"). I also remember having ice cream sundaes at the soda counter at the Woolworth's on the SW corner of Pearl and Monroe before Monroe was extended straight south. Those were the days when my dad worked at WZZM TV 13 when it occupied the bottom couple floors of part of the Pantlind Hotel. Their studios were in what is now the 1913 Room.

Sears downtown - ah yes. Anyone else remember that their Auto Center used to be in the basement of what is now the Forslund Condos across from the Amway Grand on Pearl St? I remember my dad getting tires and car batteries there - pretty scary little ride down into the bowels of that place in the old man's 60 Chevy station wagon!

I remember when the convergence of 28th and EBL was a flashing light in the middle of no where. Only things out there were the old motel where Lowes now is... and a little concrete block building just west of it that housed Landman's Sport Center - basically a field where they sold tiny campers and row boats. We used to rent a pop-up camper there every summer for our family vacations. At the time, civilization really stopped about at 28th and Kalamazoo as you headed east.

As a child growing up near Cascade Rd and I96 at the time - I was often asked "Where is that?" "Why do you live so far from town?" It truly WAS a TRIP into town when we went "downtown". I used to ride my bike right down the middle of Cascade Rd (two narrow lanes at the time) all the way to Cascade to the little drug store out there to buy candy bars and bubble gum...

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