CHICAGO (CBS) — The old Gatelys Department store building, now being demolished after a massive fire Friday, has a history that dates back to the very early 1900s.
Residents of Roseland and beyond fondly remember that Gatelys seemed to have it all–from homemade doughnuts, to clothing and pictures every Christmas with Santa Claus.
“In 1962 it was the largest store on Michigan avenue,” said Peg Kapustiak, a volunteer at the South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society. “It went 225 feet along the east side of Michigan Avenue south of 112th Street.
The store had it all–it was Wal-Mart, but better, before Wal-Mart became a thing. Shoppers could pick up a weekly supply of groceries–Gatelys had a dairy and meat department. If one needed storm windows? Gatleys had them. Carpeting? Check. Needed your fur coat cleaned? Yes, Gatelys did that, too.
While it wasn’t Amazon, customers could get free delivery from Hammond, Ind., to Kankakee.
Roseland writer C.J. Martello was a customer, and he had fond memories. He said the store was always innovating.
“One of the things that Gatelys was known for was its center aisle with its sales items,” he said.
“Bargain bins, they called them,” said Kapustiak.
A multi-level garage could accommodate 4,000 cars, and in the 1950s the lure of air conditioning brought flocks of families to the business.
At its height, the store employed 700 full-time workers.
And during the Great Depression, when Chicago school teachers were being paid with IOUs instead of cash, many stores wouldn’t accept it.