Monday, November 12, 2007

Korvette Summer


Here are a few more shots from 1962 -65, near the end of Korvette’s golden years. In 1963 Korvette planted its flag for the first time outside of the East Coast market, opening four stores in Chicagoland. The first two, located in Oak Lawn at 87th and Cicero and in Elmhurst at Route 83 (Elmhurst Rd) and St. Charles Rd opened on April 29. Two more stores would open before the end of the year, in the south suburb of Matteson at Crawford and 111th street and in Morton Grove at the intersection of Waukegan Rd and Dempster Street. Each of these stores were built as “Korvette Cities” with a two-story main store, an adjoining Korvette supermarket, furniture store/carpet center, and an auto center at the edge of the parking lot.

The fifth and last Chicago area Korvette is the only one I remember from personal experience. Opening in November 1965, over two years later than the other Chicago locations, this store was located at the corner of Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road in North Riverside, across the street from Berwyn’s Cermak Plaza, a circa-1956 strip mall which would later become an unlikely pop-culture icon with the addition of some, uh, "recycled" art works and a cameo appearance in the movie “Wayne’s World”. On the opposite side of the Korvette store would be the future location of North Riverside Park Mall, which opened around 1974. The originally-intended supermarket for this last Chicago location opened up as a Jewel Food Store instead (they basically closed their Cermak Plaza location and moved across the street), since earlier in the year Korvette sold off its grocery business in Chicago, with three locations going to Dominick’s.

We moved to the West Suburbs in the mid-70’s, and I vividly remember being mesmerized by the funky blue-and-white script Korvette logo on the face of the buildings and on the sign tower. Even though the store was only ten years old at the time, it looked positively ancient in the middle of that Helvetica decade, the 1970’s. As young as I was then, I still tried to imagine what the place would have looked like brand-new and full of 1960’s shoppers. My family didn’t shop there often, due to the virtually new mall right next door and the fact that Korvette was in steep decline and the store really showed it. The store became a Kmart after Korvette's demise, and has been a Kohl's for many years now.

The photos above include a 1965 exterior view of the Douglaston, Long Island, NY store (which opened a month after the North Riverside store discussed above), and various interior shots dating from 1962 and 1965. The Douglaston Korvette store was the home of a fine art gallery in the 1960's which was a pet project of founder Eugene Ferkauf. The health and beauty section shows a sign for “Kor-Val”, Korvette’s house brand for shaving cream, shampoo and the like, and the second photo shows a Korvette camera department with a great selection of telescopes – the chandelier peeking at the top of the photo would indicate that this was from the flagship 575 Fifth Avenue location, the subject of the previous post.

One type of photo I would love to be able to show is of Korvette’s legendary record department. The company was one of the very largest record dealers in the country, and it was truly one of Korvette’s main and most fondly remembered calling cards. It’s a safe bet that a great many Beatles, Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel albums flew through those front doors shown in the first picture. To say nothing of The Four Tops, The Mamas and the Papas, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass…

19 comments:

  1. I have seen that Kohl's on Cermak. I have been to that plaza. there's a really tiny Best Buy next door. Interesting that the Kohl's was once Korvette's.

    About the location in Morton Grove on Dempster, was that in the shopping center where the K&G and Bally's as well as Dominick's is now? The strip is hanging on but look ancient in a way.

    And plaid was not the mannequin's best friend, btw.

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  2. Yep, that's the one! The basic Korvette look is still there - the stone portions of the facade were a very common element of their architecture. The Dominick's was a Korvette supermarket for the first few years of its existence.

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  3. The plaza on Dempster is still one good place stuck in time. I love that plaza. Gotta get pics for it in the future.

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  4. Dempster St. Plaza stuck in time?

    I don't get it.

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  5. Mike - I think that Didi was referring to the K&G/Bally's/Dominick's shopping center on Dempster,which was built as a 1963/4 era Korvette City that is still largely recognizable by its white brick and stone construction.

    Even the service bays at the old Korvette Auto Center were converted into stores, with a Starbucks among the current occupants.

    I think that "Dempster Plaza" is a newer shopping center down the street with a Portillo's, Home Depot, etc.

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  6. I worked at the Korvette's in Morton Grove as a teen part time in the record department on the second floor when I was in high school from Sept 1966 to Sept 1968. I thoroughly enjoyed this job and later as a college student again worked part time in hardware/automotive for about another 18 months aroun 1970/71. I still pass by that corner today and have very fond and vivid memories of this store and it's people and layout.

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  7. Korvettes was a huge store for that era and it gave Golf Mill stores stiff competition in the mid 60s. We lived in Chicago at the time and would take the bus from the Howard "L" station to reach Morton Grove.

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  8. Marty - The Morton Grove Korvette store and auto center still stand (long since replaced by other tenants, of course)and are still recognizable as Korvette facilities by those who remember them. I hadn't thought about that location as it relates to Golf Mill, but you're absolutely right, they basically served the same area.

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  9. Steve I too worked at EJ Korvettes in MG. I was there from around 1974-1978 on and off until the store closed. I worked in the womens and infants departments than "the front register". My mother worked in Habo and my boyfriend in records. I made so many good friends there. I miss those years sometimes. Did you have a bowling league? We also had a softball team that went to Detroit for playoffs. Those were the days.

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  10. The address for the Matteson Korvette's should be Crawford and 211th St. I loved buying cheap LP records there...and remember stocking up at quite the final discounts (increased every week near the end -- 40%, 50%, 60%, 70% off...) when the location sadly closed (must've been late-'70s...or even very early '80s)...

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  11. Gin – Very cool memories – thanks for sharing them here! It sounds like working there was a family affair for you! Hopefully Steve will see the comment.

    Michael - Thanks for that corrected address info. Those Korvette record departments were legendary!

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  12. Gin, You worked there after I did. But you still recall the good times there. Was the snack bar still there when you worked there? It was where I would go for breaks and get a coke and a burger. I do vivadly remember most of the characters that worked in the store when I was there. And boy, were they characters! I would sometimes be able to go into the announcers booth and "pitch" the items on sale over the speakers. I wonder whatever happened to that white and blue badge I had.

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  13. Hi Steve. Yes, the snack bar was there and it was the place we took our break. Big John was the cook and Mrs Friedman one of the managers in the office. There was another manager, Dorothy and my mother Martha may have worked there when you did, she was in Habo.
    I too drive by there all the time as my parents still live in MG. Next time I get a chance I will take a few pictures and post them here.
    There is no question that working there throughout high school and part of college was a wonderful experience. I still run into Korvettes people from time to time. Always wanted to get a reunion together. I enjoyed hearing about your experiences too.

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  14. Fun! Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I remember my mom taking me to that Korvettes. Did you live in Elmhurst? Go to York?

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  15. Great pics of the Spindle!

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  16. Wow, great stuff. Hard to believe something I took for granted back when I was growing up in Cicero in the 60's-80's would bring back such great memories today. I wish I had more photos to contribute of Cermak road and the plaza. Thanks for taking me back to the good old days!
    Dave
    wallidave@comcast.net

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  17. I,worked for the Korvettes in
    Rockville Maryland from 1970-1980.
    I,was the Manager of the Mens,Shoe
    and Habo depts. In 1975 we went to
    Chicago to play Softball. We lost 2
    out of 3.It was so much fun.I know its been 30 years but i still miss
    it.The Friends i made there is
    something i will never forget.

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  18. Does anyone remember a shooting in the Korvettes tire store in the 70's Norm

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