…the girl with kaleidoscope eyes. Yes, it’s time to pay tribute to the only discount store chain to ever be mentioned* in a Beatles song. I’m referring of course to Turn-Style, a presence if never really the major discount player in the Chicago and Boston areas throughout the sixties and seventies.
Turnstyle Operating Corporation (in the early years the name “Turnstyle” was not hyphenated) was founded with their first store in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1957. By the end of 1961, the company had four self-service department stores in the greater Boston area, ranging in size from 45,000 feet to their largest store, a 70,000 square foot unit in Lawrence, Mass.
On February 28, 1962, Chicago’s Jewel Tea Co. completed a year-long acquisition of the Turnstyle organization through an exchange of stock. Having gotten their feet wet in the area of non-food sales with their merger with Osco Drug the previous year, Jewel was keen to expand to the larger general merchandise format that Turnstyle afforded. In combination with their supermarkets (and occasionally an Osco as well) the “Family Center” concept would offer customers the proverbial “one-stop shop” for many of their everyday needs. The Turnstyle acquisition served another purpose for Jewel as well as it became the company’s first expansion territory outside the Midwest, not counting its European investments. The familiarity with the Boston area that Jewel management gained would pave the way for their merger with Star Market the following year.
The Turnstyle stores, as the name implied, had an emphasis on apparel, but carried extensive lines of housewares, small appliances, sporting goods, hardware items and phonograph records among other items. They also featured a pharmacy and a “delightful snack bar in the middle of the store”.
Jewel wasted little time in opening the first Turnstyle units in their primary Midwest market, with the first store, a 110,000 square foot “Turnstyle Family Center” opening in Racine, Wisconsin in March 1962. Exactly a year later, two more virtually identical family centers were opened, one at 9449 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie, IL, and the other at 7342 Foster Avenue in Chicago’s Harlem-Foster Shopping Center.
The photo above features one of the above-mentioned early Turnstyle units. A broader view of the Skokie store can be seen on the Digital Past website (note the Eagle Food Center sign to the left of the photo. This was taken several years before their acquisition by California’s Lucky Stores chain). Below is a March 3, 1963 grand opening ad for the two stores which appeared in the Chicago Tribune.