Friday, June 6, 2008

Jewel's Silver Anniversary Style

The artist’s rendering above dates from 1956, and depicts Jewel’s “25th Anniversary Store”, as planned for opening in Chicago the following year. This store featured the new tower design that replaced the masonry pylon as the company’s standard over the next several years. The store’s main sign was made up of individual “stand-up” letters, but rectangular signs were still used as well during this period. Here’s a 1970 color photo showing a late 50’s Jewel with the sign tower (barely) visible.

Twenty-five years on, Jewel could now claim the number one spot in Chicago grocery market share. Apparently, plenty of customers found Jewel “a better place to trade”, as their advertising tagline of the time put it. Jewel began to take its first expansion steps outside the Chicagoland area. In March, 1957, Jewel bought out the Eisner Grocery Company. Eisner was based in Champaign, home of the University of Illinois, and had 42 grocery stores located in Central Illinois and Western Central Indiana. Eisner grew rapidly within a short time under Jewel’s ownership, with the addition of five new stores in the first year. In 1958, Jewel would open up another new market area, with four new stores in greater Peoria. Although these stores went under the Jewel name, they were operated by Eisner. Due in part to the Eisner market area’s distance from Chicago, but mostly to the decentralized management style that was favored by Jewel, Eisner was operated as a stand-alone operation, with its own offices, warehousing and bakery operations in Champaign.

Around the same time, Jewel would venture into two adjoining states for the first time. First they entered Wisconsin, with the 1958 purchase of two stores from Connolly’s Finer Foods in just over the border Kenosha. The first Jewel in nearby Rockford, Illinois (just under the border) was also opened that year. In the following March, Jewel would open its first Michigan store in Benton Harbor, on the other side of Lake Michigan shoreline from Chicago. All of these stores were serviced from the Melrose Park home base.

Jewel's frontiers would expand much further in the early years of the 1960’s.

Just for fun, below is a 1956 view of the new Jewel Food Store in Chicago’s Scottsdale Shopping Center, located at West 79th Street and South Cicero Avenue and opened in November of the previous year. This shopping center (which still exists, though it goes without saying the original tenants have long since departed) was also notable for a unique Goldblatts store with a curved facade.


  1. I wasn't around when Jewel opened it's Main Street store in Benton Harbor, but I DID remember the Jewel location on Napier Avenue. My family and I used to shop there all the time!! It was a cool store, till it left B.H. in 1996!!!

  2. I have been to that shopping center at 79th and Cicero. Whatever became of the curved facade?

  3. Terry - Thanks for sharing that memory. There was a considerable gap between the openings of the two B.H. stores. The "new" store opened in October 1972 and was far larger than the downtown store, plus it included an Osco. I have a copy of an opening day newspaper page from the Napier ave. store I'd be glad to send you if you'll shoot me your email address. Mine is on the "profile" section.

    Also, I mentioned Goldblatts in the post. Benton Harbor had a Goldblatts store at the time. Do you remember that one as well?

    Didi - It's still there, if you type in the address on Windows Live Local (7905 S Cicero Ave, Chicago IL 60652) you can see it.

    "Rounded corner" probably would have been a better description than curved.

  4. The current Jewel/Osco at 79th & Cicero is actually across the street from Scottsdale. It is on the site of a former Topps, and later a PharMor.

    When Scottsdale opened, it was still legal to sell fireworks in Illinois. I recall buying sparklers and "snakes" at the Walgreens, next door to Jewel.