The building at 304 E. Commercial Ave. in downtown Lowell houses several business places. It was not part of the early history of Lowell, for it was finished about 1930 by the owner, Albert Bastiani.
A map in an old abstract shows a drawing of a store building just west of the present hardware store at 306 E. Commercial Ave. marked "plumbing store." In the book "Lake County Directory, 1909" the business listed at that address was the Lowell Plumbing and Supply Co., C.A. Gorball, manager. Clifford Gorball, the father of West Creek Trustee Kitchel Gorball, was the operator.
For many years the area south of Commercial Ave. at the end of Mill St. was a large vacant hole half a block long, with a deep drop off from the sidewalk. The alley could be seen, and south of the alley stood an old frame building, formerly harness shop on Commercial Ave. At its location near the creek, the old building was used as a second hand-store where the owner, Abram Callner, also bought and sold chickens and eggs. It was surrounded by ancient farm equipment and other kinds of junk items.
The area should be remembered for the happy times, especially the Saturday nights when the community band played on a bandstand erected on poles near the sidewalk south of Commercial Ave. at the end of Mill St. Lowell's stores were open until ten o'clock and families would come to town to meet their friends and to shop at the grocery or department stores. Buggies and Fords were parked as close to the shopping area as possible; one of those areas was the lot now occupied by the Lowell police station on the corner of Commercial Ave. and South Fremont.
The Saturday Night Program consisted of a band concert, the movies, a play, ice cream socials on the town square, another place the band played.
When the concerts were at the stand near Mill St., horse rigs and autos were parked at the lower level in the alley, as well as on Commercial Ave., where angled parking was in vogue. The Community Band consisted of musicians from the upper grade school classes to adults. They were always warmly welcomed, as auto horns blew and large applause arose after every musical endeavor.
With so much going on, many farmers were still shopping at 9 p.m., waiting for clerks to weigh their purchases and total them up. Shopping went on until 10 p.m., or until everyone was waited on, and the storekeeper showed his appreciation for large orders by treating the children to a big bag of assorted candy to take home.
The newer building at 309 E. Commercial, circa 1930, filled the big vacant hole, and has housed many types of businesses over the last 55 years. Glenn Bolt, the subject of a column earlier this years, started his meat market in the east section of the building in 1932. Ed Schrader was the operator of the sweet shop that was a popular place for the younger set.
Fred W. Minninger, a well-known business man, moved his men's store, The Toggery,' from the north side of Commercial Ave., staying in business there for many years. He was the son of Catherine Buckley Minninger, daughter of Irish Pioneer William Buckley (1828-1916), settler of 1849. He was busy in politics, serving as county party chair for some time before his death in 1958. For a time the store was owned by Dorsey "Red" Chism, a former Lowell resident who recently passed away at his home in Colorado.
Jack Eskridge, descendent of the pioneer family, also operated the men's store, and is still a busy businessman, a paramedic, a past fire chief, and still a member of the volunteer fire department.
The store is now owned by Robert Kalemba, who expanded the business, to include the room on the west side. This room, the largest in the building, was the home for many years of the Atlantic and Pacific grocery firm where Wellington Clark, a member of another well-known pioneer family, served as manager for many years. Later, that section of the building was the site of Mike Milakovic's Shoe Store.
The smaller room west of the men's store was, for many years, the Amidei 5 and 10 cent store, a busy variety shop first operated by Mr. and Mrs. Louis Amidei, Sr., and then by their son, Louis Jr. Several kinds of business ventures have occupied the room since then, including liquor stores. The room is now occupied by Majdak Music Mart.
The room at the far west end of the building will be remembered as the home of Trump's Restaurant, operated by Claude and Mae Trump for 22 years. Claude later became the night patrolman in Lowell in 1950, and passed away in 1954 at the age of 72. Phoebe Mae Trump passed away in Wisconsin at the home of her son Robert in 1975, reaching the age of 92. They were followed in business by several restaurant operators, including Matt Parthenakis, remembered for his community activities, such as parties for the old timers on their birthdays. Sadi's Restaurant is the current occupant.
Years later, a smaller masonry building was constructed by John Black for Joe Haberzetle, who opened a liquor store. The Lump Insurance office moved there in January of 1972, and stayed there until owner Leon Lump and his son Thomas moved their business to a newly-remodeled building on Mill Street in 1977. The masonry building is now occupied by the Flower Gallery. [Note from 2001: It is now a hair salon.]
While writing about the business buildings on the south side of Commercial Ave. in downtown Lowell, an odd fact has been noted. As the storefronts on most of the buildings were remodeled, the position of the entrances have changed, some from the center to the side, and others from the side to the center.
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