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Facebook Page Honors Forgotten Chicago Businesses

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 15, 2014 10:00PM

Zayre Department Store (Photo via Chicago's Extinct Businesses Facebook page)

In the 1970s, my mother worked at the Leaf candy plant at Division Street and Cicero Avenue, and later at a Zayre department store at Cicero Avenue near North Avenue. Many of my uncles, aunts and cousins paid their way through school working at the Brachs candy plant. The history of Chicago’s forgotten businesses is littered with names that informed our childhoods and adult years, from the Playboy Club to Trader Vic’s; from Goldblatt’s, Montgomery Ward, and Venture department stores to Dominick’s and Marshall Field’s.

For those of us who occasionally reflect on the restaurants, department stores, drive-ins and other businesses of Chicago’s past, there’s the “Chicago’s Extinct Businesses” Facebook page. Pete Kastanes, the pages moderator, told DNAInfo Chicago the page (one of around 20 he's established on Facebook) helps him bide his time while looking for a job.

"If I mention a particular establishment that no longer exists, it always puts a smile on people's faces. It is very gratifying to them and to me," said Kastanes, 50. "They really appreciate me bringing up those forgotten nuggets of Chicago's past."

Indeed. Browsing Kastenes' page took me back to a time when department stores dotted the landscape of the the Northwest side I called home, like the two-story, gigantic Goldblatt's that anchored the Belmont-Central business district for decades before falling into decay and unable to keep up with the proliferation of shopping malls in the 1970s and 80s.

The irony here is many of those malls soon followed suit.