Home Nike store KEN GRABOWSKI: Don’t think Manistee never changes

KEN GRABOWSKI: Don’t think Manistee never changes


One of the common phrases heard by the people of this region is that “Manistee never changes”.

For someone like me who has lived here in Manistee for the vast majority of my 66 years on this planet, I thought maybe it was time to prove that claim wrong.

So, with the help of my friend Mark Fedder, executive director of the Manistee County Historical Museum, I found a way to take a tour of River Street 50 years ago in 1971. It was made possible by use of the Polk repertoire for that year.

For those who don’t know what a Polk directory is, this was a list of what and who occupied buildings in that area with their phone numbers. Today we would do it on Google to get that information, but back then you actually had to open a book to find out.

Either way, your guide on this 50-year journey back in time is me. However, it is not the old man who occupies this body and is shown in the photo above, but a 16 year old version of me with curly hair (no kidding).

Oh, did I mention this is a walking tour? So slip on your Converse canvas tennis shoes (remember things like Nike, Reebok, Skechers, and New Balance were nothing more than a future dream in someone’s mind at the time) and join the pleasure of looking back.

It’s hard to believe, but Richard Nixon was in the White House and the Vietnam War was still in full swing at the time. The vast majority of buildings looked the same 50 years ago, but those who occupied them were very different.

What proves better than all this point is that there are only four buildings on River Street between Cypress and Pine Streets that still house the same business as in 1971. From memory, can you name them. ?

Time is up. The first is very obvious – the Vogue Theater which was there long before 1971 and which showed films as they still do today. The second is the Manistee County Historical Museum, but the current executive director, Mark Fedder, was not even born then.

The third is also pretty easy to guess, being the Manistee BPOE Elks Lodge, but the fourth might be a bit tricky for some not so new to the community.

To give up? It was Snyder’s Shoes that operated as always under the Snyder family and sold quality merchandise, but it was a different generation from those running the store today.

OK, before some of you say what about the bank building downtown where PNC is? Yes, it was a bank in 1971, but it was the Manistee Bank and Trust. Several other banks have come and gone from this place over the past 50 years, but at that time it was a flourishing building.

Upstairs at the time were the offices of accountants Hill, Devlin and Co., Charles Boyer Insurance, WMTE Radio, attorney Dan Hesslin, Bendle Realty and dentist Stanley Hendricks.

There was also a second bank on River Street known as First National Bank located just above where TJ’s Pub is today.

River Street was also home to no less than three pharmacies in 1971. Saylor Pharmacy was where the outpost is today, City Drug was in what is now TJ’s Pub, and Berglunds was just across the street. street with a soda bar in the current location of Manistee Beverage Company. .

But River Street at this time also included some well-known flagship stores along the way. The Glik’s location today at the corner of River and Maple streets was where JCPenney had a store with multiple levels of merchandise.

Montgomery Ward was located on three different levels of this building. Before the Manistee Inn rents rooms at 378 River St., it was the Ben Franklin Store there in 1971.

A hop and a hop across the street to the building where Dr Gardin resided for so many years was the FW Woolworth store with a lunch bar on the west side of the building if people wanted to grab something to eat while shopping.

In the other direction, on the lower and upper levels of the Jackpine Building, at the corner of River and Greenbush streets, was the Quality Discount Store.

Another large store selling premium clothing was located where the current West Shore Community College building now stands. At the time, it was known as the JW Milliken Store and was extremely popular.

But the options for shopping for clothes on River Street were plentiful in 1971, as there was Billie’s Clothes Shop at 385 River St., Thompson’s Men’s Store at 390 River St., Jean House at 380 River St., Water’s Shoes at 393 River. St., Kennedy’s Ladies at 384 River St. and Margaret’s Shop which was next to the Manistee Bank and Trust before expanding there.

There were also several places where people could have some spirits in the tradition of Manistee being a city of drinkers at that time. There was the Harbor Bark where Taco ‘Bout It Mexican Fusion is today, Smuggler’s Cove which is now River Street Station, and Mr. Charlies Bar and Grill in today’s Hallmark building. The Old Fashioned was located where the art park is now located and the Coral Gables where the condo complex is now located across from the municipal marina.

Along the way were also countless small shops, stores and offices which housed all kinds of businesses in the upper and lower levels of the buildings.

Well folks this is the tour so it’s time to take off those canvas tennis sneakers and take the Nike off.

The amazing thing is that all of this change has taken place on one street, so think about all the other changes that have happened in the last 50 years around Manistee.

So is it true that Manistee never changes? Not really and it will continue for so long after I see you again on Thursday.

Ken Grabowski is the retired Associate Editor of the Manistee News Advocate who has over 36 years of experience in the newspaper industry.