Shopping downtown Delaware, back in the day


“Back in the day” means different years to different people. For me to be writing something about Back in the Day, I am choosing the late 50s. I have lots of very good memories of shopping Downtown Delaware.

The following story takes place in Delaware on Sandusky Street between Central Avenue and William Street, and one block on West Winter. If you had been with me on a day I went shopping, we would probably start by going in one of the two 10-cent stores.

Yes, we had a McClellens and a Woolworth on the East side of Sandusky St., near where the Hamburger Inn is now located. They sold candy in bulk, so we could buy a 1/2 of a scoop full of good chocolate, which would be weighed and sacked up to take with us, to snack on while shopping.

And then, by jaywalking across Sandusky Street, we would head to Uhlmans, to look at patterns. In fact, we could pick out a yard of some nice material for $1, a pattern for 25 cents and a spool of thread to match the material, for 10 cents. I could make a new skirt for $1.35. We could also try on hats on the 3rd floor there, because everyone, back in the day, wore hats when they dressed up.

Leaving Uhlmans and walking to the corner of Sandusky and Winter, we could walk half a block south to the News Shop. The News shop is now long gone, but in its day, it was great for finding greeting cards, newspapers and every magazine imaginable. If you didn’t know the store sold cigars, all you had to do was inhale and you knew you were in the right place to buy one.

If you were so inclined, you could smoke it right there inside the store. At the News Shop we can also check to see if one of our favorite new 45s is in. If so, we would take it home to play it over and over until we had memorized every word. (That was back when we could tell what the words were.)

Out on the street again, we would have to go in Barger’s Jewelry to see what was on sale. It was the place to buy nice gifts for wedding and/or birthday presents. The first location of Barger’s, that I knew of, was on the east side of Sandusky St. in one of the store fronts where PNC Bank is now.

In that area of store fronts with Barger’s Jewelry, were an Omar’s Bakery, a sheet music store, and the entrance to the Delaware Hotel, which took up the rest of that entire building. One other thing about that same SE corner of Winter and Sandusky was the outside stairs to the basement office for the Western Union. I just searched “telegrams” and read that Western Union no longer offers telegrams.

Walking south on that block was also ‘Wilson’s, C.J.,of Course.’ They sold dressy dresses and very nice men’s suits. If we went inside, I’m sure they would allow us to try on their fur coats.

By then, I’d be ready for lunch. And if you are, too, I know just the place to go. If we went on south to the next corner, we would find the L&K restaurant. They had a lot of counter space with 6 booths in the back section. They were known for their toasted pecan rolls.

Once while eating there, I ordered a hamburger, a milkshake and a piece of pie. An elderly man sitting nearby said for me to eat that while I was young because I wouldn’t be able to eat that much when I was older. And he was right.

After lunch we need to be sure to go to Sell’s up in the next block on the east side of Sandusky Street. They sold everything imaginable in paper and bottles of ink with the well, and school supplies. If we needed good stationery, that was the place to buy it. We still need a place like that today, because some of us want to write a real letter now and then. Especially if it’s a Thank You note.

And let’s not forget about the Western Auto store owned my Mr. Sullivan. We could jaywalk over to it from Sell’s. While working at my office, I once needed to buy 3 bolts to fix a desk, and I found just what I needed at his store. He sold them in bulk, so let me buy just 3, and the cost was only 30 cents. We should also swing down by Oller Appliances to see if they have any new self-defrosting refrigerators in stock yet.

Then heading north from the Del. Co. Bank, was the Boston Store. I remember it’s the only place I could find a size 11. Also, a lady I had worked with, Ruth Scott, was there with me once and said she never was a size 9, even when she was born. When leaving that store, if we turn west at that corner, we’ll see the sign over the Winter St. Drug Store. You couldn’t miss it because it had a great big sign that was only one word — “DRUGS.” I don’t believe that would pass the rules for downtown Delaware signs these days.

Since we would be right beside Buns, we could go in their full-service bakery. Before their fire, Bun Hoffman had a whole bakery filled with all kinds of cakes, cookies, pies, donuts, etc. There were pictures of collage athletes all over the walls of the bakery.

One was a picture of one of our high school teachers while playing football at Ohio Wesleyan University. And no, I don’t mean Mr. Felts. After we got a chocolate cake to take home, and said “Hi” to Bun, himself, we could go look at the flowers at Gibson’s greenhouse, next door. Now, Gibson’s Florist is in a regular building across Winter Street.

Before our Downtown Delaware shopping day has to come to an end, I have to pick up my dry cleaning at the New Method Cleaners owned by Mr and Mrs. Milla. Recently, I found out why the dry cleaner had the name of “New Method”. It’s because Mr. Milla found a new and better way to dry clean clothes, so called his store the ‘New Method.’ And after paying for my dry cleaning, I found that after shopping all day,

I still had change left from my $5 bill. Maybe I should have called this article “Window Shopping in Downtown Delaware Back in the Day.” Thanks for going on the trip with me, I had a great time. Let’s do it again, soon.

Kay Conklin

Contributing Columnist

Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.

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