Siegel’s Discount Department Store

Chicago was once dotted with many little independent shops that grandly called themselves department stores. A very few of them grew into larger chains, like Goldblatt’s. Most remained small and local.

Siegel’s Discount Department Store was located at 5610 North Milwaukee Avenue, in the Jefferson Park community. I don’t know when the store first opened, or if the original Mr. Siegel had visions of becoming a merchant prince. I do know that my mom was buying dresses there by the early 1960s.

1975--Siegel's Sidewalk Sale

1975–Siegel’s Sidewalk Sale

Siegel’s wasn’t upscale. You did get good mid-level merchandise at a cheap price, which suited its middle-class neighborhood. During the summer the store had a sidewalk sale that backed up traffic for blocks.

My most vivid Siegel’s memory is from October 4, 1979.  That was the evening Pope John Paul II came down Milwaukee Avenue. Nearly every Polish person from a 200-mile radius was lined up along either side of the street, including my wife’s 92-year-old grandmother. I managed to snap a picture of the pope as he passed in front of Siegel’s–that’s JP2, just below the D and the I in “DISCOUNT.”

1979--Pope John Paul II at Siegel's

1979–Pope John Paul II at Siegel’s

Siegel’s went out of business sometime after that historic event.  And though there’s no known connection, we haven’t had another pope visit Chicago.



7 Responses to “Siegel’s Discount Department Store”

  1. 1 SWSIDEFAN January 21, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Great piece, John. Pope John Paul II’s visit was an amazing time. My parents took me and those siblngs not away in college to see him at what was then Quigley Seminary South at 79th & Western. I don’t know the count, but there had to easily be 100,000+ standing anywhere near the school. I remember some adventuresome souls climbing to the tops of the nearby used car dealer signs to get a good view. The Pope stood on the rooftop of the main entrance so all could see him better (word was that was not in the plans, but the Pope insisted to make himself available to the assembled masses. I am still fortunate to have been blessed by a Pope as he blessed the entire crowd assembled.

  2. 2 benson January 21, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    The Pope’s visit and Milwaukee Ave. bring back so many memories. My folks were DP’s post WWII and came to Chicago in the 50’s. I spent a lot of time, first in the heart of Polonia (Milwaukee-Division-Ashland) and then further up Milwaukee near the Milford Theatre, where relatives lived. My father had long retired from the radio business (he was one of a handful of Polish broadcasters on time-brokered low power AM stations around Chicago), but was still proud that one of his own was Pope. And now that I think of it, a couple of the kids in the neighborhood, their father grew up in with Karol Wojtyla back in the old country prior to the war.

    I still try and get back to the city to get authentic polish sausage and food, but those small groceries and deli’s are become fewer and fewer.

    • 3 J.R. Schmidt February 19, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Benson–Speaking of Polish broadcasters like your dad, I remember my Polish grandma listening to Lidia Puckinska–Roman’s mom–on WOPA. I believe her program was called “The Polish Sunshine Hour.”

  3. 4 Alzo January 22, 2014 at 10:55 am

    This reminded me of the Archer Avenue Big Store, which was the anchor of my childhood neighborhood- Brighton Park. School uniforms, sidewalk sales, and the most dubious Santa Claus. It’s still there, as Zemske’s.

    • 5 J.R. Schmidt January 22, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Alzo– I remember passing the place when I headed out Archer toward Marquette Park. I also recall the Cragin Department store on Armitage near Grand. Does anyone know the name of the store on the east side of Clark near Granville? We used to shop there when we lived in Rogers Park in the mid-1970s.

  4. 6 Garry January 22, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    The store at Granville & Clark was Winsberg’s.
    They carried the exact same clothes as Field’s did on State.

  5. 7 ko February 18, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I was not far away from this photo, in front of
    Astros one store front away.

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