Miss O.T. Johnson's? Grants? Jack's? Where did your favorite former retailers rank?

The Register-Mail asked readers to list and share memories of their favorite former Galesburg retail stores.
Jay Redfern
Galesburg Register-Mail

The Register-Mail asked readers to list and share memories of their favorite former Galesburg retail stores, and did they ever.

A Facebook post requested the retailers they missed the most. Nearly 300 people responded with 348 "votes" for 107 different former Galesburg stores or chains. We didn't include restaurants this time. Results ranged from A&P, a once-dominant national grocery chain, to Ye Olde Music Shop.

Here are some highlights:

The Top 10

• 1. O.T. Johnson: 19 votes

• 2. Jack's: 16 votes

• 3. (tie) W.T. Grant Co.: 14 votes

Kline's: 14 votes

• 5. (tie) Eagle Foods: 12 votes

SS Kresge Co.: 12 votes

Sears: 12 votes

• 8. Giant Foods: 11 votes

• 9. (tie) Bergner's: 10 votes

Sandburg Mall: 10 votes

O.T. Johnson 

The O.T. Johnson department store, 125 E. Main St., opened in 1860 and was widely known as “The Big Store” because of its size and for the variety of goods it sold.

The O.T. Johnson department store, 125 E. Main St., opened in 1860 and was widely known as “The Big Store” because of its size and for the variety of goods it sold. “It was ahead of its time,” said former Register-Mail historian Tom Wilson. “It was a full-fledged, elaborate department store."

The store closed for good in 1978 and was destroyed in a massive fire on Jan. 23, 2006.

Obituary:Orson Thomas Johnson

Reader comments: I miss the days of eating lunch at OT Johnson’s with my mom. And shopping upstairs at The Spot. — Sarah Huffman


Customers check out at Jack's, South Lake Storey Road and U.S. Route 150, on Black Friday 1994.

With all due respect, Jack's seems like an unlikely retailer to land the No. 2 spot on this list. The store at 888 S. Lake Storey Road (at South Lake Storey Road and U.S. Route 150) later became ShopKo.

According Groceteria.com, Jack's was established in 1962 in Quincy by the Penn-Daniels Inc. Jack's had locations in Illinois, Missouri and Iowa. They were acquired by ShopKo Stores Inc. in 1997.

Reader comment: Jack's Supply Store. My dad was store manager until they had to close. That store had it all. Jeans, shirts, jackets, saddles, blankets, boots, hats, you name it. Someone asked me for a salamander once. Yes, we have them. I was surprised 'cuz I was thinking a fish! — Judy Folger

W.T. Grant Co.

The grand opening of the new W.T. Grant Co. store, 225 E. Main St., took place on Nov. 25, 1955. The site is now the Weaver Main Street Center, and among the tenants is Jimmy John's.

The grand opening of the new W.T. Grant Co. store, 225 E. Main St., took place on Nov. 25, 1955. The site is now the Weaver Main Street Center, and among the tenants is Jimmy John's and Wordsmith Bookshoppe. The store had 25,000 square feet of floor space on two levels and 15 tons of glass merchandise cases.

But on Nov. 1, 1975, after being a downtown landmark for many years, W.T. Grant closed and locked its doors for the last time. 


Kline's Department Store, which opened in Downtown Galesburg in 1927, stretched over several storefronts — including the Bondi Building in the 300 block of East Main Street.

Kline's Department Store opened in Downtown Galesburg in 1927. It moved to the eastern portion of the landmark seven-story Bondi Building, northeast corner of Main and Kellogg streets, in 1928. It was a premier Galesburg store until Kline’s Brothers stunned the Bondi family and thousands of faithful area shoppers in late 1985 by announcing that the store was closing. 

The Kline’s store was at least temporarily saved when fellow business owners, bankers, civic leaders and faithful shoppers formed a new corporation and enabled the downtown retail jewel to live another day. It would remain until it closed for good in the early 1990s.

Reader comment: "Kline’s. I remember getting some great deals at their sidewalk sales." — Lisa Nichols Bales

"Klines was the place to go for Easter dresses! — Marty Debonis

Eagle Foods

Eagle Foods was located at several locations in Galesburg, including property where Walgreens is located on West Fremont, where Dunham Sports is located at 1890 N. Henderson, and where Iron Eagle Harley-Davidson is on South Soangetaha Road.

An interesting grocery store fact from the late Tom Wilson: Galesburg had no less than 119 choices of grocery stores to shop at in 1930. Seemingly almost every neighborhood in the city contained a grocery store. In fact, there were 13 grocery stores on Main Street downtown and four on the Public Square. The total grocery outlets in downtown Galesburg during the 1930s was 26.

Reader comment:  "I miss the Eagles grocery store. They had many things that I miss." — Mary Wilt

SS Kresge Co. 

The Kresge dime store was located on the northeast corner of Main and Prairie streets where the Carl Sandburg College annex is located.

The Kresge dime store was located on the northeast corner of Main and Prairie streets where the Carl Sandburg College annex is located. When Sebastian Spering Kresge opened his first store in 1899, he sold everything for 5 and 10 cents.


Sears was originally located at  at 467 E. Main St. before moving to Sandburg Mall.

By 1928 there were more than 300 Sears operations including the opening of the Galesburg store at 467 E. Main St.

When the Galesburg Sears store opened in a one-story modern building near the northwest corner of East Main and Chambers street in downtown Galesburg, a “future across-the-street neighbor” called a post office was not even on the drawing board. Few even knew what a mall was and Henderson Street was generally a dotting of family homes and corn fields.

Sears ran a full-page ad in The Register-Mail on June 15, 1928, announcing its opening.

Opening advertised prices included Two-Slice Electric Toaster, 99-cents; Aluminum Waterless Cookers with a removable asbestos pad, $2.69; Beveled Edge Electric Irons, $2.45; Not-A-Kink Corrugated Hose guaranteed for 3 years, 7 ½-cent per foot; and Waterproof Umbrella Tents with two large windows, $24.65.

After serving area residents from its East Main Street facility for nearly 48 years, the Galesburg Sears store announced that it would be relocating to the newly constructed Sandburg Mall just off of North Henderson Street. The new store at the mall doubled Sears’ retail selling space to more than 77,000 square feet.

Sandburg Mall opened in 1975.

Giant Food

Giant Food stores were located at several locations. The 1975 Galesburg City Directory listed Giant stores at 735 W. Main St., 962 E. Main St. and on the northeast corner of Seminary and Fremont streets.

Did you know? In the early 1940s Galesburg included more than 300 family-owned businesses that were commonly nicknamed "ma and pa" operations with over a third offering grocery and restaurant-type enterprises.

Reader comment: "It was not only our primary place to grocery shop, but I worked there for six years part time from high school through college. I worked for Mick Tate and Kenny Kane as an assistant in the Liquor Dept and Stockboy. What a great team of caring and fun people who worked there. My foundation in customer service was rooted in these days at the store and I loved working with these folks." — John H. Cross 


Bergner's at Sandburg Mall in Galesburg.

Bergner's was an original anchor store at Sandburg Mall, and it was the last anchor standing, closing in August 2018. The store offered a wide variety of men's, women's and children's clothing, jewelry, perfume, scents and makeup, a shoe department, luggage, small electronics and kitchen goods, bedding, a cafe called The Galley and a hair salon.

Reader comment: "Loved the Sandburg mall Bergners!! When it first opened it was so beautiful and classy!! It was just like Von Maur in the cities First class act!!! — Roberta Jane Burgland

Sandburg Mall

Sandburg Mall in Galesburg, circa June 2006.

Sandburg Mall, which began with a developer’s proposal in 1972, was a fight from the beginning. The great concern was how downtown businesses would be affected. At the time, O.T. Johnson’s, Sears, J.C. Penney and more were all downtown. Months of studies, debates and negotiations took place before the City Council approved the mall in March 1973. From the beginning, then-Mayor Robert Cabeen was against it.

“This is a great town with a lot of potential,” said Cabeen, “and we are giving something away here.”

In April, Sears was announced as the first tenant, with J.C. Penney and Bergner's soon rounding out the “big three.”

Construction continued through 1974 and 1975 as Galesburg watched, until opening day arrived on Oct. 1, 1975. The Marching Streaks, a Boy Scout color guard and Miss Illinois, Jean Ann Walters, were all present at the grand opening. One who refused to be present was Cabeen.

Thirty stores were open that first day, including two of the big three, as J.C. Penney was still under construction. The Galesburg Register-Mail reported that more than 16,000 people attended the grand opening.

Reader comments: "I miss the mall. It was my home away from home in my teens. My parents would drop me off around lunch with $10, and I would spend the day with my friends roaming from store to store, grabbing something from McDonald's, maybe catching a movie. It was just the place to be ... until it wasn't. It still breaks my heart every time I drive by the abandoned husk of what it once was." — Melissa Agar

"There was nothing better when I was little than strolling through the Sandburg, following the 'Yellow Brick Road' hoping my mom would take me to McDonald's while we waited for prescriptions to be filled at Osco. We would stroll through JC Penney, Fashion Bug, Maurices, Payless, Musicland etc. Every store front was occupied and busy. — Dana Lea

Attention Foodies:Galesburg foodies have a long list of restaurant chains they'd like to open here

The Second 10

Belscot discount store was located at 940 W. Fremont St. It was most recently home to Northwoods Church and is know owned by District 205.

• 11. Belscot: 9 votes

• 12. Montgomery Ward: 8 votes

• 13. (tie) Gale Ward: 7 votes

Halprens: 7 votes

• 15. (tie) Arlans: 6 votes

JC Penney: 6 votes

Kmart: 6 votes

Osco: 6 votes

Ray's Hobby Shop: 6 votes

• 20. (tie) A&P: 5 votes

Bath & Bodyworks: 5 votes

Continental Clothing: 5 votes

Fred Schubach: 5 votes

Park Drive Dairy: 5 votes

Another 'big store' — Carson Pirie Scott

Carson Pirie Scott was located on the southeast corner of Main and Seminary streets in Downtown Galesburg.

Carson Pirie Scott was located on the southeast corner of Main and Seminary streets in Downtown Galesburg.

Martha Barstow Ross said, "My vote is for Carson Pirie Scott. I got my first 'real' job there for the Christmas season in 1972. I was a freshman at Knox, and had a six-week break, so I wanted to earn extra money to help with school.

"I was first assigned to the handbag/jewelry/cosmetics area, just inside the front doors on the main floor. The people I worked with are still very fondly remembered — they patiently helped a clumsy, unsophisticated kid learn about the real world, one customer at a time.

"After the Christmas season, I was lucky enough to stay on for the next four years, working in every department and running the elevator, while I completed college. The store closed in July, just after I finished Knox and was preparing to leave for Arizona and my first teaching job.

"I have often reflected on the early lessons I had in dealing with people, and the wonderful Carson’s staff who helped me along my journey to adulthood. I cannot praise and thank them enough!"

Whoopee! — Ray's Hobby Shop

Jeff Dellin said, "I wasn't big on model making or other hobbies but I loved their gag section. The only place in town to buy a whoopee cushion or fake vomit."

Dave's — the place to go for a bicycle

Peter Bailley said, "I miss Dave's Bike Shop. Not only because I bought six bikes at Dave's — three of which I still have! I also worked there for several years during the 1970s. It was a family-owned, family-operated business, and working there was more than a part-time, seasonal job. Everybody at Dave's was caring, made me feel like I belonged. For a long-haired college student from out-of-town, who worked third shift at another job, didn't own a car, didn't socialize, I felt welcomed at Dave's, six days a week. I will always remember the owner who hired me, Dave Rutledge; his nephew and later owner of the shop, Dave Rutledge; Bob and Katie Rutledge; and the mechanics with whom I worked in the basement: Jim Sackey, Sheldon Lampson, Brett Burdette and John Reichel. Apologies for any names I've forgotten in 40+ years. Dave's Bike Shop was a special place for me, and I expect for many others in the area."

Looking for a bargain? How about Montgomery Ward?

Michael Mannino said, "We used to spend a lot of time in the Montgomery Ward's factory outlet, which was where Dunham's is now. It was a true factory outlet, not like the 'outlet' stores they have today. My father especially loved to scrounge for a bargain and he spent many happy hours there. Mom got one of her favorite dresses for under ten bucks (it might have been $2). She got lots of compliments on it.  

"Dad bought, and then I appropriated, a totally groovy late '70s orangeish-peachish golf shirt that I still miss.  

"Then one day the store was gone, and 10 years later, so was Montgomery Wards." 

Also receiving votes

4 votes: Carson Pirie Scott, Gamble's Furniture, Gerwigs 4, Northside Drug 4

3 votes: Black Hardware, Burgland Youth Fashion, Davis Food, Fleet Feet, Frank's Jewelers, Kiddie Corner, Kroger, Platter, Sargent's Western, Stern & Field.

2 votes: Ace Hardware, Aladdin's Castle, Christopher & Banks Dave's Schwinn, Dom's, Econo Foods, Ellis Jewelers, Fashion Bug, Frankles, Holly Shop, Ida Ann, Kellogg and Drake, LaSalle Electronics, Leo Stein, Leslie's, Midwest Photo, Payless, Shott's Grocery.

1 vote: Burke's Package Liquor, Ye Olde Music Shop, Wolfsie's, Al's Sporting Goods, Anderson Florist, Bowman's Shoes, Burgland Drug, C&I Grocery, Casual Corner, Crazy Top Shop, Doyle's Furniture, Doyle's Gift Shop, Elsa Marie Shop, Flecks, Flesher's Music, Gibson's, Hallmark , Hawthorne Drug, Humans Jewelry, Illinois Camera Shop, Just Jeans, K&M Sporting Goods, Leath's, Levinberg's, Limited, Maurice's, Miss Gibsons, Musicland, Nelson's, Nik Nak Nook, Orwig's Hardware, Pants Plus, Pearl's Candy, Pinebrook, Pop Shoppe, Radio Shack, Reel to Reel, Rogers Shoes, Seiferts, Shopko, Smith's Food Market, Spencer's, Spiegel, Sue's House of Bottles, Ted Grothe Shoes, Titletown Video, Trading Post, Turner Prescription, Wetherbees, Woolworth's.

We appreciate all of the responses, however unfortunately, we were unable to fit them all into this story. For more discussion, visit the original post for "Retailers We Miss" on The Register-Mail Facebook page.

Special thanks to Emily DuGranrut, archivist for the Galesburg Public Library, for assistance with photos for this story.