Deja Vu and Something New

Vol. IV No. 2 - SPRING/SUMMER 1992

By: Gloria L Evenson

“Books Off Berwyn, 5220 N. Clark, is expanding to 5222 N. Clark on October 1 with a new line of health food and environmentally safe products. Its slogan will be ‘A Healthy Mind - A Healthy Body.’”

That announcement might sound familiar to those who read the October 1991 issue of the Andersonville Together neighborhood paper, for which I am editor. The original article appears below, updated with a little human interest story which I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

On September 23, 1991, Books Off Berwyn owner (and EHS member) Phil LaPalio, Jr., looked forward to the opening day of his new venture, when a “lively, vibrant little lady,” who said her name was Mrs. Norman Greenberg, stopped by the store.

Accompanied by her husband and a friend, Mrs. Greenberg mentioned with obvious delight that she had lived in an apartment with her parents at the rear of 5222 as a child! It was no wonder she was delighted to see it again, considering she had “free-run” of this store (a general store at the time) and could help herself to its large candy counter whenever she wanted.

Sixty years ago, recalled Mrs. Greenberg, the family apartment was reached through a center storage area, which led into a hallway with a bathroom to the left. This led into a kitchen/dining room and two small sleeping rooms. Cramped quarters, perhaps, but heaven to a child with “free-run” of a candy counter!

LaPalio can show you markings of where he thinks apartment walls once stood. A more obvious remnant of the building’s early decor, however, is the pressed-tin molded ceiling (now painted gold) in the store area. LaPalio thinks the ceiling would have been gray or white at the time Greenberg lived there.

The store today has the look of an old-time apothecary shop, thanks to LaPalio and his partner as of October 1991, Bob Markley. Its wood cabinets came from the drugstore of a downtown Chicago hotel (name unknown), according to the Lisle antique dealer from whom LaPalio obtained them. LaPalio says he spotted identical cabinets in a 1908 Sears catalogue.

The store also displays a colorful collection of antique apothecary jars, some with their original labels. Another, more modern, feature is a rear two-room tanning salon, which may be where the sleeping rooms were when Mrs. Greenberg’s family lived there.

Most recently occupied by Nelson’s Bakery, this store and its adjoining bookstore are part of a four-store, five-apartment building owned by Morris Feldman who, according to LaPalio, purchased it circa 1980.

Books Off Berwyn originally opened as Books On Berwyn at 1476 W. Berwyn on July 7, 1988. It moved to 5220 N. Clark on May 24, 1990. Store manager Kate Mohill has assisted since its days on Berwyn.

As for Mrs. Greenberg, she and her family moved out of 5222 in 1931, when she was seven years old. Now a resident of Los Angeles, California, she disclosed nothing of her life between 1931 and 1991, but was very happy to see her old neighborhood again!