Memories of Broadway and the Meltzer Brothers Grocery and Market
By: Marie Meltzer Marcus as told to Alice Solovy
The Meltzer Brothers Grocery and Market was in existence from about 1912 to sometime in the late 1940s and was run by my father Mayer Meltzer and my uncle Leo Meltzer. Dad’s store, located at 5510 N. Broadway, next to St. Ita’s Church, is about the first thing my memory goes back to since my arrival on this earth in 1910.
Broadway, in those days, was not paved, but there were red bricks between the streetcar tracks in the center of the street. It was a street with a combination of stores, two-flat greystone housing and perhaps an empty lot or two. On the west side of the street, I remember Scott’s Photograph Store, some two-flats and another store or two, with the church. There was no parking lot next to the church in those days. On the east side of Broadway, between Catalpa and Bryn Mawr Avenue, there was a row of greystone two-flats (one of which we lived in), the Edgewater Laundry, the National Tea Co., a bank (I think it was the Edgewater Bank) and a tailor shop run by Mr. Trager.
Of course, my memory of all this goes back to a childhood’s point of view, as I was four or five years old when we moved from 5517 N. Broadway to 5610 N. Winthrop Avenue.
5610 Winthrop in those days was a six flat building. Uncle Leo Meltzer and his family occupied a third floor apartment and we, Mayer Meltzer’s family, occupied the first floor. There was a drug store on the corner of Bryn Mawr and Winthrop, some stores on Bryn Mawr and the Bryn Mawr Theater on the south side of Bryn Mawr Avenue. In those days, adult admission to the movie house was five cents; therefore, the show was called the “Nickel-Show” by most people.
I have many memories from the days we lived on Broadway and on Winthrop but, as I said before, they’re all from the viewpoint of a young child.
Dad and Uncle Leo in those days had a good “Charge and Deliver” business. Most of the customers were affluent business people (one of whom was Cuneo of the meat industry), with homes along Sheridan Road between Bryn Mawr and Devon. The business supported my father and uncle and their families, a clerk, a delivery man or two, a cashier and a butcher. They had a horse and delivery wagon with the Meltzer Brothers inscription on it.
At the back of the store was the cashier’s cage, where Anna Schwartfeger, the cashier, took care of payments for cash customers and also kept the books and did the monthly billing for the charge customers. She had an adding machine which, in those days, impressed me as a wonderful invention.
You’d press the buttons, pull a huge handle and all your arithmetic was done for you! Incidentally, I’ll never forget the day when, helping out in my teen age years, I spilled coffee all over the books. Uncle Leo scolded me, but Dad in his usual kind way just smiled and started to clean up!
Getting back to the store on Broadway, it was actually two stores with the center walls taken out. The floors were wooden. One side was the grocery section and on the other the meat market. On one counter there was a big coffee grinder. The clerk or owner would measure out a pound of coffee beans, put it through the grinder and, if that’s all the customer was buying, she would take her little price ticket to the cashier and pay for it.
There was also a huge block of cheese on a hand cheese cutter. You could buy a pound of cheese and the clerk would cut a slice off for you with this huge cheese cutter. Everything was bulk in those days. Sugar was scooped out into a little brown bag and weighed. Cookies were in bins. One of our favorites was the one with chocolate covering a marshmallow. If you wanted any canned goods, Dad, Uncle Leo or the clerk would take the long handled grabber, get the can off the shelf and put it with your order. You were waited on in those days. Somehow people had more time.
I remember when there was an accident with the horse and wagon on Broadway near the front of the store. Somehow, the wagon was thrown over to its side and the horse became separated from it. I don’t know if the wagon was hit by a streetcar or not. But there was a lot of commotion and a crowd gathered. Later, there was a photo in the Daily News. This happened sometime between the years 1912 and 1916. I had a copy of the newspaper photo until it crumbled.
In later years, Frank Digeser, the butcher, bought into the store and it was then named “Meltzer Brothers and Digeser.” That was the name until the store closed in the late 1940s and the building was torn down to make way for the parking lot for St. Ita’s.
Editors note: This wonderful recollection was brought to the Edgewater Historical Society Museum on a Saturday afternoon. We would like to hear more about Broadway and about the businesses in the area, especially the grocery businesses. You can email us a story by sending it to: info@EdgewaterHistory.org. We don’t expect the 90 year olds to email us but we hope you young retirees have some time to share your histories.