The Osco half of the Jewel-Osco food and pharmacy chain is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. It started out in 1937 as a single Pay-Less drug store in Rochester, Minnesota and is now a retailing force across the upper Midwest.
So what does this have to do with architecture? A couple of things.
First, Jewel-Osco, long a facilitator of the urban blight known as the strip mall, has started mending its ways by using more urban- and environmentally-friendly store designs. Its new store on North Southport got lots of positive press when it opened a couple of years ago.
Another reason this is of interest is because Jewel-Osco’s PR company sent us some pictures of historic stores in the Chicagoland area. Some of these architectural styles will surely trigger nostalgia or nausea, depending on how you feel about mid-century modern design.
And as you explore Chicago, veteran architecture buffs sometimes play a game called “Spot the Jewel.” For a long time, Jewel stores had a very distinctive design and building materials. Though most of them have been either torn down or repurposed, it is still possible to see the Jewel heritage underneath what is now a Currency Exchange or a liquor store, if you know what to look for.