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  ⋅  When did Sears open its first store?
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On  November 2, 1925, Sears opened two new retail stores, one on Lawrence Avenue, and the other on 79th Street in Chicago. Today, these stores represent two of Chicagoís oldest, continuously operating stores in the Sears retail store system. More importantly, over the last 77 years, these stores became very important parts of the local neighborhoods.

Both neighborhoods trace their roots back to the middle of the nineteenth century. In the area that is today Lawrence Avenue, German, English and Luxembourg truck farmers began cultivating the land in the mid nineteenth century. One of the main crops was cucumbers and a number of pickle factories sprouted up in the area. The 79th Street neighborhood got its start in 1853 when two trains collided at what are now 75th Street and South Chicago Avenue. After the 1853 collision, state law required all trains to stop at that point. A Chicago developer, Paul Cornell decided that the swampy area would be a good site for a suburban development since transportation to Chicago was assured by the train stop. Many of these settlers were Germans, who were farmers or worked in the local building trades. Later railroad workers, and workers from the Pullman Car factory settled there.

After the turn of the century, the tree-lined streets in both neighborhoods consisted of one and two story frame houses, brick bungalows, two-story flats, and small apartment buildings. On Lawrence Avenue, the neighborhood mix became even more international as Swedes, Italians, Russian Jews, and Greeks joined the English, Germans, and Luxemburgers. The neighborhood around 79th Street also grew. Now Swedes, Irish, Italians, and African Americans were settling into the surrounding neighborhoods.

Both Sears stores were built under the old style model of retail stores. They were two story buildings, with lots of windows for light and ventilation. The stores architecture included the signature tower that all Sears stores and Catalog Merchandise Distribution Centers featured in these early years. Merchandise was stacked on wooden tables, and massive space consuming square columns held the floors up. Stairways and a newfangled escalator linked the floors. Money and receipts were sent from the sales floor to the office via pneumatic tubes.

Like the surrounding neighborhoods, these two stores have adapted to constant change. Customers shopping at the Lawrence Avenue store are now more likely to be Hispanic, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Greek and East European. The 79th Street store witnessed one of the greatest migrations of people in the nationís history when thousands of African Americans from the South rode the Illinois Central Railroad to settle in south Chicago during the middle of the twentieth century.

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