If these walls could talk: 634 Lake Shore Drive

It's been a while since we've had occasion to continue our ongoing series of virtual 'walks' through buildings of note from Culver's past to today, and this week we've stepped next door from our last stop, to 634 E. Lake Shore Drive, the home for just over a decade now of Culver Coffee Company. The building's location is notable, too, because CCC owner Dawn (Minas) Brockey's husband, Larry, operates his insurance company out of the storefront to the west -- (hopefully) a convenient arrangement for a couple!

As longstanding Culverites will recall, 634 actually represents the melding of what were, for many years, two separate storefronts -- in fact, when Culver Coffee first opened, it's hard to believe only its easternmost section (over half of which is occupied by everything except a small handful of seating options for its customers) comprised the entire business. Dawn realized this, of course, and expanded into the space to the west a few years after opening...but more on that later.

We won't repeat our last installment's chronicling of the longstanding Hayes Restaurant which occupied space taken up by the former 623 and, alternately, 642 Lake Shore Drive (that is, the western portion of today's 634...the section of Culver Coffee with the large aquarium!), though by 1937, Sanborn Fire Maps show it as a vacant lot.

A note in The Culver Citizen in Nov. 26, 1947, notes that a sports store was opening opposite the town park. The business was known as the Culver Sports Center for several years, though by April of 1955, the business had a "grand opening," much touted in The Culver Citizen, as The Outdoorsman.

"After eight months of extensive remodeling, enlarging and scores of improvements," noted the March 13, 1955 edition, "The Outdoorsman, Culver 's only exclusive sporting goods store, is emerging as one of the most modern and best stocked retail etablishments in Northern Indiana."

Owned and operated by Charles and Jane McCafferty, the opening of the establishment was a week-long event which included the presence of Ken Jackson, "ace fly expert of the Beco Company," who was on hand to dish out "confidential" advice on fishing.

"While waiting your turn to get the inside dope from the visiting experts, the McCaffertys will be serving refreshments with their cordial compliments and good wishes," it was added.

All the hoopla aside, the McCaffertys' tenure at The Sportsman was short-lived. In August, 1957, it was announced that the business was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Tim Motts of Syracuse, Indiana.

In January, 1969's LaPetite Bakery opened at 634 Lake Shore.
"Culver is indeed fortunate to have another new business located here," wrote the Citizen. "Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Garry Lozier, the business will be operated by Sue McCombs and Gloria Banks and will be open six days weekly from seven to five. A complete line of sweet rolls, pies, cakes and bread will be featured and special orders will be taken."

It was noted that Mr. Lozier's parents were in the restaurant business at Mentone for a number of years and he himself had a bakery at the time in Bourbon "where the goodies will baked by an experienced baker and sent to Culver daily." Lozier also owned the Lon Construction Company in Plymouth.

"Culver has been without a bakery for several years and this new store will surely be a welcome addition to the community."

The easternmost portion of today's Culver Coffee Company was for years associated with the old Culver name of Shively, dating back at least to 1934 when it was reported that Clyde Shiveiy had purchased the former Swigart Building on Lake Shore Drive near the depot, where he opened a general repair shop. The following January, the Citizen reported Shively had returned from taking a course in the care and repair of electric refrigerators at the Frigidaire school at Dayton, Ohio.

In March, 1947, Clyde Shively was said to be tearing down his building ("next to the express office") and planned to replace it with a cement block building with a brick front for his Speciality Shop business. Clyde and his wife Genevieve (formerly Warner) were listed as operating the specialty shop there between 1952 and 1957.

In an interview later published on the Culver Public Library's website, Ellen Poppe described moving to Culver in 1957 from South Bend and buying Clyde Shivley¹s appliance and bottled gas store, as well as a house at the corner of College Avenue and Forest Place.

"After 30 years in business, we sold our store to the Culver Insurance Agency," she said, "and our appliance business to Bennett's, who still run it."

Indeed, Al and Ellen Poppe were household names in Culver through 1986, having moved to larger quarters at 634 Lake Shore Drive in Nov., 1960.

"The new location," wrote the Citizen, "which will enable the Poppes to better serve the public, was formerly Mrs. McCafferty's Art shop...Mr.and Mrs. Poppe, dealers in G. E. appliances, invite old customers and new to visit their store during their grand openeing where all merchandise will be sale priced."

In Feb., 1968, Jack Spencer, of Spencer Gas, Plumbing and Heating, announced the purchase of the LP Gas Business from Al Poppe.

"A large capacity bulk plant south of Culver enbles Spencer Gas to offer complete liquid petroleum gas service," explained the Citizen, which added that, "Mr. Poppe will continue his appliance and service business as before."

Emil "Bud" Runhow bought out the business in 1972 and moved it to a building on Main Street.

The Shively name once again appeared on Lake Shore Drive when, in the late 1980s, Dan Shively operated an appliance store at the site.

In 1990, longtime Culverite John Sage purchased the building and began renovating it towards a move from their former business site at 114 S. Main Street, where the business had operated since 1984 (though Mr. Sage's insurance work in Culver dated back to the late 1960s).

Sage's insurance company operated out of the site until May, 2002, after which 1998 Culver Academies grad Dawn Minas (now Brockey, as mentioned earlier) saw the "for sale" sign, which she said (in a 2008 story in the Culver Citizen) left her contemplating her dream of a "Starbucks" style business in Culver.

In December, 2003, the Culver Coffee Company opened its doors -- or really, in those days, the single door on the eastern portion of the combined building it occupies today.

Minas took a gamble the following year, during the depths of a very slow winter, and wound up selling more than 5,000 heart-shaped teacups via mail order, which helped underwrite the growth of the business into the next store west.

The expansion included a massive renovation and the addition of several tables, a small meeting room in back, plenty of space for an expanded selection of merchandise, and the ever-popular comfy couch and large aquarium.

“Culver History Corner” is a semi-regular feature sponsored by the Antiquarian and Historical Society of Culver. whose quarterly newsletter is also sponsored in The Culver Citizen.
www.culverahs.com -- historyofculver@gmail.com