If these walls could talk: 630 Lake Shore Drive

After our last 'virtual' stop -- in our ongoing series of journeys through the annals of historic structures of Cul­ver -- our eastwardly meander up Lake Shore Drive's commercial district had led us to today's Lakehouse Grille, the site of no less than three distinct properties (and any number of businesses) in the past.

Naturally enough, then, we're wandering past 630 Lake Shore Drive -- the home of today's Rideon Bicycles, owned by Chris Chambers (and profiled in the Citizen last summer), though for a great many years it was one of a number of Culver grocery stores.

This is a good time for a note on the "big picture" of Culver's business world. Many of us here today, with tongues somewhat in cheek, like to refer not only to Cul­ver having a downtown (which is natural enough), but an "uptown" as well, comprised of this stretch of Lake Shore Drive, at least between State Street and perhaps ending past the curve where Lake Shore intersects College Ave­nue. Some folks take the matter so far as to refer to Lake Shore Drive's business district as "mid-town" and the collection of businesses nearer to the intersection of State Road 10 and Lake Shore Drive (that is, the northernmost district) as "uptown," but that's a matter for another day.

To some extent, Culver (or in those days, Marmont) boasted a thriving business district in the Lake Shore Drive area long before what we today think of as "down­town," owing entirely to the fact that the railroad station, which came into existence along with the railroad itself in 1883, was located just across the street. Considering the thousands who traveled here in a given summer weekend during the tourist heydays of the 1880s through the ear­ly 1900s, an obvious "niche market" existed for hotels, restaurants, and stores and services of all sorts on Lake Shore Drive, and we've seen evidence of that in our survey of past businesses there over recent weeks and months.

Some readers may recall my noting the outrage when an effort succeeded in the late 1800s to move postal service to Lake Shore Drive, an earlier manifestation of the "lo­cals verses out-of-towners" perceived conflict which to­day rears its head from time to time (the move was short-lived, for the record).

Another interesting dimension with a connection to to­day's changing world: note that the grocery store which occupied 630 Lake Shore Drive for at least half of the years of the 20th century was just one of at least five gro­ceries functioning simultaneously for many years in Cul­ver, a trend which died out in the 1970s.

Culver's population re­mained fairly steady through those changes. What had changed, however, was American culture and eco­nomics. As Americans grad­ually became more mobile, they of course shopped more frequently at larger (admit­tedly sometimes more eco­nomical) "super" markets than local corner groceries, even if it meant a trip to Plymouth, for instance (or maybe especially because of the trip out of town, an ex­cuse to visit any number of larger, more diverse stores). In more recent years, add the phenomenon of inter­net shopping and a "global" economy, and we need to face up to the fact that the closure of many local busi­nesses of late (such as the hardware store) has virtu­ally nothing to do with the wealthy "taking over" Cul­ver, but with the middle and lower income Culver resi­dents choosing for decades to shop out of town. C'est la vie.

Back to the point...on our way to the building at 630 Lake Shore, we notice that odd, "V" shaped lot which for years was occupied (at its edge, that is) by a telephone booth, one of at least three in our booming metropolis in those pre-cell phone years.

As early as 1921, a grocery store -- apparently the Spangler Grocery, reflecting a common surname in Culver of the day -- had already been established at the site, though it closed in 1932 due to a fire which destroyed the Hays dance pavil­ion and restaurant next door, according to The Culver Citizen.

In January, 1935, the Citizen reported T.G. Louden had purchased the Spangler grocery. Nine years later, in August of 1944, Loudon's Grocery, as it was then known, was sold to Arthur Schweidler, though in­terestingly the Citizen reported that Loudon "has been operat­ing the business for 20 years." One assumes he was operating the store some years before he actually became the owner in 1935.

Schweidler kept the store until June of 1952, by which point it had been re-dubbed the Lakeside Grocery, a name it would retain for many years to come. The new -- though short-lived -- owner was Harlan F. Holmes.

By May, 1954, the couple likely best remembered by today's read­ers took over the shop: Pete and Pearl Onesti, previously of Chica­go.
On her Maxinkuckee history website, Judi Burns recalls the Sunday lunchtime emergency call April 13, 1969, when well-known Pete Onesti collapsed in his store and was rushed to the hospital. In the wake of his death, his wife Pearl, then, became sole owner and proprietor of what by then was Pete's Lakeside Grocery.

The Oct. 29, 1975 edition of The Culver Citizen announced that a "23-year tradition" was ending as Pearl Onesti closed the door on Pete's Lakeside Grocery for the last time, having sold to Leonard and Jane Crump of Forest Place in Culver.

As was noted in our previous "If these walls" install­ment, Pearl continued to operate the Lakeside Coffee Shop next door until it burned in October of 1978.

The Crumps, it was noted, would "continue to keep the business a grocery and will offer a variety of food items," though they also planned to add "Gaye's AA Communica­tions, owned and operated by their daughter, Gaye Tho­len, Lakeview St. Gaye will move the business from its present location in Knox to the Culver store, which is to be renamed Crump's Lakeside Grocery."

In 1977, the little store ended its grocery days, likely forever (certainly up to now!) and by 1978, Binkley Real Estate had opened up shop there.

Various businesses followed, including one of a few locations for the Back Door Boutique (which also oper­ated downtown), and, at least for a time in 1983, a video arcade.

In Nov., 1985, Charles and Pat Harner opened the pop­ular Cactus Charlie's there, offering -- as the name sug­gests -- Mexican and American "fast" food options. There was still similar cuisine at hand when the Renfrow family opened their "Rock N Roll Cafe" at the site in Nov., 1996, though the menu leaned more towards classic American burger joint styles, with soft serve ice cream included. During those years into Sept., 2006, the building took on a hot pink exterior, making it rather hard to miss from the street.

For the next three years, the front of the structure stayed empty, though Dawn Minas (now Brockey) had quietly begun using the restaurant equipment to expand the offer­ings of her Culver Coffee Company to include pizzas and sandwiches (under her watch, the hot pink building took on the more tame, dark brown hue of today).

By July, 2009, the much-remodeled building re-opened in its present incarnation as Rideon, which both rented, sold, and repaired bicycles (at the time, it was the second of Culver's bicycle shops, The Bike Barn having opened the year before several blocks west).

“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.