Gazette Article by: Geoff Fox
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall 2001
L & A STATIONERS AT 65
When asked to provide a history of L & A Stationers, I realized that we are one of the few 65-year old local businesses left in this community. The store was started in 1937 by two ambitious women named Dot Landry and Ruth Anselm (L & A). The building was once part of the North Shore Railroad, a picture of which can be seen on the front cover of the Winnetka Community Calendar.
Dot was known for using a cigarette holder and Ruth knew every record in the record department. Yes, they sold records! The two L & A founders started out with office supplies, fountain pens, fine stationery and then expanded into books, records, cards and wrap. At the time, Lincoln Avenue was a thriving business district with a variety of shops from a green grocer to a car dealership. Residents didn’t have to leave Winnetka for anything because it was all here!
Working for them in high school, I am proud that I learned the stationery business from Dot and Ruth. Eventually, I was able to purchase a part of the business and bought the balance as it became available.
My wife and I have raised our family in Winnetka and continue to be very concerned about the health of its business district, especially since 1% of every sales tax dollar contributes to the infrastructure of the community.
Winnetka used to have a department store on each side of town, green grocers, butchers, lingerie and bath shops, a lumberyard and a plethora of other assorted merchants. Where have they all gone? Remember Elm Street west to east including Powell’s Camera Mart, the cleaners, the Red Door, Vose Bootery, Carson’s, Phelan’s Pharmacy, Porter Electric, Fells, the Surprise Shop (now Village Toy), Johnsen’s Fish Market and the Winnetka Trust and Savings. The south side of the street included Betty’s, T.J. Cullen (in the alleyway), Winnetka Savings and Loan, Cushman Shoes, Charles Variety, the Christian Science Reading Room, Lakeside Foods and Walgreens. And how many ice cream counters do you suppose we had?
The business community has always been an integral part of the Village, both through financial contributions and a familial sense of belonging. Whether you did your own shopping or sent the chauffeur, everyone knew everyone and genuinely cared about Winnetka. Yes, those were special times.
But what a life we still have in small town Winnetka! We have fantastic schools, the Winnetka Community House and wonderful churches. My hope is that one day we will again enjoy a thriving business district.