For years, we've hoped to see the metal cladding come off the former Schuster's / Gimbels building on King Drive and Garfield Avenue – a feeling enhanced by the temporary uncovering of part of the facade a couple years ago.
Now, thanks to a partnership between the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, that's becoming a reality at 2153 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.
Schuster's operated there until it was purchased by Gimbels in 1962, at which point it was co-branded, until 1969. The following year, the store closed and the building was used by Gimbels as a distribution center.
Since 1992 it has been used by CH Coakley & Co. for storage.
Today, we were invited back by Coakley for a final look around before work to convert the building begins.
Although a semi-load worth of stuff leaves the facility each day, Coakley's VP of Facilities Steve Nelson estimates there's another 400 trailers worth of material to be removed.
That work will continue in coming months, even as the new project moves forward, on a floor-by-floor basis, to allow Coakley time to complete clearing out the site.
Nelson showed us around and we kept an extra eye out for remnants of the old Schuster's and Gimbels department stores. Here's some of what we found:
The old Third Street entrance (north end)
The old Third Street entrance (south end)
The northwest mezzanine
Former portrait studio
A retail display area on the lower level
The lower-level luggage department
This lower-level sales floor will become parking
A cash register (numbers can be seen, faintly, on the receipt tape!)
A fifth floor soda fountain and cafeteria
The catering department
A giant machine in the bakery area
Giant coffee urns in catering
These windows will finally be re-opened
A photo of an unknown forklift operator
One of the staircases
A sturdy old elevator
Any former employees remember what departments 220, 231 and 250 were?
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.