Goldmann's corners the market on quirky

When my brother-in-law and his wife visit from San Francisco -- the city of fabulous sushi, uber-fashionable shoes and famous folks -- they always go to Goldmann's.

San Francisco may have Bloomingdale's, Macy's and Nordstrom's, but it's only at Milwaukee's Goldmann's Department Store where you can buy a mumu, play the lottery and eat a plate of meatloaf all in one shopping experience.

"It's a little slice of heaven here," says Milt Pivar, store owner.

Goldmann's, 930 W. Mitchell St., is Wisconsin's oldest department store and recently celebrated its 106th birthday. Although the eclectic stock changes regularly, the building itself -- as well as many of the employees -- remains the same. The wide, wooden staircases creak, the "bargain basement" smells like a basement, and Essie still works in lingerie.

"I don't know a damn about hosiery or lingerie, but I can tell you one thing: we are one of the only department stores that still sell snuggies (old-school undergarments that your Grandma wore in lieu of long underwear or leggings) as well as bras that would fit on the side of a building," says Pivar, while Essie holds up a 52FF-sized bra.

The store not only carries gargantuan brassieres, but also men's shirts up to a 10x and size-70 belts.

"There are a lot of fat guys in Milwaukee," he says, laughing. "And I'm one of them."

The availability of mega-sizes is only one of the many niches keeping Goldmann's alive today. Other store specialties (or peculiarities) include racks of school uniforms, a classic candy counter selling retro sweets like jaw breakers and candy raisins, zoot suits, African clothing sets, stacks of flour sack towels, an extensive selection of shopping carts, unique lights and lampshades, bolts of fabric, upholstery and fake fur, and more.

The store also sports inexpensive men's, women's and children's fashions.

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kramsdell | Sept. 28, 2007 at 11:32 a.m. (report)

Today is Sept 28th, and in my opinion, a part of Mitchell Street will only be history, not historic with the closing of Goldmanns. while there are three generations of family that has shopped there, as well as my daughter's first job there, the look and feel of Mitchell street may never be the same as in its hayday. this is their 11th year, and i feel that future generations will never be able to get that "Quirky litte store" atmosphere, what with Walmarts and other store like it coming up everywhere. Walking in you feel like waling back in time. Milt, Jerry, and to every past employee ever having worked for you, i want to thank you for all you have done for the souh side and milwaukee.

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bobmcl | June 1, 2007 at 7:08 p.m. (report)

Having never been to Goldmann's living in Appleton, Wi I still have time to visit your store. I wish you continued success.

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