Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, February 9, 2003, pg. 16
In the early 20th century, the business focus for residents living on the “west end” of town was numerous stores located along Austin Avenue in the vicinity of N. Albion St. Many of these businesses were operated by immigrants from Russia, Poland, Italy, and other countries who came to Albion to work at the Albion Malleable Iron Company. Workers at the Malleable lived nearby in company housing or on streets adjacent to Austin Avenue. They would walk to work and purchase necessities at these businesses on their way home, or stop at one of the taverns or pool halls.
Today of course, many of the buildings in the Austin Avenue business section have been boarded up, and remain empty pending an uncertain fate. Unfortunately various zoning and building code laws easily prevent their reopening, as well as “No Parking” regulations. In their heyday however, these businesses were once buzzing with activity and many Albion residents have memories of growing up in the neighborhood. In the next few weeks in this column we’ll feature some of “classic” businesses our readers might remember. If any of our readers have any old photographs of Austin Avenue businesses, please let me know. I am particularly looking for a photograph of the Star (Branoff) Bakery, later called the Vienna Bakery at 620 Austin Avenue which operated up to World War II.
We begin this series with one well-known place on the “west end:” Tomchak’s Grocery, Pool Hall and Tavern at 612 Austin Avenue, operated by Michael Tomchak (1892-1947). Mike was a native of Leskova, near Kiev in the Ukraine. He came to the United States in 1911, and to Albion in 1913. As was the case with many immigrants, Mike originally worked as a laborer at the Albion Malleable Iron Company. He opened a neighborhood grocery and dry goods store where various necessities such as meat, milk, bread, and other items could be purchased. He even sold shoes there at one time.
In the east portion of the building was a pool/recreation hall which became a popular gathering place that evolved into Tomchak’s Tavern at the start of World War II. The grocery on the west side of the building was thereby discontinued. Mike died suddenly in 1947, and the tavern was continued by his widow Catherine (1911-2002) who passed away a year ago on March 19, 2002 at the age of 90. She was also native of the Kiev area. Katie operated the tavern through the 1960s and sponsored area bowling and softball teams. The business was sold in the early 1970s and became the Paramount Lounge. Currently it is known as Adkins Lounge.
From the Archives this week courtesy of Ruth (Romanchuk) Dean we present a 1939 photograph of the Tomchak Grocery (left) and Pool Hall (right) at 612 Austin Avenue. The painted window states, “Groceries and Meats,” “Ice Cold Beer To Take Out,” and “Salada Tea.” Painted on the left side of the building is a classic Mail Pouch Tobacco sign, with the name of “Mike Tomchak” at the top near the roof, and “CANDY, CIGARETTES, CIGARS and POP” below [In this internet version we are also including a January, 2002 photograph of the building as it has appeared in recent years.]
Tomchak Tavern in 1939
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic