|Unique brick building captures Holyoke history for 100 years|
|Written by Darci Tomky|
Whether going to find the latest fashion trends or simply grabbing a slice of pizza, Holyoke residents have numerous memories of the building at 110 N. Interocean Ave., current home of Pizza p.a.d.
Located right in the center of town, just north of the Denver Street and Interocean Avenue intersection, the brick building has witnessed a century of Holyoke’s main street hustle and bustle.
While the exact construction date of the building is unknown, reports of O. Canaday Mercantile mention the year 1906. History from the 1963 Diamond Jubilee book claims the Canaday brothers bought the O.C. Zingg store from this early Holyoker and later changed the name to O. Canaday Mercantile Company.
This store would later come to be known as the Golden Rule store, which sold everything from clothes to groceries. Ads in the 1912 Enterprise even promoted a new shoe repair department was added to the store.
Gerald (Bud) Brewer, former owner of the building, noted he thought at this time there was a dime store in the basement with stairs leading down by the front doors. Store signs also advertised Gents Furnishings.
Wrapping around to the southwest, the Golden Rule store formed an “L” shape around the Citizens State Bank building that stood on the corner of the intersection. Customers could go from the main part of the store through an archway into the grocery section. Photos show a door led into this part from Denver Street.
The combination of O. Canaday Mercantile and the Golden Rule store endured for over 25 years. At the announcement of the store closing in the Jan. 12, 1931 Enterprise, it is reported Canaday began business in Holyoke in 1904, and since 1910 the Golden Rule store had occupied that building. “The store and its proprietor have been popular with a great many people in the trade territory during this long period.”
1929 marks the year the well-known J.C. Penney Company opened a store in Holyoke when the company bought the interest of J.B. Byars Company. The store was located at 422 Interocean Ave. until moving into the former Golden Rule store building at 110 N. Interocean Ave. in 1931.
Remodeling took place in the summer of 1931 to fit the store’s needs, and several new departments were added to the store’s merchandise.
In addition to the J.C. Penney remodeling project, the grocery part of the Golden Rule store was remodeled for the Phillips County Abstract Company. The Aug. 6, 1931 Enterprise reports the door was moved and new plate glass windows were put in. The connection with the other part of the building was bricked up.
J.C. Penney advertisements promoted the new store had the same “homey” atmosphere with old traditions of courtesy, service and savings. Boys’ oxford shoes were $2.49, Waverly caps were listed at 98¢, and young men could buy suits for only $19.75.
Around the same time in 1931, Denver Street and Interocean Avenue were declared arterial highways, and black and yellow stop signs were placed at the intersection. The city also constructed new curbs and gutters and paved Interocean Avenue.
One interesting fact about J.C. Penney was how the money exchanges took place. Brewer explained Mrs. Smith sat in the upstairs office while a clerk remained downstairs by the entrance. The clerk used a bucket and pulley system to send the money and ticket up to Mrs. Smith who would in turn make change and send it back down.
Holyoke welcomed C.R. “Dick” Smythe and his wife Alice when he became the manager of the J.C. Penney store in 1939. He managed the store for over 20 years until he retired from J.C. Penney at the Holyoke store’s closing in April, 1960.
J.C. Penney claimed they did not want to disappoint customers or lower their standards of service. Because they didn’t have enough sales volume in Holyoke, they could not carry their full line of merchandise and closed the store.
110 N. Interocean Ave. would not stay vacant for long. An account in Those Were the Days..., a history of Phillips County, says “In order to eat, Dick thought he should get back in business, so he purchased the fixtures from Penney’s and opened his own store.”
Now Smythe’s Department Store, the building housed well-known brands of shoes, ready-to-wear clothing and other dry goods items. Smythe put in cash registers as well as changed the entry way with new glass windows.
The Smythes owned and operated the store through Dec. 31, 1972 when they sold to Gerald and Marjorie Brewer. Working as a barber at the time, Brewer recalled the day when Smythe came to him for a haircut. While sitting in the barber chair, Smythe discussed his need to sell the department store and sparked Brewer’s interest.
The Brewers continued to run Smythe’s Department Store and added to the lines of merchandise it offered. We had “anything that goes with a department store,” said Brewer. They sold clothing for men, women and children, footwear, patterns, novelty items such as crochet thread and buttons as well as pillows, towels and sheets that were located in the upstairs portion of the store. Smythe’s had a white sale on sheets and towels every January.
They tried to be active and do different things, even implementing “Crazy Days” when employees would dress up crazy.
Big changes came in 1990 when Smythe’s closed its doors, making way for Schmidt’s. The newly-remodeled building housed Bill and Carol Schmidt’s restaurant shop featuring specialty sandwiches like the Doofer, Buffey, Murfette and Bud. When Smythe visited Schmidt’s grand opening in May, he simply said, “It doesn’t look like I could sell many socks in here now.”
A mini-mall of sorts also provided space for several other businesses. Vocal and instrumental lessons were conducted at Carol’s Studio in the upstairs portion of the building. Bill’s Instrument and Repair and a music store were added to the building as well as Bud’s Barber Shop, a health food area, a tea room and a children’s clothing section run by Gail Peterson and Kristi Krueger. Other businesses throughout the years included a book store and a candle shop.
The well-known Schmidt’s pizza and secret pizza sauce made their appearance in the fall of 1990, followed by a special ice cream section some years later, and the Schmidts continued with “business day-in and day-out” for 18 years.
Another chapter in 110 N. Interocean’s history book started in April, 2008 when Pat and Danette Vasa took over the restaurant, changing the name to Pizza p.a.d. With pizza continuing as one of the biggest parts of the business, the Vasas still offer sandwiches, ice cream and specials Wednesday through Friday. New items include wings and salads.
“The building is unique in itself,” said Vasa. “It has its quirks.” He noted the building is so unique because it still has many of the original features that are characteristic of the early 1900s. Tin ceiling tiles, radiators and a freight elevator carrying inventory to the basement are some of the more peculiar aspects of the building.
When the Vasas were remodeling the back part of the building, they wanted to make sure they didn’t hide the beautiful solid oak staircase located in the southwest corner. Adding a section with booths is just one of the remodeling projects they have on the list.
After 100 years in Holyoke, 110 N. Interocean Ave. is still an ongoing, active part of downtown Holyoke and will certainly continue to hold a unique place in Holyoke’s history in the future.