Exterior of Mack & Co, 1906


Exterior of Mack & Co, 1906

Founded in 1860, Mack & Company grew to be Ann Arbor's largest department store. In 1870 it advertised dress goods, household goods, flannels, shawls and cloakings, "selling everything cheap." By 1900 it had become Main Street's premier shopping destination, wooing customers with promises of first-class service. In the 1920s shoppers could visit Mack's post office, bank, beauty shop, and pharmacy, enjoy an occasional fashion show or sing along while a pianist played sheet music for sale.

Christmas at Mack’s meant elaborate store window displays, a huge decorated tree on a revolving musical stand and the largest toy selection in town. Overwhelmed by the 1930s Depression, Mack closed with its final sale in 1939. Main Street was the shopping center for the town and surrounding countryside. Businesses were locally owned, sometimes by families who lived above the shop. In early years goods were often custom made on the premises.

An 1870s shopper could buy "live geese feathers," fresh oysters, smoked haddock, coal, traveling trunks, caskets, and even a "wooden, cogwheel clothes wringer." Upstairs you might have your straw hat bleached, artificial teeth set, or a new gown made "after the most approved Paris fashion." In the nineteenth century farm families and townsfolk might combine shopping on Main Street with a visit to Hangsterfer’s Hall or Hill's Opera House, or in the twentieth century to the Whitney, Orpheum, and Wuerth movie theaters.

Keywords: businesses, retail trade, clothing stores,

Frame location: East side of Main, just south of southeast corner of Liberty north of planter near curb

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pictureAnnArbor: Site 2: The Main Street Shopping Experience, Downtown Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibit Program
Date: 1906

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Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library