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Sears Roebuck & Co. closes its last store in home state Illinois

Written By | Sep 23, 2021
sears, sears and roebuck

HOFFMAN ESTATES (IL) – Sears unravels another link in its national chain of stores closing the last store in its home state of Illinois. Located at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumberg, the store opened up in 1969 when the mall was the largest store under one roof. As of September 17, 2021, there are only 34 Sears stores left open. However, while Sears will be gone in Illinois, 11 Sears Hometown Stores will remain. These smaller stores sell only hard goods and appliances.

‘Sears closing last remaining location in Illinois’ – Yahoo Finance

What saddens many about what has happened to Sears is that it was such a fixture in the state. Furthermore, they appreciate its contributions to America in a historical sense. It was a one-stop-shop for the whole family and family home.

Sears began in Chicago as the Sears, Roebuck and Company, more commonly known as Sears.

Founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck in 1892, the American chain of department stores Richard Sears and Julius Rosenwald reincorporated in 1906. The early Sears catalog company provided access to goods to rural areas whereby customers ordered products from a catalog that came in the mail. The older edition recycling as reading material, and, well, you know, in the outhouse.

In 1906, Sears opened a ‘catalog plant’ and the Sears Merchandise Building Tower on Chicago’s West Side. The building was the anchor of what would become a massive 40-acre complex. Only the tower remains today at Arthington and Homan Streets. The first brick-and-mortar storefront opened up for walk-in traffic in the North Lawndale area of Chicago in 1925.

Some consider Sears the original ‘Big Box Store.’ However, Sears was known for many other things as well. For example, their Craftsman line of hand tools was considered some of the best in the industry and came with a limited lifetime warranty.

From 1908 to 1940, Sears sold between 70,000 to 75,000 kit homes.

The homes ranged in size from tiny starter homes to large two-story homes. Often called Craftsman homes regardless of their style as they came from Sears under the Craftsman label. They were shipped all over the country by rail, where local builders put the prefabricated walls, floor, and roof sections, all made in Chicago, together.

The homes are still in existence in 48 states and even Alaska! The owner of CDN lives doors down from one of the first homes erected.

Another ground-breaking moment for Sears was when they launched their radio station, WLS, which stood for World’s Largest Store.

If you ever visit the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, you may be surprised to find you’re part of an old-fashioned radio audience. And if you are from the Chicagoland area and grew up listening to WLS radio, you will be even more shocked when you hear the familiar (C-B-A-E-C) jingle of WLS used by the WSM radio of the Opry!

The fact is that the 1924 WLS Barn Dance radio show predates the 1925 WSM Barn Dance by a year, making Chicago’ The First Capitol of Country Music’, according to the book and PBS special “The Hayloft Gang” (2008/2011).

The way this happened is the Chicago-based WLS went on air on April 12, 1924.

Mr. Hay had worked a radio night shift in Memphis. Hay was voted America’s most popular radio announcer in a contest conducted by “The Radio Digest” in 1924.

At the request of WLS Director Edgar L. Bill, originator of the “WLS Barn Dance,” Mr. Hay was asked to be the announcer for the popular live radio show. The following year (1925), Mr. Hay went to Nashville, Tennessee, inaugurating WSM as the broadcasting service of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company on October 5, 1925.

The original WLS Barn Dance broadcast from a studio inside the Tower on Chicago’s West Side Sears complex. As the studio audience grew, the show moved onto a floor of the Sherman Hotel in the downtown Chicago Loop.

WLS, like WSM, was one of the first Class A broadcasting stations operating on the clear-channel frequency of 890 kHz with 50,000 watts.

That meant the station’s daytime groundwave service contour covered portions of five states, but at night its signal could reach as many as 38 states bouncing its signal off of the earth’s lowered nighttime ionosphere. From about 1960 to 1990, WLS was one of Chicago’s premier Rock and Roll AM radio stations.

Sears adapting to and changing with technology.

Another historical moment of Sears was that it was one of the first, if not the first, retail company to use the Internet to sell their merchandise online. They made use of Prodigy, an early computer Internet software subscription. Prodigy Communications Corporation (Prodigy Services Corp., Prodigy Services Co., Trintex) was an online Internet service from 1984 to 2001.

It offered subscribers access to a broad range of networked services, from news and weather, shopping and entertainment. In 1994 Prodigy was described by the New York Times as ‘family-oriented and one of the ‘Big Three’ information services of that time.

By 1996, Boston Technology and their new firm International Wireless acquires Prodigy.

Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helú was a principal owner of Telmex and a minority investor in Prodigy. In addition, IBM and Sears sold their interests to this group for $200 million. Estimates were that IBM and Sears had invested more than $1 billion in the service since its founding.

Sears Tower was yet another remarkable accomplishment for America’s store.

In 1969, Sears, Roebuck & Co. was the largest retailer in the world. It wanted to consolidate its 350,000 employees throughout the Chicagoland area into one building on the western edge of Chicago’s Loop. The 108 story, 1,450-foot (442.1 m) skyscraper in downtown Chicago Sears Tower. The Sears Tower was sold in 2009 and renamed the Willis Tower.  Though for lifelong Chicagoans, it remains Sears Tower.

There is much speculation about why Sears failed.

Everybody has their own opinions, but most people look at the Sears scenario like baseball, three strikes, and you are out.

First, Walmart came along, opening more stores closer to people’s homes. Sears typically liked to rent space in large shopping malls, often as anchor stores. Walmart preferred to erect its stores on their land. Then Amazon came along to open up a whole new world of shopping from the comfort of your own home by computer.

Walmart adopted Amazon’s business model, going more aggressive after online sales. Sears did not. A final straw to break the camel’s back might have been the Covid-19 pandemic which forced some retailers like J.C. Penny and Neiman Marcus into bankruptcy.

When Sears was in its prime, it had around 3,000 storefronts back in 1969. Likewise, Walmart U.S. had a total of 4,743 stores throughout the United States on January 31, 2021.

Sears Roebuck is an unforgettable memory of turning the pages of the toys we wanted in the catalog every Christmas for generations of Americans. From picking out the perfect dress, or first suit, for a big event. Or for some younguns’, looking at the women’s underwear pages.


Read more from Mark Schwendau.

About the author:

Mark Schwendau is a conservative Christian patriot and retired technology professor (CAD-CAM and web development). He prides himself on his critical thinking ability. Schwendau has had a long sideline of newspaper editorial writing where he used the byline, “- bringing little known facts to people who simply want to know the truth.”

Mark is on alternative free speech social media platforms after lifetime bans from Facebook and Twitter and shadow bans from Instagram and Fox News commenting.

His website is www.IDrawIWrite.Tech

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Mark Schwendau

Mark Schwendau is a Christian conservative patriot and retired technology professor (CAD-CAM and web development) who prides himself on his critical thinking ability. Schwendau has had a long sideline of newspaper editorial writing where he used the byline, “- bringing little known facts to people who simply want to know the truth.” Mark is on alternative free speech social media platforms after lifetime bans from Facebook and Twitter and shadow bans from Instagram and Fox News commenting. His website is www.IDrawIWrite.Tech