As Valentine’s Day nears, thoughts turn to treats and sweets for our loved ones. Nearly a century ago, local cupids may have sought some of those items at the Park Sweet Shop.
The Park Sweet Shop first opened on Railroad Avenue (now 4742 Washington Avenue) in 1920. Its proprietor, Arthur Johnson, operated the business at that location until 1926, when he moved it to the northeast corner of Railroad Avenue and Third Street on the site that is now the patio area of the Washington Square Bar and Grill. The following year, he sold the business to Melvon Kirkby.
Kirkby soon discovered that the building his store was in would be demolished to make way for a Texaco Station. He moved the shop again, this time to the recently constructed Avalon Theatre building on Fourth Street. The shop operated as Mel Kirkby’s Sweet Shop until the end of 1933, when Prohibition was repealed and Paul Albrecht opened the 617 Lounge and Liquor Store in that location.
Regardless of its location, the Park Sweet Shop had an array of options for its customers. Inventory included ice cream, cigars, cigarettes and confections of many kinds, as well as a lunch counter; the shop closed in 1934 to make way for the 617. Other similar stores such as Greengard’s Confectionery and the White Bear Bakery were still operational at this time and continued to be so into the 1950s.
By the 1970s, a series of bakeries had occupied the space on Fourth Street where Chico’s is located today. The location stayed the same, but the name changed with the owners from the White Bear Bakery to Eden’s Bakery. Today, this sweet-selling tradition continues in the downtown district with Grandma’s Bakery and Key’s Cafe.
For more information on the Park Sweet Shop, visit whitebearhistory.org, or call 651.407.5327.