Historic Properties – “Shawano has History”

Chaimson’s Fair Store


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A Brief History

 Chairmson’s Fair Store
134 S. Main St.
Shawano, Wisconsin

In 1903 Max Chaimson opened The Fair Store, a general store in a storefront on the east side of Main Street, giving Upham & Russell at the corner of Main and Division Streets direct competition. Max Chaimson built a new building at 134 S. Main Street in 1907 and sold everything from groceries and clothes, to home furnishings. They even dealt in hides, pelts, and furs.

The two-story, three-bay Chaimson building is noted for its historic significance as the first home of one of Shawano’s longest-lived department stores. The building’s date of construction is carved in a stone set over the center second-story window. This building was the home of Chaimson’s Fair Store for many years before moving across the street to a larger building. Chaimson’s purchase of the former Raddant Brewing Company building on the west side of Main Street in 1919 was hailed as “one of the most important real estate transactions that has taken place in Shawano for a number of years.”

Within a few years of Chaimson’s and Upham & Russell’s expansions, a national department store and a regional department store made their appearance in the Shawano downtown district, emphasizing the transition from general store to department store.

In 1929 the local J.C. Penney outlet moved into a new storefront in the middle of the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street, this building is similar in most respects to its neighbors dating from the time period but is the widest building in the district to lack second story residential or office space. J.C. Penney remained at this location until well past the close of the district’s period of significance.

Another department store based outside of the Shawano area was Lauerman’s, founded in 1890 in Marinette, Wisconsin, and established at 214 S. Main Street in 1929, where it stayed though the district’s period of significance. Despite their disparate backgrounds, these four businesses provided an essential basis for the district’s historic retail economy, drawing customers for a variety of purposes in a manner seldom possible for smaller, more specialized retailers. They also reflect the increasing specialization in early twentieth-century retail practices, which led many urban general stores to focus on relatively uniform retail segments requiring basically similar storage and display parameters, evolving as a result into department stores focused on marketing personal and household consumer goods. This left grocery, animal feed and other businesses to more specialized operations. With the exception of the Upham & Russell Company, all of the previously described retailers remained active in the district throughout its period of significance; all had closed or moved out of the Main Street district by 1986.

From the 1999 National Register of Historic Places Registration application:

The two-story, three-bay Chaimson building, noted for its historic significance as the first home of one of Shawano’s longest-lived department stores, has a pressed-metal cornice with dentils and shallow brackets. The building’s date of construction is carved in a stone set over the center second-story window. The bays are separated by brick piers that reach from the windows’ sills to the cornice above. The upper limits of the piers are defined by continuous corbeling, which spans the space between the piers.

The second-story windows have rough-cut stone lintels that extend past the window’s dimensions to the adjoining piers. The rough-cut stone sills also span the entire distance between the piers and are made into a continuous belt course across the facade by abutting identically-proportioned stone caps at the bases of the piers. The second-floor windows are recent replacements; the upper portions of the original openings are filled with an opaque black panel. The storefront’s simple molded cornice commences a few courses below the sills; the store front has been completely altered.