Kyle Robeson, grandson of the founder of Robeson's Department Store, and Gordon Tracy, general manager of Joseph Kuhn's and former employee of W. Lewis and Company, discuss the the rise and fall of the downtown department stores in Champaign. Opened in 1865, Kuhn's was the first, and still exists. Others went out of business or moved to moved to Marketplace Mall once it was built.
WILL-TV’s Illinois Pioneers looks at the history of business and industry in Champaign with the help of former Champaign mayor Dan McCollum and developer and businessman George Shapland.
Looking at photos of businesses like the Cunningham Brothers Drug Store, Eisner grocery stores, First National Bank, Frank Miller Livery and Boarding Stable, Burnham Hospital and Kraft, the two men tell stories about the people that made the businesses thrive and buildings that housed them.
Included are a photo of the interior of the Cunningham’s drug store showing rounded glass display cases full of items for sale; a photo of Eisner delivery trucks from 1957; and a photo of the Coca-Cola bottling plant. The guests talk with host Rick Atterberry about fires that decimated whole blocks of town, resulting in a changing landscape. But McCollum said fires weren’t the primary source of change. “I think more happened because they were mowing down buildings to build parking lots,” he said.