Looking back: Downtown storefronts ever-changing

Published 3:45 pm Wednesday, July 14, 2021

By Linda Evenson

The storefront of a retail business introduces potential customers to the shop, its services and merchandise. Albert Lea merchants were conscious of the importance of their storefronts as early as the 1880s. Front façades were being painted and improved. By the late 1890s, modernized storefronts appeared along Broadway. Some merchants were bragging they had the most metropolitan storefront in town.  In November 1903, a local newspaper declared only a few old-style storefronts remained on Broadway.

As the 20th century dawned, the trend toward modern exteriors continued. In 1908, several West Clark Street businesses placed electric lamps on their storefronts illuminating the shops and street. Window displays drew even more attention. Lembke Dry Goods was awarded fourth prize for the finest and most effective window display in June 1906 by Ladies Home Journal. Grocers, Barragan & Thurston, constructed a clever window display of Cameo Brand products in the form of a touring car in 1914. Three years later, Lueck Drug Store featured a unique window display. Using 5,000 bars of soap, they built a miniature replica of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.