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When Every Stores Was a Dollar Store

Today, dollar stores are ubiquitous; they can be found in every community. But on August 14, 1928, practically every store in Oak Park was—for at least a day—a dollar store. The summer promotion, devised by the Chamber of Commerce, was designed to be a “lively affair and a sort of village fair,” according to the Oak Leaves.

Recognizing that dollar sales, no matter how many, would not be profit-making for retailers, the Chamber promoted the event as a “good-will effort to bring genuine bargains to the home folks.” Retailers were eager to get behind the effort. Each business district had its own local committee which solicited participation. Both smaller and larger retailers were enthusiastic and responsive.

Dollar deals at Gilmore's.
"Oak Leaves" August 11, 1928

To ensure a good turnout, the sale was advertised in many communities beyond Oak Park, all the way to Elgin. The bargains, according to the Association, would be both “real” and “startling.” On Madison Street, for example, shoppers could get $5 lamp shades for $1, bed sheets for $1, and a Ford gasoline gauge for $1. At The Toggery on Marion Street, men’s shirts with starched cuffs, normally $4 each, were just $1, as were one-piece bathing suits (normally $5). Bargains in the South Oak Park business district included 2 pounds of sirloin steak for $1 on Dollar Day ONLY! One could even get a watch for a dollar.

At the Charlean, a woman’s dress shop at 161 Marion, Dollar Day meant a dollar off the price of every dress or hat. Summer bargains were available on clear-out “to make space for a smart full line for the College Girl and her High School Sister.” S.J. O’Neill Furniture Company, at 811 Madison Street, put a different twist on Dollar Day, offering $1 down and $1 per week on purchases ranging from mattresses and day beds to sewing cabinets and cedar chests. Shoe stores sold men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes at $1 per shoe.

When it was all over, Dollar Day was termed a “sensational success,” with customers lined up outside the stores, waiting for them to open. The response was so favorable, the Chamber considered making it a semi-annual event!