21 August 2012

Lost City: Milwaukee Edition: Sullivan's Cigar Store

The wonderful-looking Sullivan's Cigar Store is on S. Packard Avenue in Cudahy, Wisconsin, a small city just south of Milwaukee, so close it might as well be a suburb. I came upon it recently after getting lost following a detour in Milwaukee, and all but hit the brakes, so stunned was I by the beauty of the old storefront.

Initially, I could find out little about Sullivan's and its fantastic sign, except that it was founded in 1931. As the neon tells us, the place sells smoker's supplies and also once cleaned and blocked hats. (Because men who smoke cigars also like to wear hats—a fact I'm sure was quite true back in the day.) There are old signs for Marlboro and Old Gold on the front of the store. It was not open the day I passed by, though it was a Wednesday in the middle of the day.

A chance search through the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal website, however, turned up this information: on March 10, 2011, one Mary Salvatore died at the age of 97. According to her obituary, "Mary, along with her husband [Joseph], owned and operated Sullivans Cigar Store on Packard Avenue in Cudahy for over 75 years." That would likely make Joseph and Mary Salvatore the founders of the store and perhaps its sole operators. Maybe they called it Sullivan's, thinking it a more palatable name to Wisconsin natives of the 1930s than the more foreign-sounding Salvatore's. Or maybe they bought it from a guy named Sullivan, who only ran it for a few years before selling out.

Mary and Joseph had no children. The store has possibly been dormant ever since Mary's death. 


BabyDave said...

Wow. Great find.

Anonymous said...

my dad use to shine shoes there back in 1930 and the back room was used by the mayor and police chief and other important people at that time to play poker and drink beer and the hard stuff.
I know this because my father shined shoes of the chief and received 5 dollars.

Anonymous said...

they poor women got held up a few years ago,the person that did it was never found.
what a low life

S C said...

Grew up in Cudahy. Loved Sullivans as a kid in the 70's & 80's. The smell of cigars & the coolness of the shop always fascinated me. It was like stepping back in time. I would go there with my dad & grandpa twice a week. Joe was very kind & sweet! We used to talk to him all the time. Here's a link to an article about which answers your questions: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1683&dat=19951006&id=YWwaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GC0EAAAAIBAJ&pg=5140,898781

Unknown said...

I grow up in Cudahy. I personally knew Joe, he was supply sarg in the 32nd National Guard, Company K of the 127th, we drilled every Monday night at the South Side Armory, at 6th and Mitchell. Later it was change to Company B of the 3rd batle group. I and couple buddies would stop in by Joe to get our boots shine for drill. We also bought our smokes from Joe. Joe was a friend to the younger crowd, he start a lot kids out by having them shine shoes.