Monday, December 19, 2011


Dretzka's Department Store - image courtesy
 of Mark 2400on
Have you ever been to a place that simultaneously fills you with sadness and glee?  That happened to me on Saturday.

For the third straight year, we've held our Milwaukee ATC end-of-the-year party at the beautiful Cudahy Family Library (which is, not surprisingly, in Cudahy, Wisconsin).  For those of you who enjoy a variety of pork products, this name may ring a bell - as in, Patrick Cudahy, the purveyors of fine smoked meats, ham and bacon.  Can you imagine having a city named after you?  Maybe someday you'll visit Kolstad, Wisconsin.  :D

The party is always a lovely affair (complete with a DELISH potluck lunch and our regular trade, plus a white elephant swap and time to create), and almost always includes a trip to Dretzka's Department Store, which is about a half-block away.  And here's where the wabi-sabi enters the story.

From the moment you enter via the very heavy wooden door, the overwhelming sense of nostalgia is present.  The smell, the lighting (incandescent vs. fluorescent), the AM radio playing, the new-old stock available on every shelf - it's like time has stood still for the last 45 years.  Judging by the decor, I'd say that's the last time they updated their look, too.

Dretzka's building is impressive!  I don't know if it was specifically built to house the store, but that just may be the case.  It has been in operation continually for the last 110 years and the fourth generation of the Dretzka family operates it still.  I'm so glad it's still there, but it certainly has seen better days.  One can't help but wonder what the store was like in its heyday. You may remember me talking about Dretzka's briefly in this post about vintage bags - well, they still give them out (an unexpected part of the new-old stock!).

Oh, but check out some of the items I purchased there.  I can't say for sure, but I'm going to guess that these items have been in the store since the beginning (i.e., they weren't bought at an estate sale).  I've deduced this by a few clues: the price tags (complete with cents sign!), the smell (the deliciously heady aroma of time) and, well, a thin coating of dust.

Isn't it lovely?  :D

Isn't it funny that we were just talking about hair nets?  Well, I found more - for 59 cents apiece!  Aren't they marvelous?  Again, these HAVE to be new-old stock!  In keeping with the old lady hair connection, I present to you my favorite find of the day - these hair bonnets, which I got for 49 cents each.  SWOON.  I have a personal reason for loving these - my Grammie, who just passed away this past summer, never left home without her "baboushka", as she called it.  In fact, one was in the drawer of her etagere and was about to be thrown away when we were cleaning her room, and I rescued it.  In my mind, this article is so indelibly linked to her that to throw it away would be like throwing away a piece of history.  I keep it with all of the other family artifacts that I inherited and I will pass along the story to future generations.

I also got GREAT inspiration for an art project from these bonnets - I don't want to give too much away, so stay tuned.

For those of you who live in the Milwaukee area (or are up for a road trip) and enjoy visiting antique stores, make sure Dretzka's is on your list.  It's a living museum of mid-20th century dry goods!


  1. I wish this post had come a month ago. We threw out several of the rain bonnets when we cleaned out my aunt's house. Now I'm going to cry when I see what you do with them. ; }

  2. Oh Jan - I didn't mean to make you sad! :( It is good to know, though, that there are others out there who look upon these bonnets with a mixture of wistfulness and joy. :D

  3. I'm so sorry I missed the ATC meet this month! I would have LOVED to visit this place, too! I'll have to put it on my bucket list of places to see. Hope you and Brian and Dudley have a very Merry Christmas, Mel! XOXO

  4. It was great fun, Eileen! You'd really enjoy Dretzka's. :D I wish the happiest of Holidays to you, Wayne and Catie too! :D

  5. I would love to visit this store. Quite a road trip from south Texas, but sounds like it's worth it.