Glass Block coffee shop, 1969

May 15, 1969

Glass Block was a pillar of commerce in downtown Duluth for decades, and in 1969 the venerable department store underwent major renovations. When they were complete, the News Tribune was on hand to document the changes.

The store’s newly remodeled restaurant is featured in the photo above from May of that year. At lower left, patrons (left to right) Gladys Archambault, Clara Hexum and Francis Brandenburg enjoy a coffee break. To the right, restaurant manager Agnes Goff keeps a watchful eye on the operation.

Goff managed the restaurant from 1955 to 1978, according to her obituary in the News Tribune. She died in 2003 at age 90.

The downtown Glass Block store, located at 128-132 W. Superior St., closed in 1981. The building — which had housed the store since 1892 — was razed to make way for what is now the US Bank building at the corner of Superior Street and Second Avenue West.

A second Glass Block store opened in the Miller Hill Mall in 1973. The Glass Block name lingered on at that location until fall 1998, when it was sold and converted into the present-day Younkers store.

Interestingly, the number you would have used to call Ms. Goff at the Glass Block in 1969 — 722-8311 — still is the phone number in use by Younkers at the Miller Hill Mall.

The Glass Block has been featured in several other News Tribune Attic posts: here, here and here.

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Here is one more photo from that 1969 remodeling project:

White leather shoes are on special for $8.90:

And, in the background is the Closet Shop:

14 thoughts on “Glass Block coffee shop, 1969

  1. Wow. Thank you for this. I waitress at that middle counter loop across from Aggie when I was sixteen years old. She was a tough task mistress but bless her if she didn’t run the most elegant coffee shop in any department store ever! I remember it well. It was in the basement of the downtown (I believe the Miller Hill Mall was in its nascent years–thus the differentiation) store and she insisted on those fresh flowers you see at the hostess stand to be replaced every day. What a hard core trooper of the food and beverage industry she was!

  2. In the 70s I worked mopping the first floor of the Glass Block, including the public restrooms. What I found in the restrooms shall remain unmentioned.

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  8. I am so happy my brother & I grew up when we did! We were able to experience taking the bus downtown, with mom, at Christmas to visit Santa & see all the decorations. We would go into Glass Block after & mom would buy us a cinnamon roll which was cut in haft, buttered & then put on the grill. In my teenage years my friends & I would fix our hair, dress up & take the bus “downtown”. Our first stop, Glass Block, then Bakers Shoe store & of course Three Sisters. Now girls go shopping in pajama bottoms, sweatpants, slippers, tank tops & looks like they don’t have time to comb their hair. Not much pride left in how you look in public. When my first child was born, I worked at Glass Block during Christmas rush. I absolutely loved it. You felt like you were in a big city like Chicago working in that big, wonderful store. I felt like an old friend has died when it was torn down. There will never be another “downtown” like we had. Our children & grandchildren will never experience what we did. We can’t explain it to them, but we can keep the memories in our hearts. Just the name Glass Block brings back the smell of those cinnamon rolls browning on the grill in the coffee shop.

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  10. I remember when Glass Block closed, it was a sad time for sure. All the big downtown stores were closing or had already closed and moved to “the mall”; Glass Block, Wahl’s, Wards, Penney’s, Sears… A great friend of mine worked for the company that was in charge of demolishing the Glass Block building and he took my brother and I in there to look around. It was a surreal experience; a HUGE store that was devoid of shoppers and workers; that was a weird feeling being in there by ourselves. All of the fixtures and furniture and finishes (carpet, wallpaper, etc) were still there and it was like everyone had just walked away and left everything where it was on closing day. Since everything was being thrown out, we took some things home, some knick-knack-store-furnishing-type things, like little signs and odds and ends. I remember we took a lot of nice, thick, perfect, brown carpet, from the shoe area if I remember right, for our “band room” where we practiced. I also remember walking up and down stairways I never really noticed when the store was open for business; odd tucked-away staircases. I’m kicking myself for not bringing a camera in there with me! What a loss for downtown to have all of those classic department stores move away.

  11. Jim, I remember that bakery, especially for the white bread. I grew up in a house with Taystee and Master bread, so “bakery” bread was a luxury. One of my sisters worked at downtown Glass Block for many years, and used to buy a bag of Glass Block bakery bread before we went to the cabin for a weekend. Best toast on earth!

  12. All the photos are great!!! I remember the Glass
    Block and the coffee shop. Many a great lunch was enjoyed there. Do any readers remember the Glass Block Bakery? Great cinnamon rolls and white bread to name a few of their baked goods.

  13. Love these photos! How fun to see Glass Block again. I especially remember the cafe area and Mrs Goff. Thanks for posting these.

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