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A sign of Alexandria's past comes to light

A J.C. Penney sign was found under-neath some tin that was taken down this week at Past and Present Home Gallery at 619 Broadway in Alexandria. (Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff)

A piece of Alexandria's past was unexpectedly uncovered this week. On the storefront of a downtown antique shop.

Jeff and Lynelle Lanoue, owners of Past and Present Home Gallery, are in the process of updating the front of the building at 619 Broadway, which is owned by Matt Agrimson.

When workers took down the white tin that was covering a long, narrow brick portion of the building above the entrance awning, they were surprised to see a golden yellow sign adorned with the words, "J.C. Penney Company."

"I didn't know it was back there - nobody did," said Jeff Lanoue.

The sign is in good shape and has caused more than few double-takes from passers-by, wondering what J.C. Penney's was doing downtown, next to the Coldwell Banker/Crown Realtors building.

As it turns out, of course, J.C. Penney was a fixture of the downtown area for many decades.

The first Alexandria Penney store opened in July of 1927 at 112 Broadway.

On November 7, 1940, it opened at a new location known as the Hanson Building at 619-621 "South" Broadway, where Past and Present Home Gallery is now, without the "south" part in its address.

At the newspaper's request, the Douglas County Historical Society did some research and came across a Park Region Echo clipping that provided some insights about the store's opening. Thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise was on display in every department, according to A.M. Olsen, manager.

Features included "fluorescent lighted showcases, a great expansion of stock in every department, all stained natural wood modernistic design counters, and a modernistic design and attractive display for every department in the store," ac-cording to the clipping.

J.C. Penney stayed at that site for more than 35 years. In July, 1977, the company announced it would be moving to the Viking Plaza Mall, its present day home.

Lanoue isn't sure yet what will happen with the sign. They may try to keep it where it is but it would be partially hidden by the awning so they may take it down and bring it inside the store for others to see and remember.

"One thing is for sure," Lanoue said. "We're going to keep it here in town."

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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