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Monday, March 26, 2012

Westside store(y): the old shops on West Fulton Street

Our best memories are often place-related and too often those places don't exist anymore. If you, like Steve, have fond memories of a certain localeand of a certain small business in particularin Grand Rapids or elsewhere, we'd love to hear about it. Please share your memories in the comments section below. 

Now a micro-salon, Julie's Hair Place used to be
The Krazy House, a popcorn shop
By Steve Siciliano

I grew up on the lower west side of Grand Rapids where a house on Hovey between Lane and Marion was the center of my childhood universe. When I was very young I wasn’t allowed to venture past those two north-south avenues and so a block-long length of sidewalk served as my playground. I got to know that sidewalk intimately. Even in the dark, with sparks flying off the steel wheels of my clamped on roller-skates, I instinctively knew each section where tree roots created dangerous uplifts that could send a speeding skater tumbling.

When I was old enough to ride a bike my universe expanded. Two blocks west were the ponds, ball fields and wooded hills of John Ball Park. To the east was the Grand River where we fished for carp and sucker off the bridges or for catfish and the occasional bass and crappies from the banks. To the south beyond Butterworth we hunted birds and squirrels with slingshots and BB guns in the expanse of woods that lined the west-flowing river. We thought of Fulton Street, with its collection of shops and stores, as our neighborhood’s northern boundary.

Maybe it’s because I've spent over thirty years in retail that I often think nostalgically about those Fulton Street businesses—the Dairy Queen on the corner of Fulton and Lane where a dime would get you an ice-cream cone, an ice-cold slush or a Dilly Bar; Nawara’s Hardware where the owner would always give deals on the fishing lures displayed in a glass case; the orange and brown A&W root beer stand where they kept the mugs in ice water, where you could get a frothy drought for a nickel and you could take a gallon jug of root beer home for a dollar (a precursor to the growler system employed by breweries today).

On the northwest corner of Lane and Fulton was a little shop called The Krazy House where you could by a bag of butter-soaked popcorn for a dime or Colored Korn or Caramel Korn for a quarter. Up towards the park was Ball Park Shop Rite, a grocery store, and right next to it was Ball Park Pharmacy with its candy and comic books and a soda fountain where you could sit in air-conditioned comfort with a bag of New Era potato chips and a glass of cherry cola.  

The Dairy Queen and hardware store have somehow survived, but the popcorn shop closed long ago and the Shop Rite just this past year. The pharmacy is now a party store and there's a McDonalds where the root beer stand used to be. Change is inevitable but it's not always good. Especially when change leaves nothing but empty space, and memories.


  1. Annette SicilianoMarch 26, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    Steve, How you have taken me back in time. I often think about the old neighborhood. My playground was our back yard and yours. Since it was right next door. The only time I was able to go to the Krazy House, Dairy Queen or anywhere else on Fulton was with our parents, Laurie or you. I'm sorry you and Laurie had to drag me along with you places when I know you really didn't want me there. I guess, that's why I had to go. So you guys stayed out of trouble... I could ride my bike one house past yours and one house past ours! I remember you use to tell me that a witch lived in the little tiny storage shack on the south side on Hovey close to Lane St by that company or what ever was there. You would tell me she would steal me and I'd never be able to go home again! As I get older and things have changed so much.I miss all the old times and I only wish that Jamie would have been able to enjoy all the neighborhood warmth that we had growing up. I always got the same thing from Krazy House and Dairy Queen. Caramel Korn and a chocolate Dilly Bar! And don't forget, we didn't even have to drive to go to a doctor appointment since they were right across the street from Nawara's Hardware. Steve,thanks for sharing nice memories. Annette

  2. Hi Steve! I love to learn about the history of the west side and the things that my parents did for fun as kids. My dad grew up on Garfield, just south of Sacred Heart Church and I now live on Dayton. Everytime I look out my window at the steeple or hear the church bells or take a walk down the street towards my grandparents old house where my dad grew up I think about him as a young boy walking to school or riding his bike....almost 70 years ago. He probably frequented some of the places you've mentioned, I'll have to ask him.

    Nice blogging with you. Buon giorno!

    Sarah Ciucci

  3. leave it to my brother to scare yet another innocent child. sorry annette! i tried to always be around my little brothers and cousins, but sometimes a girl just has to go to ballpark drugstore and break one of those banana split balloons. it was a good day when you got a banana split for free!

  4. I remember taking my son to Siciliano's Market on Plainfield and the older guy behind the counter always offering him a pretzel!

  5. I grew up in Battle Creek, but my grandparents lived on Butterworth by O'Brien St. I used to stay with them for a week in the summer. We used to walk to the zoo, then would walk to Krazy House Popcorn for their multi-colored popcorn. On the way back we would stop at the Coca Cola Bottling Plant on Butterworth. You could get a Coke from the machine in the lobby for a nickel. Great times and great memories.

  6. I miss the Krazy House soo much, I have fond memories of my dad taking my sister and I there. I can still remember the taste of the best popcorn in the world. Sure wish it could come back.