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Main Street Memories (Louisville Historian Spring 2015)

by BSolek,

Lots of people's stories in this edition of Louisville Historian. I didn't finish the copy/paste/editing to make this story flow but you can access this newsletter on line in the history program web page on the Louisville library website.

Louisville is lucky to have Main Street. Called Second Street on the original 1878 town plat, it served as one of the two north-south commercial streets. In 1897 when the town restricted saloons to Front Street, Main Street became the civic hub, attracting city hall, banks, theaters, restaurants, social centers, and businesses. Today it remains a vibrant locus for business, dining, art, and shopping.

Anne Robinson

Anne is the Vice Chair of the Historical Commission and a tour guide for the Historical Museum’s historic downtown summer walking tours.

Pine and Main is my favorite place. On my tours, I ask people to look south towards Community Park and

imagine what they would have seen in the early 20th century: mine tailings piled several stories high. It was a huge dump of coal and dirt from the Acme Mine that would never be allowed to accumulate today, but it used to define the south end of Main Street. The mines would generate the tailings and they caught fire and burned slowly for years at a time. I like to imagine seeing

Main Street Memories By Jennifer Strand

miners with their lunch pails and coal-smudged faces walking to and from the mine, hearing mine whistles announcing shift changes, and smelling coal burning to run the mining operations. Back then there would have been no question that you stood on the corner of a street

in a coal mining town.

View of the mine dump for the Acme Mine, looking south on Main Street, circa 1920s.

Nancy Varra

Nancy is the Louisville City Clerk and she comes from one of Louisville’s pioneer Italian families.

My fondest memory of downtown Louisville was my Uncle Albert's grocery store – Varra's Grocery Store. We lived on a farm outside Louisville and it was such a treat to come to town and see all the wonderful things Uncle Albert and Aunt Elizabeth had on their store - Twinkies and candy - things we never had on the farm. Uncle Albert and Aunt Elizabeth were so gracious and generous. It was just the best day ever when we went to Town.

Varra’s Grocery Store was located at what is now the Huckleberry Restaurant at 700 Main Street.

the theater. Mrs. Romano shushed us regularly, sent chatty children home, and frequently stopped the movie entirely and announced, “When you all settle down we’ll turn the movie back on.” Mrs. Romano also patrolled the aisles with a flashlight. If a boy put his arm around a girl, Mrs. Romano would shine the light in his eyes and insist that he keep his hands to himself. Often when we got home, our parents already knew who we had been sitting with and who might have had their arms around us. They greeted us with comments like, “He’s way too old for you.” In 1968 when Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet came out with its tiny bit of nudity, it didn’t show at the Rex. They stopped the movie right before the scene, rolled it forward, and started it up again. No Louisville kids were going to have that image in their brains! Once we went to a movie in Boulder and were confused because none of this happened. We asked our parents about it. “Only in Louisville,” they said.

The Rex Theater was at 817 Main, which is now the location of the Madera Grill.

Chuck Sisk

Chuck was first elected to the Louisville City Council in 1991 and served as the Louisville mayor from 2003 until 2011.

The place on Main Street that tells a story of the city all on its own is the State Mercantile Building. When I first moved to town and for a long time afterwards, Steinbaugh Hardware took up the entire building. Shopping there was always a good experience. You got personal attention, friendly advice if you wanted it, and left the store with the right tools and materials to do whatever it was you had come in to do. When Home Depot built a store in Louisville as they had every right to do, Steinbaugh’s lost business and closed their doors.

This photo shows 700 Main in 1948. By 1955, it had become the location of Varra’s Grocery Store.

Chuck King

Chuck was a city councilman from 1971 to 1974.

Colacci’s was the restaurant you went to for special occasions. They had a club steak that was fantastic. Whenever I got a raise, I took the family there. One time my wife and I went there for a dinner celebration with our two children. It was a small town in the 1960s. When we walked in we saw Betty and Ben Symanski and said, “Hello.” From the moment we sat down, my daughter, who was still very young, fussed and cried and nothing we did would calm her down. Then Betty came up to our table and said, “Would you like me to hold the baby?” We said, “Yes!” For the rest of our meal Betty held and walked our baby so that we could enjoy our meal. I’ve never forgotten that. That’s the kind of town Louisville was.

Colacci’s Restaurant was located at 816 Main, which is the current location of the Empire.

Shelley Angell and Jenny Grilli

Shelley is the Executive Director of the Louisville Chamber of Commerce. Jenny is co-owner of Rocky’s Complete Painting. When we were in Junior High and High School we used to go to the Rex on Friday nights. Lots of kids did. The couple who ran it, Carmen and Ann Romano, took their responsibilities as monitors of underage children seriously. The Romanos allowed absolutely no talking inIn the 1970s, the Rex Theater still looked similar to how it had looked in 1957, as shown here.

It was a poignant time for Main Street. The subsequent redevelopment of Steinbaugh’s into a building that maintained its historic look and became useful and vibrant in a new way was a tribute to a beloved family and business and shows what the city can do to keep Main Street alive and relevant into the future.

The State Mercantile Building is at 801 Main Street.

and we coached them and their two bright young girls in English. At Jimmy’s request, language coaching included writing out all of the words to “Hotel California,” which he memorized word for word, and a few guitar lessons to go with it. We still love that family.

Bob Muckle

Bob Muckle has been the mayor of Louisville since 2011.

For me, Main Street is an overlapping series of memories. I grew up in South Boulder and my family visited Main Street in 1984, with Steinbaugh’s in the State Mercantile Building at 801 Main on the left and Senor T’s at 817 Main on the right.

Steve Mesple

Steve is the owner of Wildwood Guitars at 800 Main Street.

Here’s a Main Street story. We opened Wildwood Guitars in 1984. Since only about 2% of our business is local, many people don’t know that we are one of the top sellers of guitars in the country and well known in the rock and roll industry. A few years ago we got a call from Steve Miller of the Steve Miller Band. He wanted to know when we opened because if he hired a private plane he could spend some time at our store trying out guitars between a gig at Red Rocks and one in Idaho. On the day we set, I arrived at my store to see a limo on the curb with Steve Miller waiting inside. We went in. I told him about a time I had seen him in concert and how much I had enjoyed it. Miller didn’t want to talk about that. Instead he pulled out his iPad and said, “There are 86 guitars that I’d like to play, plus any that you think I should try and I have limited time. Let’s get going.” We set him up in a room in the back and he spent the entire day back there playing one guitar after another. At the end of the day I stood with him on Main Street in front of my store waiting with him for his limo. People passed by walking, biking, and driving as they always do. No one knew that a rock legend had just spent the day in their town and now stood on their sidewalks waiting for a ride.

For my wife, Marilyn, and me, having a business on Main Street has always been as much about the personalities and the families as it is about the business. Marilyn loved going down to the Marketplace Bakery [then located at 820 Main] because she loved the couple who ran it, loved the baked goods, and sometimes found a piece of furniture that made her happy. The owner, Kevin Thede, liked to shop for unusual furniture that he brought into his bakery for sale. I remember more than once looking down the street and seeing Marilyn and Kevin grinning ear to ear and lugging down the street some piece of unusual furniture that my wife just had to have. Good food, good friends, and a little bonus furniture shopping – that is my wife Marilyn’s Main Street memory.

We both loved Jimmy and Wei-Fen, the founders of Double Happy [at 740 Main]. They fed us delicious food

The Marketplace Building at 820 Main and Colacci’s Restaurant at 816 Main, 1999.

used to ride our bikes out to Karen’s Country Kitchen [at 700 Main] for breakfast. The route wound entirely through the country and down Marshall Road, and we ended up coasting down Murphy’s Hill to town. Later in high school, we came to Main Street to cruise. It was just like American Graffiti. The police would set up at what is now Louisville Middle School and The Elks Club and we would turn around at the school and just past the Blue Parrot. I left the area in college, but about 20 years later I returned to Louisville where my memories of Main Street have my current family in them. I remember our kids dressing our cat like the Statue of Liberty and walking in the pet parade. I remember walking in many parades as a candidate for city council or Mayor. I remember with particular fondness campaigning for the Historic Preservation Tax with my wife in a horse-drawn omnibus. Nowadays I like to walk on Main Street and pop in and say “Hi” to people I know. If you press for me for a favorite memory, it has to be my wedding rehearsal dinner at Colacci’s, where the Empire is now. It was fun and meaningful, and we were happy. We filled the entire room on the right and took pictures of all of us in our

barricades without spilling much. The Blue Parrot, Colacci’s, Pasquale’s, Senor T’s, and even the Track Inn put in a competitor. I won for the Blue Parrot the year they chose spaghetti and meatballs for the carrying food. It turns out that I was pretty good at riding a tricycle while carrying a plate of spaghetti. It was fun.

Suzanne Janssen

Suzanne is Louisville’s Cultural Arts and Special Events Coordinator.

I moved to Louisville in 1994 and, that winter, attended the Parade of Lights for the first time. My husband, sons (who were ages two and 6 months old at the time) and I came downtown for the Parade of Lights. It was very cold but people huddled together and there was an amazing energy! People were so happy celebrating the upcoming holidays. I visited the Historical Museum for the first time – it was packed with people – and I felt this overwhelming community pride. It was a beautiful night. My next favorite memory is returning to downtown in Fall 2013 after being away for 12 years. The transformation in downtown was truly amazing. There is such a vibrancy to downtown with the new restaurants, galleries, and unique shops, and a great night life! One of the most vivid memories is seeing my daughter (14) dressed as the Louisville Arts District character, Laddy, atop a fire truck with full horns blaring during last May’s First Friday Art Walk! What a memorable sight.

Jennifer Strand is a current member of the Louisville Cultural Council and a former member of the Louisville Historical Commission and Louisville History Foundation board. She also wrote about “Bocce: Louisville’s Other Ballgame” for the Spring 2014 issue of The Louisville Historian.

Melanie and Bob Muckle at their wedding rehearsal dinner at Colacci’s, August 1985.

Colacci’s bibs.

Paul Weissmann

Paul is the Boulder County Treasurer and manager of The Blue Parrot at 640 Main.

During Taste of Louisville, they used to have a Server’s Competition at Main and Spruce. They set up an obstacle course and each restaurant put in a competitor. The key was to get over, under, and through all the


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