The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

February 24, 2013

Purse, mirror hint at Danville’s past

When I shop at some of the local antique stores in Danville, I’m always on the lookout for items that originated in Danville, primarily spice tins from the Grab-It-Here stores or from the Payton-Palmer or Paxton grocery distributors that used to have warehouses in the city.

Once in a while, I’ll find something interesting from Danville that’s not a spice tin. Just recently at Sweet Repeats on North Street I found one such treasure: A black patent leather purse circa 1950s or 1960s.

The black patent leather was smudged with fingerprints and the dainty gold chain handle was broken, but I picked up the purse anyway and peeked inside. Lo and behold, it had a label that read: Berkowitz, Danville, Ill. This, indeed, was a find!

I remembered first learning about Berkowitz Luggage and Music on North Vermilion Street when I last wrote my Nostalgic Nuggets column several years ago.

It was the late Anna Owens, who died just last year, who brought the longtime luggage shop to my attention. In a Nostalgic Nuggets column that ran on March 8, 2007, Owens wondered if anyone remembered Berkowitz Luggage and Music Store on the east side of North Vermilion Street.

“I worked there when I was in high school,” she said at the time. “Not only did they have fine luggage, they also had expensive purses and billfolds.”

The late Joe Berkowitz’s family arrived in Danville in 1927 and opened the family business, Berkowitz Luggage.

Joe eventually would run the family store and added pianos, organs and keyboards in 1962, making the store Berkowitz Luggage and Music. He ran the store full-time from 1949 until 1986. Joe Berkowitz died in 2008.

With a little window cleaner, the black patent leather shines like new again and the gold chain handle has been repaired. I’m so glad to be the new owner of this piece of Danville history.

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