When I came to Chicago in 1979 (gulp!), you could still find a newsstand here and there. The most prominent, outside the Chicago Cultural Center at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street, was the first and last thing commuters saw at street level as they left and returned to the Illinois Central Railroad’s Randolph Street Station — the perfect place to pick up a paper or magazine for the train ride home.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the newsstand predated the 1929 stock market crash. At one point it was owned by “King of the Newsstands” Robert Katzman, a fellow Hyde Parker who also owned a busy newsstand at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue.
Richard J. Daley, “da Mare,” didn’t like newsstands, claiming many (most?) were dilapidated and didn’t fit in with his beautification plans for Chicago. It also sounds like he may have had the support of one particularly vocal citizen obsessed with getting rid of newsstands. In the end, like Meigs Field, they had to be destroyed.
By then, the newsstand at Randolph and Michigan, Rick’s News, was owned by Rick Graff, who’d bought it in 1984 when he would have been about 22 years old. (That makes Graff one year younger than me — and here I would have thought a newsstand owner would have been some crochety older man, the street equivalent of Mike Royko.) It’s hard to conceive of a young man investing in a newsstand in the 1980s.
From the Chicago Tribune, dated June 12, 1992 (when I would have been 30):
There are about 355 newsstands in the city. The city put final notices to apply for permits on 155 of the stands, and 85 of them did not respond. Those 85 are to be demolished.
. . .
Although the city began its work on the South Side, the most publicized case involves Rick’s News, on the corner of Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue, in front of the Chicago Public Library’s Cultural Center. Rick`s, which is owned by Rick Graff, is not one of the first 85 targeted, but the stand is expected to be demolished.
A newsstand has been at the corner for the past 80 years, but General Services Commissioner Benjamin Reyes and other Daley officials have made it clear that they want it removed.
Also from the Chicago Tribune, dated May 23, 1994:
OK. So City Hall won.
And Richard Graff, owner of the oddly charming newsstand on Randolph Street outside the Chicago Cultural Center, lost.
The long-running legal fight between Graff and Mayor Richard Daley’s administration ended when the U.S. Supreme Court refused on May 16 to hear Graff’s appeal of a lower court ruling that the city can force him to close his business.
Never mind that a newsstand has been at that location on Randolph for at least 70 years. Never mind that Graff paid $50,000 to buy the business in 1984. Never mind that he has a steady clientele for his magazines and comic books, not to mention dozens of passersby who pat his friendly Alaskan malamute-the one usually found wearing sunglasses.
. . .
Even people who have never spent a dime there can see that it is an eccentric little piece of a wonderfully eccentric city. Rick’s News belongs in that spot.
Finally, from June 13, 1994:
Crews tore down the stand Sunday afternoon, marking the last chapter in a four-year legal battle between the city and newsstand owner Richard Graff, 32.
. . .
“Do you believe it?” a passer-by muttered as he stared at the spot Rick’s no longer occupied. “This was a landmark.”
For 26 years, people new to Chicago have never browsed Rick’s News or experienced this piece of Chicago’s eccentric history.
Even if you’ve never seen a newsstand in person, you may have spotted them in vintage movies or TV shows, or in movies or TV shows set in the early to mid 1900s. One of my favorites is in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Big Goodbye.” Jean-Luc Picard, as his favorite hard-boiled private eye, Dixon Hill, didn’t think to bring money to pay “Mac,” the newsstand vendor. “Mac” says Dix can catch him next time. No wonder newsstands in Chicago were dilapidated! No cash for upkeep!
According to Yelp! there are a few newsstands left, including this highly rated one. It was out of Daley’s reach in Evanston, north of Chicago, and looks more like a store than a newsstand.
Here’s a review from March 2020:
I wish we could clone Chicago-Main Newsstand and put them all over the US because newsstands like this simply don’t exist anymore. They’re a dime a dozen in Europe but stateside if you want a Financial Times or Italian Vogue you need to subscribe. OR, you could go to Chicago-Main and get just about any magazine your heart could desire. Sports, travel, lifestyle, art, home decor, fashion, auto, literature, wedding, parenting, pet, food, architecture, naked people, crossword puzzles, sudoku, atlases, Chicago history, and a great newspaper selection. Cigarettes, candy, gum, and some greeting cards, too.
I’m glad it’s around. Where else could you get one of those elusive out-of-town papers?