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Memory Lane: Share your memories of the ‘Greatest Store in Northern Ontario’

For most of the 20th century, Silverman’s Department Store on Elm Street was the Wal-Mart of its day, serving generation after generation of Sudburians
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Silverman's Department Store. (Ontario Jewish Archives)

Sudbury's Silverman's Department Store advertised itself as the "Greatest Store in Northern Ontario."

Founded by Aaron Silverman, who arrived in Sudbury from Poland around 1889 and who originally sold men's work clothing from a packsack, Silverman's was the city's first department store, an impressive three-storey building on Elm Street with a big-city selection of merchandise.

Aaron's son, Saul, a business and community leader, helped establish Sudbury General Hospital and Laurentian University in 1960, serving as the first chair of the hospital's board and a member of the university's board of governors. Aaron's nephew, Max, was a legendary hockey coach and a mayor of Sudbury.

The Silverman's building still has a stately presence on main street. It was purchased a few years ago by the Querney family and is home to Querney’s Office Plus.

Do you have memories of working there? Students got their first job experience  working on Saturdays, while many Sudburians were employed at Silverman's for decades and were well-known to its regular customers.

Many older Sudburians will remember Silverman's as one of the first stores in the city with an elevator.

Did you purchase clothes for back to school in the teens' Pit Shop? Did you spend your entire allowance in the record department called Music World? Tell us about visits to Toy-a-rama in the store's basement.

Or you might remember going to see Santa Claus at Silverman's. Sudbury's first Santa, Wilf Salo, worked in the advertising department. As part of the 1934 Christmas promotional campaign, Salo dressed up as St. Nick. It was a role he would play for more than 50 years.

In March 2006, Michael Atkins, publisher of Northern Life, credited Silverman's for saving the newspaper's "bacon" by advertising during a downturn in the economy.

Sudbury.com invites readers to share their memories of Silverman's.

We want you to tell us your story (or stories!). Post your stories in the comments below, on Facebook or email them to editor@sudbury.com. If you do comment, be aware we may use your name and story in the follow-up piece in two weeks.

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer in Greater Sudbury. She writes mostly about history for Sudbury.com. Memory Lane is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.