We Remember 1964: “And Then there was the Suburbanette” – in Pine River Plaza

An early artist’s sketch of the proposed Suburbanette in Pine River Plaza, circa late 1963. The Suburbanette was the vision of Bert Elsley of St. Louis, who owned the St. Louis IGA.

Mrs. Bert Elsley cuts the ribbon for the opening of the new Suburbanette in Pine River Plaza. The first three days brought in large crowds, and sold enough five cent hot dogs and Cokes to feed 5,000 customers.

The February 6, 1964 advertisement for a contest to name the new store. Who was the winner? St. Louis City Clerk-Treasurer Kenneth Barnum. He won $25 for the winning name.

As new entertainment flowed into Pine River Plaza in the early 1960s, a fourth building appeared. Bert Elsley had an idea. Elsely, the owner of Elsley’s IGA in St. Louis, decided to try to place a store next to Gratiot Lanes bowling alley and Leonard’s Outdoor gas station.

It was not a very big location for a store. The building, which Elsely leased, sat sixty feet off the road with a forty feet of store front. Inside, it had only 3,000 square feet of floor space. The Donald A. Wineland Company from Kawkawlin did the construction Still, Elsley said that the parking lot could hold at least 25 cars, and he envisioned having an outdoor summer market. When he first opened,  when  he needed more room because of all of the customers that came. Elsley’s store stayed open until 11:00 pm each evening, including Sundays. Soon, he operated from 7:30 am to 11:30 pm, seven days a week.

In February 1964, Elsely held a contest to name the location and the person with the best suggestion received $25. People in  St. Louis laughed when Elsley announced that the winner was Kenneth Barnum, who was the city clerk and manager. Barnum’s proposal was to name the new store “The Suburbanette.”

When the official opening of the Surbanette took place, Mrs. Elsley cut the ribbon. To encourage business in the first three days, Elsley had 27 door prizes to give to the first customers, including a portable TV set. Customers also indulged in five cent hot dogs and Cokes – to the tune of 5,000 people, according to Elsley.

Unfortunately, Bert Elsley suffered serious health problems in the next year and he was forced to sell the Suburbanette. A couple from Lakeview, Fred and Kathryn Harkens, bought the store and had operating hours of 10:00 am to 10:00 pm daily.

In mid-December 1970, the business changed hands again. This time, Gordon and Audrey Mackenzie bought the store and took it over that month. At the  grand opening, Gordon and other community leaders all wore Scottish kilts. Steve and Clark Mackenzie operated the store until February 2021 when Jameson and Sara Evitts bought Mackenzies.

Although the location that was known as the Suburbanette and later Mackenzies, it remains the second oldest operating business that originated in Pine River Plaza since the early 1960s. Not bad for the smallest store at the corner.

Copyright 2023 James M Goodspeed

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