CHICAGO — Mike Abt said his grandparents would be mighty impressed 80 years after they founded a teeny, tiny radio store in Logan Square.
Over the last eight decades, the former Abt Radio has gone from a small shop at 2858 N. Milwaukee Ave. with three employees to mega-sized Abt Electronics in Glenview.
Two of the first three workers at Abt Radio were its founders, Jewel and David Abt, who lived in Chicago when they started the business in 1936 with $800. According to his 1996 obituary, David Abt originally wanted to go into the grocery business but his wife objected because he knew radios from working at the old Fair store.
When Abt opened, its biggest sellers were transistor radios and heaters.
"Our roots were in the city," said Mike Abt, one of four brothers who are current co-presidents of the company.
The store, which now sits on 37 Glenview acres and has 1,300-plus employees, is undergoing further expansion over the next few months. A high-end appliance area and furniture section will debut soon, and 1,500 solar panels are being installed on the Abt roof to contribute a portion of the store's electricity. The store also saves water collected from the roof to sprinkle its lawns.
Chicago still holds a firm place in Abt's market, even though the store moved out of the city in 1975. Mike Abt estimated half of its customers live in Chicago, and many third- and fourth-generation city residents still frequent the store.
Mike Abt said the next generation of his family, which includes children and nieces and nephews, are already learning the business.
"My grandparents would be really proud," Mike Abt said.
Check out some of the Abt ads over the years here and look at some old-school photos below.
Abt in Logan Square in 1968. [Abt]
Abt advertisement in 1964. Using the federal government's inflation calculator, $218 would be $1,689.40 today. [Abt]
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