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Bach & Abel, Northwest corner, Main and Washington, 1886

Bach & Abel, Northwest corner, Main and Washington, 1886 image

Dry goods were sold on this corner for over 120 years. In 1867 Philip Bach moved his store to this new business block selling fabric, cloaks, blankets, linens, and notions. Ann Arbor once supported as many as fifteen stores selling dry goods. Before these shops began to carry ready-made items, most clothing, bed sheets, and household linens were made at home. Dressmakers, milliners, and tailors provided custom clothing. When Bruno St. James purchased the store in 1895, he employed Bach's young bookkeeper, Bertha Muehlig. Loved by her customers and employees, she owned and ran the business from 1911 until her death in 1955. Muehlig's specialized in old-fashioned, hard-to-find items like "Tillie Open Bottoms" (women's long underwear). William Goodyear, St. James's former partner, ran another dry goods business nearby. By the 1950s, Goodyear's had expanded next to Muehlig's to become downtown’s largest department store.

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