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Downtown Sales

You may have noticed in the past month or so that the old sign has been removed from the Lange Motor Building, best known as the location of the former Carlson Book store, revealing an older sign for Downtown Sales.

What was Downtown Sales? It was an odds and ends store that preceded Bob Carlson’s bookstore venture. Does anyone remember anything about it? We’re talking late 1970s.

R. O. Carlson Used Book & Record closed in March 2003. Big Lake Book had a short run after that, followed by Boardwalk Book. Rod Raymond and Tim Nelson own the building now, which is being gutted of literally tons of old water-damaged books and magazines. No word on future plans.

This part of Superior Street used to be called “Automobile Row,” up until about the 1960s. The Carlson Book building was home to Interstate Auto Co., Kent Motors, Lange Motors and probably a bazillion other businesses.

So there’s a half-ass history outline. Fill in the blanks if you know anything.

27 Comments

hbh1

about 7 years ago

I was told by someone that Downtown Sales was similar to Central Sales in West Duluth -- a sort of "anything" store. Central Sales might even be the successor or connected in some way.

tony d

about 7 years ago

Yes, that portion of Superior Street was mostly about selling cars. The building the NorShor was built in to (facing Superior Street, not the old Orpheum entrance on 2nd) was originally built as the Orpheum Garage: a parking garage that offered washing and "greasing." Later, car rentals. It wasn't converted to retail and office space until around 1929, when the Orpheum entrance was moved to Superior St. Before they were demolished for the I-35 expansion, many of the buildings that once stood on Superior between 4th West and 8th West were car dealerships.

TimK

about 7 years ago

Downtown Sales was operated by Bud Persgard (who took over Carlson's late in the game). It was mostly salvage and electronics odds and ends, kind of like Central Sales, but no connection at all. Bud's father owned the building for many years -- including at least part of the time during which cars were sold.

hbh1

about 7 years ago

Also... before cars were sold in that building, I was told it was a place to buy carriages.

spy1

about 7 years ago

Address is 206 E. Superior St., BTW. Demise story: News-Tribune Wednesday, September 25, 2002 By Peter Passi At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Robert Olaf Carlson learned the time for talking about overdue taxes had passed. Internal Revenue Service agents paid a surprise visit to his eclectic used book and music store in downtown Duluth. Agents told staff to collect their personal effects and leave the business. Then, a team of about 10 agents temporarily closed the store and proceeded to systematically load a truck with old books , records and CDs from overflowing shelves of the crowded old downtown store, R.O. Carlson Used Book & Record . The agency seized merchandise to help settle long-overdue tax payments. In all, Carlson owes $39,127 to the federal government and another $119,627 to the state, according to tax liens on file at the St. Louis County land records office. Eric Smith, a spokesman for the IRS, declined to discuss Carlson 's case specifically. ``Ordinarily, if a business is behind on taxes, we try first to make some kind of arrangement or work out some method of payment,'' Smith said. ``One of our options is to seize property in lieu of payment, but it's the last resort.'' Although Carlson had no direct warning of Tuesday's seizure, he wasn't altogether surprised. ``I felt something like this was going to come down eventually,'' he said. ``I've owed them money for a number of years, and I haven't had the money to make payments.'' However, Carlson said he has kept current on taxes so far this year. This is not the first time Carlson has tangled with authorities. In the 1960s, he successfully defended himself against numerous charges of selling obscene materials at predecessor bookstores in Duluth, the Twin Cities and Rochester. His remaining store is in Duluth. Tuesday's store closure was temporary, but some customers who encountered agents feared the worst: that the store had been closed for good. ``This hit me like a ton of bricks,'' said Jeff Gibson, a regular. ``I'd sure like to go in there and browse one last time,'' he said wistfully. Carlson 's wide-ranging inventory includes science fiction, old magazines, classic works of literature, music of all genres, romance novels, self-help guides, comics and pornography. Gibson's grief about the store closing was probably premature. Carlson , who has been selling books in Duluth for 25 years, plans to keep his store alive. Agents left the shop at 3 p.m., returning the keys to Carlson . Just one hour later, it was open for business again. Carlson knows the survival of his business will hinge on his ability to strike a deal with the IRS. ``The plan now is to come up with enough money and a plan to satisfy the IRS so they won't come again,'' he said. The price of a return visit would be hefty, Carlson predicted. ``Next time, it will be the whole store they take.'' Carlson said it's his understanding that he will have 30 to 60 days to make arrangements with the IRS, which could even include reclaiming inventory seized Tuesday. He'd like to have many of the items back. ``Someone kind of knew what they were doing,'' Carlson said. ``They hit our rare- book and rare- record sections hard.'' Dozens of boxes of collectible comic books and old Life magazines also left the store in cardboard boxes. And Carlson estimates that more than 20,000 record albums were confiscated. Agents tried to pick and choose what might sell well at auction, leaving the easy-listening and classical music sections virtually untouched, said Ben Marsen, who helps oversee the shop's music section. The IRS didn't get all it bargained for, however. While agents carted away about 5,000 CD cases, Marsen noted that they forgot the actual discs, which were stashed behind the counter to thwart theft. Picture: Ted Boraas, with the Internal Revenue Service, loads up boxes of books confiscated from R.O. Carlson Used Book & Record into a truck Tuesday morning. Books , records and CDs from the store, at 206 E. Superior St. in Duluth, were seized for nonpayment of taxes. Carlson : "I felt like this was going to come down eventually.

jessige

about 7 years ago

What are they doing with the water-damaged stuff?

TylerMcMorry

about 7 years ago

Sure would've liked to go in there again. Looking forward to updates.

spy1

about 7 years ago

Looks like 206 E. Superior was once Totman's Livery about 1900, which once had a speedy horse named Alice that kicked ass in the Duluth race circuit. By 1915, a place called Interstate Auto was on the site. Selling those new-fangled things called automobiles. Manager J.T. Peacha spent most of the 1910s convincing Duluthians that they needed more trucks and fewer horses. And when gas prices skyrocketed to as high as 13 cents a gallon, he admonished the oil companies and touted his high-mileage Kissel cars. I have some old ads on PDF, but the link to attach simply wants a URL, and doesn't have a 'browse' option.

Paul Lundgren

about 7 years ago

I think the current building went up in 1915, constructed for Interstate Auto, so the livery would have been in a different building, same location. Spy1, you should be able to upload a PDF just like a JPEG. I'm not sure why it's not working for you.

Adam

about 7 years ago

Lange Motors. Jessica Lange was born in Cloquet. Any connection? I still giggle when I think of that IRS raid. They took the dumbest shit they thought was worth the most money: Star Trek books, all of the books from the "old books" section, CDs (empty CD cases, since the discs were behind the counter...); but they didn't even look sideways at the p0rn or the vinyl — the only things of value in the store.

Paul Lundgren

about 7 years ago

I have no idea what's happening to the water-damaged stuff. My guess is that what was of value from the inventory was removed a few years ago, and what's left is pretty much blocks of random books and magazines stuck together from years of sitting under a leaky roof.

Adam

about 7 years ago

Anything that hadn't been removed was crap. And after a short period of time wet, moldy crap.

TimK

about 7 years ago

Wet Moldy Crap -- Duluth's newest punk band!

TopOfTheHillMan

about 7 years ago

Does porn ever get moldy?

Adam

about 7 years ago

Sure. If you're into that.

Jim M

about 7 years ago

I do remember the original location of Bob Carlson's bookstore at the old Granada theater where Fond-Du-Luth casino now sits. The mountain of 50s/60s/70s memorabilia piled up on the old stage was unbelievable.

hbh1

about 7 years ago

Stop giving me flashbacks, Adam. Don't worry about what was lost. Thousands of copies of Dianetics and Tom Clancy books. I could have built a house just with copies of The Hunt for Red October. Though a Dianetics house would have been sweet. Tries to stifle my long buried fantasies of R.O. and the Cask of Amontillado.

Larry

about 7 years ago

The Granada was where the casino parking ramp is now. Carlson Book was located in the ShelDon building among other locations before the Granada.

digit3

about 7 years ago

I think that it's going to become a brewery for the Brewhouse plus another Rod and Tim bar. Starfire everywhere!!

heysme

about 7 years ago

I remember the Granada being between Lake and First West at one time.

Paul Lundgren

about 7 years ago

Nope. Larry is right. The Granada Theatre was where the casino parking lot is now. Between Lake and First West was the Pastoret-Stenson Block. Maybe you're confusing the Granada with the Wabasha, Heysme!

tony d

about 7 years ago

Paul, there is a chance that both Larry and heysme could be right. Many of these theaters moved two and even three times. The theatre aspect of researching the "Lost Duluth" project has been very complicated for this very reason. And entrances were moved: entrance to the Orpheum moved to Superior Street in 1929 and advertised movies for the Garrick, which was operated by the same management--and we've found at least two addresses for the Garrick.

Paul Lundgren

about 7 years ago

I suppose there's a chance, but I doubt it. The Granada was in that spot for at least 50 years. I also should have noted that the Strand Theater was between Lake and First Avenue East, and maybe that is what Heysme remembers. Here's the Strand in July 1987:

TimK

about 7 years ago

I remember when the Lyric was knocked down to make way for the Holiday (then Normandy) Center.

Paul Lundgren

about 7 years ago

Here's the Normandy under construction, from the cover of a 1978 pictorial calender published by Stewart-Taylor Co. I think it was only about five years later that Holiday Inn took over and the Normandy became the Holiday Center. ... and now we are officially on a tangent.

Boris Karlove

about 7 years ago

Boris cleaned up the valuable vinyl best he could in '03, it took some doing, but he was diligent. Then he cleaned out the entire vintage collection of rare American West periodicals '66-'78. When he began to run out of items to spend his credit on, turned his attention to some of the vintage Playboys, for the articles. I guess he wanted to know what the troops in Vietnam were reading. Sounds like he can finally take some real credit for sticking it to the man. One of the absconded titles was a mint Joplin double-album gatefold from Columbia ... Get it while you can. I wonder if Rob and Tim are going to have '03 throwback prices on their new beer? I didn't mind the $2.75 happy pints, and thought the $5 pint, which followed city trends, was timely with the global economic collapse. Superior never caught on.

Thom J. Peterson

about 6 years ago

Have just read the comments here and find them interesting. My father's Uncle Ben worked at Lange Motors and when we were kids he would take up and down in the automobile elevator. Thrilling. I was born in Duluth in 1941 and attended movies often at the Granada, Norshor, Lyric, Lyceum and Garrick downtown. I remember when the Garrick was torn down in 1955 to build the first downtown parking ramp. I also went often on Saturdays to the Star Theatre in the West End (5 cents!) to see the movie and the latest chapter of whatever serial was playing. On Sundays, after dinner, my brother and sister and I often took the bus downtown to see the double feature at the Lyceum and when I was in college organized a theater group and we presented four musicals on stage there during 1962-63. I moved away from Duluth the day after graduation from UMD in 1965 to go to graduate school at Yale (Drama School) and have lived in Connecticut ever since but was in Duluth this summer for a birthday celebration (my 70th). Unfortunately Downtown Duluth is so sad and lacking the excitement it had when I was growing up but it is the fate of thousands of other vibrant cities that have been abandoned for the malls.

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