ALTON — New life is being brought to a landmark building.
Prominently known as the World’s Fair building, 322 E. Broadway opened in May under a new name, the 1904 General Store.
Christine Velloff of Alton, who lives behind the building on Third Street, said she has admired the building for years. So it only made sense for her and her brother Mark Adams, partners in the real estate venture Velloff-Adams Properties, to buy the building.
The store’s wares include bulk candy like Sixlets, fudge and chocolate bars of various flavors from the East Coast. The store also houses a gift shop that includes J.R. Watkins products, repurposed furniture, wooden signs that can be customized and more.
Velloff said the idea for the store’s name came from a couple of close friends and makes reference to the building’s use in the St. Louis 1904 World’s Fair.
The building’s handcrafted German Black Forest woodwork was part of a German exhibit in the Tabard-Booth Inn at the 1904 World’s Fair. The fair, a celebration of the Louisiana Purchase’s 100th anniversary, transpired in the present-day Forest Park and Washington University grounds.
After the fair was over, professional photographer W.H. Wiseman purchased the exhibit’s building materials and brought them to Alton to be used as his studio. The building later became home to the Alton School of Dance, among a variety of other businesses, as the years passed.
“Throughout the years, it’s been a number of things,” Velloff said. “A hair salon, law offices, a dance studio … It’s never been retail per se, so I thought this could be a great building for that.”
After 30 years in real estate, Velloff, 53, said she was ready to try something new, but it wasn’t until the tragic loss of a close friend to brain cancer that she was inspired to open the store to fill a void in Alton.
“There was no candy shop in Alton at all that kids could come in and get bulk candy,” Velloff said.
So far business has been good. Velloff said she jumped into the venture but was surprised and relieved to land on two feet.
For the business’ future, Velloff plans to expand the upstairs gift shop section. She wants to provide gifts for every season and gift baskets. With candy buffets becoming a trend, Velloff said she wants to be a supplier for anyone who needs a candy buffet.
Velloff said with Broadway’s immense potential, she hopes her business is just the beginning of the development of small businesses near the riverfront.
The 1904 General Store, 322 E. Broadway, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
For information, visit www.facebook.com/1904GeneralStore.