close

As Indianapolis grew and streetcars headed north on College Avenue toward Broad Ripple, clusters of commercial buildings sprung up every four or five blocks. One such shopping hub was located at the intersection of College Avenue and 54th Street. The one-story structure on the southeast corner has had many incarnations and still thrives in the neighborhood known as SoBro (South Broad Ripple).

This commercial block, located on the southeast corner of College and 54th, was developed in about 1928 and designed by the architectural firm of Pierre and Wright (Edward D. Pierre and George C. Wright). The eight-section brick building housed Kerr’s Pharmacy, Kroger Grocery, Bruce’s Food Shoppe and Bakery, and Erber Hardware soon after completion. Seen to the right is College Court Apartments. (Ball State University Libraries, Drawings and Documents Archive, Pierre and Wright Collection)

The 1941 Baist Map shows the intersection of 54th and College as a prominent intersection of brick buildings (indicated by pink). Gas stations were located on the northeast corner (the longtime site of Atlas Foods and now Fresh Market) and the southwest corner (currently the location of Moe & Johnny’s). By 1945 the storefronts on the southeast corner housed Kroger Grocery, Haag Drug Company, Roy T. Scotten Restaurant, Parker’s Department Store, Center Cleaners, and College Avenue Repair Shop. (IUPUI University Library, Baist Atlas Plan #35, 1941)

In the 1970s and 80s, several storefronts were rented by businesses seeking a younger demographic. On the corner was Crazy Al’s, a pizza restaurant and bar known for alternative, punk, and new wave music. It began in the mid 1970s in a space diagonal from this building, but moved by the late 1970s and remained here until it closed in 1982. Also in this strip was The Guitar Shop, and Modern Times, a vintage clothing store owned by Julie Mahern (now Julie Cicada Crow). Hundreds of former Crazy Al’s fans share memories and photographs on a Facebook page. (Marla Levine photos submitted to Facebook by Faith Cohen)

Crazy Al’s around the time it closed (Crazy Al’s Facebook page photo submitted by Gary Kunkel)

Photo courtesy of Tammi Burns.

Photo courtesy of Tammi Burns.

More recently, the building has housed the Jazz Kitchen, Yats Cajun Creole Restaurant, The Piano Merchant, and Be Bon Vivant (a gift boutique).

One thing we enjoy about this website is the breadth of knowledge from all age groups– octogenarians to people in their 20s. What businesses do you remember in this building? Feel free to share your memories and images of this area and include the approximate dates.

SaveSave

SaveSave

44 responses to “Then and Now: College Avenue and 54th Street”

  1. Pat Capshaw says:

    I just want to thank you again for all the history and pictures.I look foreward each day To see whats new.

  2. Uncle Dave Osborn, Indpls says:

    ““` I grew up on Central near there, and I best remember that building as housing the piano place. That stuck with me because on the same corner at the intersection of Fifty-SECOND and College had been a piano dealer’s store, too, earlier. What a strange coincidence, if coincidence it in fact was.
    ““` The abandoned Atlas grocery store north of there had seemed to me to be worth preserving. I wrote Atlas alum David Letterman about it, asking him to buy the property and use it to create and house a “Museum of Broad Ripple.” Nothing came of it. (Maybe I shouldn’t have proposed a name for the possible new institution, in the letter, “The David Letterman Museum of Broad Ripple Arts and History.” Perhaps he would have reacted more favorably, were it named instead for his venerable Mom.)

  3. David Allee says:

    Hi Joan,

    Thanks for posting these pictures and information about 54th & College Avenue. We are the current owners of the Jazz Kitchen and we are always asked about the history of the building. If you run across anything else, please let us know.

    Regards,

    David Allee

  4. Charlie peters says:

    I grew up on the 5600 block of college. I remember there being a record store in that storefront about 2/3rds of the way down from the corner in the early/ mid 60s. Bought many Beatles and other singles (45s) there. Would also be interested in the history of the storefront on the NW corner that housed Baker drugstore about the same period

  5. Mark Radway says:

    I’m with Uncle Dave on Atlas…thanks for trying, Unc!

    I really love this.
    Many good times on that corner. And some magic musical moments.
    Mention should be made (if not images collected?) of the Place to Start period.

    Most excellent and made me smile. Real big..

  6. Nancy Hill says:

    In 1979, my husband John and I started renovating a house at 53rd and Carrollton, just around the corner from this intersection. We still live here, 32 years and many renovations later. We raised our son here, John’s girls spent a lot of their childhood here and our two grandchildren live across the street. We’ve watched this neighborhood change and love being a part of this thriving community.

    In 1979, our favorite way to relax after a hard day of tearing out walls, moving lilacs, or laying floor was to get a six-pack of Busch beer and a Crazy Al’s sausage, mushroom and tomato pizza — THE best!

  7. Terri Siler(Hoseclaw) says:

    I remember the record store well. I bought many records there, also reeds for my clarinet and strings for the guitar I could not play! I grew up at 54th and Park and I remember all the changes over the years. On the Northwest corner, there used to be a drug store and then a liquor store. Crazy Al’s was over there for a long time, as well as the flower shop.

  8. Joan Hostetler says:

    Hi, Dave

    I’ll certainly keep you in mind. Maybe we could work out a trade…I sometimes work for food! Have a very Merry Christmas! -Joan Hostetler

  9. Susan Nelson Fitta says:

    Do you possibly know if the Robinette family which owned Center Cleaners still reside in the Indianapolis area? I know this is a long shot, but my father was based at Camp Davis during World War ll with a Richard A. Robinette from Indianapolis. His family owned the dry cleaners. My father has been deceased for 46 years and I’m trying to piece together some history. Thank you for your time,
    Sincerely,
    Susan Nelson Fitta

  10. Maureen Holland says:

    Thanks for sharing…my friend sent the link because my aunt, Pat Holland, owned the building for some time and she started the Jazz Kitchen. I also worked at Modern Times Urban Truck Stop/New Age Bookstore. Great memories!

  11. Susan Showalter Rees says:

    I grew up in the area & have many great memories. Of course we loved Crazy Al’s pizza, (wasnt it later The Place to Start before David Allee opened The Jazz Kitchen in 1994?), the record store, shopping at Modern Times, all of the years of shopping with Mom at Atlas Market & then the friends who had their 1st jobs there. And I will never forget all the years at the infamous Bulldog (southwest corner), now Moe & Johnnys. Thanks for the look back.

  12. Rory Priest says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m only 22, but was raised at 54th and Broadway, half a block away from this intersection. From shopping at the Atlas, to eating paninis and buying candy at the Northside News, I loved growing up here. Definitely a well kept secret of Indianapolis, and I really appreciate this history lesson.

  13. Libby Cierzniak says:

    Great post, Joan. We lived on the northwest corner of 54th & Broadway for 11 years, and love the neighborhood. Our basement had a storage bin hidden in the rafters made from a Kerr pharmacy crate.

  14. mike healy says:

    I lived at 56th & College in 1975 for a few months. I was thinking there was a liquor store on that corner then.

  15. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    I can’t remember any time in my life that there was ever a liquor store on the southeast corner of 54th and College (my recollections go back to the mid-1950s, when I was in grade school). In 1975 — the year you lived two blocks north of 54th and College — that corner was occupied by College Appliance Store. Ballinger’s Music Store was south of the appliance store. Before the appliance store, there was a paint store on the corner, although I don’t remember which brand it was. The appliance store left about 1978 and was replaced by Crazy Al’s, which was there for maybe four years. In 1983, A Place To Start took over the corner spot. I remember owner Pat Holland very well, may she rest in peace. In about 1994, the space became the Jazz Kitchen, which it has been ever since.

  16. Janice says:

    So, when was it “A Place To Start”?

  17. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    As I recall, Pat Holland and Pete Pipkin opened The Place to Start late in 1983 or early in 1984. It became the Jazz Kitchen in 1994.

  18. Bonnie says:

    What was the name of the cafeteria in the 1950s that was on College south of 54th (but not Bernice’s which I’m told was at 52nd) ?

  19. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    The only commercial buildings on College Avenue south of the commercial buildings at 54th Street are at 52nd and College. The properties in between the commercial corners at 54th and 52nd are residential. Perhaps you are referring to Evans Cafeteria? Robert G. Evans took over the same spot that had originally been Bernice’s. The cafeteria was also briefly called Burnell’s, in between its being Bernice’s and being Evans. All were located at 5212 North College Avenue. Today the restaurant that was previously Bernice’s, Burnell’s, and Evans is The Aristocrat Pub & Restaurant.

  20. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    After posting my previous comment, I suddenly remembered that there was a restaurant just south of 54th Street on the east side of College Avenue. I believe it was called Kerr’s Cafeteria. It was one of several businesses in the building that now houses the Jazz Kitchen and Yat’s. Kerr’s entrance was towards the middle of those storefronts, with Haag Drugs on the corner and an appliance store south of it.

  21. Vikki Graham Foster says:

    Hi, Was so happy to be able to find an answer to a question my Dad asked. He called me
    tonight and said, “I can’t wait to come visit so you can take me to Bernice’s restaurant!” I
    had never heard of it and so when I searched the name, your website came up and I
    discovered that Bernice’s had closed. He wanted to eat the best Beef Manhattan sandwich
    in town. I told him it had closed. “Well,” he said, “I guess I won’t be visiting!!” So funny,
    kudos to the writer of this great historic information of the area!! Means so much when looking
    at the past!!

  22. Nyla Dawson says:

    i want to know what happened to Bernice’s Cafeteria located on College Avenue. I went there often in the 60’s with my in-laws. I saw in mentioned when Googling, but no reference in your material. Thank you.

  23. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Bernice’s was at 52nd and College. It became Evans Cafeteria after Bernice retired. That location is now the Aristorcrat Pub & Restaurant.

  24. Barbara Smith says:

    Thank you so much for posting the information about Bernice’s. (I remembered the next restaurant being Burnett’s, but I was a child when we ate there, so I’m glad to know the actual name was Burnell’s.) I will have to drive by the address and see the place. I remember this was the first place I ever ate zucchini – steamed with butter. And lima beans. Go figure what a child remembers.
    Do you know the years it was open as Bernice’s? And what was her last name? THANKS in advance.

  25. Bill Bussell says:

    So many businesses in this building over the years. My friend, the late Brian Spears, was a primary owner of the Piano Merchant. Brian was very proud of the large neon sign he ordered for the front window. I worked for Brian at times, and I never captured a picture of that neon sign, or other pictures of Brian and company. I could have done this so easily having been a photographer most of my life. I would like to see that installed neon sign picture that I missed taking. Brian held the Kawai dealership, and the center of that sign featured Kawai. I knew Brian from church and his participation in the Southport High School band with my younger brother. Brian eventually owned part of the entire building. He passed away at 53, and that ended the piano store. Brian was an RPT, (Registered Piano Technician.) Brian wanted to live because his goals in this world were not complete.

  26. Pat Lennon says:

    I worked at Evan’s Cafeteria for a couple years in high school, on the serving line. The main cook was a LARGE man and when he bring out a pan of food he’d yell “Hot Stuff!” in his high-pitched voice. We’d all duck into nooks and crannies to let him pass. Got to know a lot of regulars plus the Evans family and staff. Good people.

  27. Rick Lehner says:

    I grew up on Park Avenue and 51st and remember eating with my family many times at Bernice’s. I bought my first records at Ballenger’s music store at 54th and College. I worked bussing tables at Bortz’s Cafeteria in that building on the Southeast corner of 54th and College the summer of 1964 after graduating from Shortridge High School and starting at Indiana University. Of course, I remember Atlas Market on the Northeast corner.

  28. Julie Johnson says:

    Want to know sooooo much. Grew up on Carrollton right down from G.C.Murphy’s , Vouge and Ed Shocks and now live in SoBro for 37yrs or so.
    My question, where was Bernice’s Cafeteria?? Thought it was where Luna is now but not been able to find outside pics. Also would love pix of Elson Grocery, Binkley soda shop interior pix.
    My mom and dad met at Lobricco’s. Joe and family lived on Carrollton also. So many memories and love to see tons of photos.
    I’m currently unemployeed, have lots of time. Would love to be paided, but anything I could do to help log photos? Anything. Also no how to process and print b/w film/prints, etc…
    Love your work!
    Jj
    P.s. Crazy Als, Patio, Alley at back in the day? All was good.

  29. Robert F Gilyeat says:

    We lived at 55th and Rosslyn in the 1950s. I used to ride my bicycle to Haags and also got my haircut around the corner across the street from Atlas Grocery. Hooks Drug Store was at 52nd and College.

  30. Carleene Hubbard says:

    Kerr’s Cafeteria.

  31. mark says:

    Unfortunately this link appears to be dead:-(

  32. Tiffany Benedict Browne says:

    Which link?

  33. Bobbie Maines Kibbey says:

    Actually, Jack Horner (yes, that was really his name) was the owner of Bernice’s and he sold it in the 70’s. He purchased my grandparents’ restaurant on the far northwest side near Traders Point, and operated it under the name of “Horner’s Cafeteria “ for a few years before selling it due to failing health.

  34. Tami Howard says:

    Would anyone happen to have a picture of the corner when it was College Appliances or College Maytag? That was my grandfather’s store. I would love a picture!

  35. Edwin Hinsdale no says:

    I rented half of a double 5336 N. College in ’70-’73 or so. Crazy Al’s was the place for pizza and more! Great place to live. Good Times!

  36. Edwin R Hinsdale says:

    Still remember Sid Maurer sitting in the raised office in the Atlas Supermarket surveying his domain. Always had a smile and a kind word for his customers. He was a good, kind man.

  37. Marty Yates says:

    I lived in Broad Ripple 1953 to 1968. I recall as a child there being a cafeteria near 62nd & College east side of street near the Vogue Theater. May have later been Russett’s. I am trying to recall the name – seems like it was a ladies name.
    I would appreciate hearing if there are any records.
    Thank you.

  38. Connie henn says:

    It was the Russett. Very good cafeteria food and moved to Glendale shopping mall. At one time wasa Ladies dress shop called Claypools. There was Horins childrens shoes, and then an Italian fine restaurant.

    C

  39. P. J. Hogan says:

    That cafeteria was Bortz’s Cafeteria. It closed sometime during the early mid-sixties. Bortz’s kitchen was a small storefront which opened onto 54th St. The cafeteria was a small storefront which opened onto College Av. making the establishment an “L” shaped affair. In 1967 or so, Robert O’Koon, the Atlas Supermarket delicatessen manager, opened a catering kitchen with a walk-in retail in what had been the Bortz kitchen. It was called O’Koon’s Catering Kitchen. I worked there for several years. We used Bortz’s old walk-in cooler which was located directly behind the front counter. O’Koons catered weddings and bar mitzvahs at all the synagogs on the north side of Indianapolis and catered at several local churches, schools, and private affairs. O’Koon Catering remained in business until the early seventies, and closed shortly after Bob O’Koon passed away. Bob was one of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.

  40. P. J. Hogan says:

    In the line of storefronts across College Avenue from Atlas Supermarket during the late sixties there was both a Christian Science Reading Room and also a John Birch Society storefront.

  41. Ted Miller says:

    Get over at. It’s a city block in a city. Do you know how many city blocks there are in New York City or Boston? People in Indianapolis want to have something to brag about so bad that people are raving about a dry cleaners and a grocery story. How cultural is that? I owned a restaurant and know more about this city and everything in it than any of you. The best thing was when I played soccer and was the best goalie in town. I would give wine coolers to the chicks on the corner of 54th and college and score more than goals. Don’t tell Shannon wink wink. Time for another shot to me.

  42. Bill Geshwim says:

    I worked at the Shell Station on the corner of 54th and College in 1975. It was Sherrod Shell , louie Sherrod was the owner guy named Nate worked there a long time

  43. Pamela Krueger says:

    1945 to 1952…..I lived at 3425 N. Broadway…..I distinctly remember a department store that was located on College Ave near Fairfield ( I could walk there)….We always called it Nick’s .I still have some Christmas Ornaments that my Mother purchased there. What was the actual name and are there any pictures??

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *