W. Lewis & Co.
113-123 N. Neil St., Champaign
Wolf Lewis (1858-1942) was a Polish immigrant and entrepreneur. He moved to Champaign, IL in 1897 where he opened a general merchandise store, The Economy, at 57 North Neil St. in downtown Champaign. The Economy, later known as W. Lewis & Co., moved to its permanent location at the corner of Neil and Park in November 1901.
The W. Lewis & Co. Department Store was destroyed in Champaign’s St. Patrick Day Fire, March 17, 1915. The morning fire began in the northwest elevator shaft of the W. Lewis & Co. Department Store. The loss for Lewis’ store was estimated to exceed $200,000. The fire not only claimed the Illinois Building which housed W. Lewis & Co., but also completely gutted the Price/Dallenbach block directly east across Neil Street.
Within a week, Wolf Lewis reopened his store in temporary quarters. The Illinois Building was quickly rebuilt and W. Lewis & Co. was its primary tenant until its closure in 1972. The store continued to thrive through the 1960s and was one of the prominent retail establishments in Champaign.
In 1967 the store was acquired by Wagner Associated Stores of Chicago. Wagner operated the store anonymously and continued the Lewis name and line of merchandise while adding nationally famous lines of goods. In July 1972, W. Lewis & Co. Department Store ceased operations and Noel Fashions opened in its place