Milwaukee’s East Side, as you may have heard, is changing. Longtime businesses have been dropping off like flies; in the past year alone, BBC, The Hotel Foster, Rosati’s, Yield, Rascals, The Winchester, and others have closed their doors. Hotch will follow suit in June. Yes, new life is on the way, but it’s not hard to see a once-collegiate and bohemian neighborhood quickly giving way to high-end restaurants and high-end apartments. Oh, and 8,000 ramen joints.
But back in 1987, the East Side was thriving, and the beloved Oriental Drugs was still in business. In a recently unearthed video clip from that year, the North and Farwell corner pharmacy is documented in all its ’80s-era glory, full of young and old Milwaukeeans drinking coffee, hanging out, and, in a sign of the times, smoking. Everyone from “down-and-out East Side artists” to downtown businessmen make appearances. “It’s interesting,” says one woman. “It’s a crossroads. Everyone comes here at one time or another”
The clip’s main focus is Milwaukee artist Adolph Rosenblatt and his then-new ceramic sculpture of the Oriental and its regulars, “Oriental Pharmacy Lunch Counter.” Oriental Drugs closed in 1995. Following the closure of Rosati’s in March, the space is empty today. Rosenblatt died earlier this year. The East Side, however changed and sometimes unfamiliar, remains. [h/t Crocker Stephenson]