115 Years of Family-owned Local Business

Peggy Derrick

If your family has been in this area for a few generations, chances are they paid for some of their clothing at this cash register. Clothing for the whole family was sold at the Salem Markos Store at 313 Pearl St. Your grandpa or great-grandpa might have paid for their Levis here: the Markos Clothing Store is the oldest Levi’s account east of the Mississippi (since 1921), and has specialized in jeans for a long time.

This nickel-plated National cash register dates to circa 1912, and that places it almost at the 1911 beginning of the story of the Markos family in La Crosse. Their story actually began in their homeland of Syria. In 1901 five Markos brothers immigrated to the U.S., and two of them started a business in Rochester, Pennsylvania. Salem and Charles Markos owned the business, and the others helped run it. The store supplied the goods for the brothers to peddle across the countryside, a tradition with deep historic roots, but which has now completely disappeared in this country.  The growth of both mail-order catalogs and automobile ownership helped to make the peddler’s services superfluous.

In 1911 Salem Markos moved the business to La Crosse. Besides the retail business, he supplied peddlers all over the country who bought their goods wholesale from him. First his brothers, and later his sons helped in the business, and in 1926 they became Salem Markos & Sons. That was the same year they moved to the 313 Pearl St. location that they would inhabit for the next 87 years, until the present owner, Richard Markos, moved the store to 303 Pearl St.

Today you can still buy quality brand-name clothing in the family-owned store, but you can’t watch them put your money in this elegant cash register. It has been donated to the La Crosse County Historical Society by the Markos family.  After all, it doesn’t take credit cards.

This article was originally featured in the La Crosse Tribune.