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Decades After Closing, the O'Neil's-Polsky's Christmas Display Rivalry Continues

photo of Jeanne Tassiello
Jeanne Tassiello has worked with the City of Akron to collect hundreds of pieces that once appeared in the holiday windows at O'Neil's and Polsky's.

Two buildings that once housed retail rivals in downtown Akron will be competing again this holiday season... for eyeballs.

Until Polsky’s closed in 1978 and O’Neil’s closed in 1989, the department stories put up elabroate window displays every Christmas at their flagship locations on Main Street.  In recent years, the Christmas window tradition has been revived by Akron resident Jeanne Tassiello. She says most display pieces were discarded each year until the 1960s. But the stores began to reuse items in later years, as downtown shopping declined.

“Instead of trying to come up with new displays every year, it was budget, so they held onto them. And when they went out of business, they sold them off.

“I think it brings back a lot of memories to people when downtown was a different place. Hopefully we’re on the turn to it being a new and better place. Maybe a little bit of what we remember when we were little; more people walking around downtown.”

Tassiello has collected hundreds of items which she has used over the past six years to recreate some of that old holiday magic in the windows of the former O’Neil’s.

Across the street, Curated Storefront -- a group which has created public works of art in unused storefronts throughout downtown Akron – is also helping to revive a sense of the old holiday rivalry downtown. They’re creating a multimedia art and lighting installation at the former Polsky’s.

Starting January 2, the former O’Neil’s windows will feature “Angels & Goddesses,” an installation by Akron native Jeffrey Fulvimari, showing his vision of how the window displays might have looked using Greek Gods as mannequins.