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‘You go in there, and you feel at home’ – 100-year-old Gayety’s customer reflects on a childhood staple

LANSING, Ill. (July 29, 2023) – As Margaret steps into Gayety’s, she feels exactly the same way she did nearly 100 years ago. Then, it had been Mr. Papageorge who greeted her; now, she sees the large portrait of him instead.

“When you go back there, [it’s] the same as it was before they had the pictures on the wall,” Margaret said. “The chocolate is the same, the setup is the same, the setup with the candy. You go in there, and you feel at home.”

This graphic celebrates Margaret’s 100th birthday, and features Gayety’s original owner, James Papageorge. (Photo provided)

Margaret, who requested that her last name not be shared, is a 100-year-old woman who has been a customer at Gayety’s nearly her entire life. First having lived in South Chicago for 60 years, she was a regular at the Gayety’s in South Chicago. When Margaret and her family would go to the local shopping center on Commercial Avenue, she knew the treat on the way back: Gayety’s.

“When we were in the area and we would go into the Gayety’s, there was Mr. Papageorge. He would greet us at the door almost every time and he had a cigar. While we were waiting to get waited on, he would actually come up with a piece of chocolate — when I was a teenager,” Margaret said.

Margaret (left) and Gayety’s owner Lauren Lemanski have developed a friendship. (Photo provided)

Margaret now lives in Calumet City, but recently, she has found herself at the Gayety’s in Lansing. Margaret’s daughter, Paula, insists on making a day of it once each summer — gathering the entire family to the place her mother loved so much. Now, instead of Mr. Papageorge, Margaret and Paula’s family were greeted by the newest owner: Laurene Lemanski. According to Margaret, Laurene embodies the Gayety’s tradition.

“I just met her, and it seemed like she was part of our family when we were there,” Margaret said. “There were seven of us that came down. And she just pulled up her chair and sat with us and we reminisced and there were so many people that she knew that we knew.”

Discovering shared family members in South Chicago and similar neighbors growing up, there was an immediate bond. Sitting in the familiar environment, Margaret enjoying her hot fudge sundae, the group continues to form a long-lasting friendship.

“I reached out to her because my mom’s going to be 100 towards the end of the year, I wanted her to know that mom has been a customer pretty much her whole life,” Paula said. “We did feel a real connection with her right away. She was like we had already known her forever.”

Laurene Lemanski and Margaret share a hug at Margaret’s most recent visit to the Lansing candy and ice cream shop. (Photo provided)

Now, visiting the Gayety’s in Lansing at least once a year during the summertime has become a tradition for their family. Still, decades later, as Margaret reflects, Gayety’s feels just as it did when she was a little girl — taking a photo next to Mr. Papageorge, as she remembers the days he used to give out candy.

“I remember going down there and just enjoying having a Sundae or soda,” Margaret said. “My mom didn’t have to convince us to go shopping with her because we knew what was waiting for us at the end.”


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Reena Alsakaji
Reena Alsakaji
Reena Alsakaji is a freelance writer and a senior at Munster High School. She is the Editor-in-Chief of her school’s student-run newspaper, Crier. She is also involved in Munster Speech & Debate, Student Government, HOSA, Philosophy Club, and Poetry Club. Over the past two years, Reena has fallen in love with the Lansing community as she watched her mother go through the process of opening up a home decor business on Ridge Road (Cadou Decor). Reena hopes to broaden her coverage all over Lansing. Her favorite story so far is, “South Holland neighborhood group hosts Juneteenth event for hundreds.”