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Klemm Overall Factory, Bloomington, IL

Jonathan and I were in Bloomington, Illinois a couple of weekends ago for my grand parents 80th birthday. One of our friends at Intelligensia (in LA) told us to check out Coffee Hound in downtown Bloomington. Apparently they compete in the national barista competitions with Intel. So between family events we snuck off to downtown Bloomington, to get some coffee(tea).

We parked on the Square and were walking down a side street looking for Coffee Hound when we stumbled upon this building (see image below). I was flabbergasted. It was like seeing a ghost of a person you have only seen in a photo. I knew in an instant that this was the old Klemm Overall Factory!

My great-great-great grandfather C.W. Klemm owned a number of businesses including the Klemm Overall Factory. It was once the main competitor with Levi Strauss.  Sadly, Klemm’s continued to focus on overalls exclusively while Levi Strauss started expanding into denim pants (aka blue jeans). Klemm was eventually put out of business. (I think there is a lesson in this story…)

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Anyway, I grew up my whole life thinking that this building burned down in the Great Fire of 1900.  My Grandma Honey, Marilyn Christ Anderson, told me she donated a big pile of half melted together overall buttons from the fire to the McLean County Historical Society decades ago. They must have had multiple buildings.

I inherited two pictures of the building (see below).

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This is a picture of the upstairs sewing room at the factory. It kinda looks like the American Apparel of the 1880’s. These days the upstairs is being used by some club that runs model railroads. I would love to visit that the next time we in town.

I eventually pulled myself away from taking pictures of the overall factory (I think Jonathan thought I was a bit over excited) and we found Coffee Hound nearby. While not quite Intelligensia, it was a great place.  I love their old time store front, with high ceiling and original mosaic floors. We will definitely be back when we are in town.

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