Local business owners confer on the sidewalk adjacent to F.A. Read & Company on a cold day in 1914. We’ve been part of Freeport history and growth for over 140 years and continue to be a great location for a business to grow in.
We’re proud to be part of Freeport’s vibrant and growing downtown business community, as we have been for 140 years. Speaking of that, let’s go back to the beginning:
Francis Adelbert Read returned to Freeport defeated. He had been raised here, the son of a Methodist preacher. In 1871 he set out for Chicago and started a tailoring shop just off Michigan Avenue with a partner named Shawcross. They had only been in business for a few months when the Great Chicago Fire wiped out most of the city. Read was out of town, and returned to find his partner was dead, their store was ash, his fire insurance was worthless and he now had a grand total of $67 left. Soon he was back in Freeport working as a store clerk, but he never let go of his dream of having his own shop.
It took six years to find the money and the right partner, but in 1877 he opened the Seeley & Read general store with C. H. Seeley, launching a business that would be a Freeport landmark for over 100 years. The store sold all sorts of dry goods (with an excellent selection of hats) and had a popular carpet section. In 1896, the building burned to the ground. But this time Read was able to rebuild, and reopened right on this same spot. Eventually, Seeley left to start a mining firm, and the business was renamed F.A. Read & Company. Over the years it became the most successful department store in town.
F.A. Read became a pillar of the community. He helped found Freeport’s first phone company, the Freeport Club, the Parkview Home for the elderly and other businesses and charities. He also donated the land and funds to create Read Park, a 36 acre jewel of Freeport’s award-winning park system.
When Read passed away in 1942 at the age of 89, the store was sold to the Bergner department store chain, but the F.A. Read name stayed. When drastic changes in the retail industry put the store in danger, the F.A. Read Center was created to transform it into a mall in the heart of downtown.
Today, the F.A. Read Center houses over a dozen businesses, running the gamut from a martial arts dojo to a boutique specializing in women’s accessories. To see all the great things our tenant businesses offer, see our directory.
Are you an entrepreneur seeking a well-trafficked home for your business? We can offer just that, and more. Head over to the Why F.A. Read page to see why we’re the location for Freeport businesses.