May 11, 2009

An Ode to Department Stores

The local department store has gone the way of the dodo for most of us. And it's a shame, too. Yes, yes, I know the mall experience made obsolete a store that had every possible department, a restaurant and hair salon. Why would you go to just one store, when you could visit dozens? And yet that was alot to be said for locally owned clothing stores that had alterations departments, had their own label of clothing and sales staff that remembered their customers and considered their work a real career. No one I know rhapsodizes about going to the Mall and eating in the Food Court . But give me two minutes to make a phone call, and I can find you a number of women who have fond memories of 4th Street shopping and lunches in Stewart's Tea Room or spending the day at Byck's.

Every major city had several downtown local stores, and small cities would have at least one. They have all been bought now by larger chains, or have survived by becoming the large chain. Most moved to the suburbs, then closed in the late 60s - 70s, with a few holding on into the 1980s.

To this day, when I am looking for vintage clothing, I get excited when I see one of Louisville's local labels. Ours were Stewart's, Bacon's, Byck's, Kaufman's, Selman's, Hytken's, Rodes and many more. Rodes is still in business.

What were yours?

And if you haven't visited A History of Louisville, KY Department Stores, here's your chance!


fuzzylizzie said...

Hollis, I love your Louisville Department Store feature. I keep telling myself I'm going to do something similar with Asheville stores.

The major department stores in Asheville were Bon Marche (no connection to the Bon Marche in Seattle, nor to the one in Paris) and Ivey's, which was a branch of a Charlotte-based store. A bit more exclusive was John Carroll's. None of these have survived. Bon Marche closed and Ivey's was gobbled up by Dillards. Or was that the other way around?? Anyway, both are no more.

I just spent a few days with a friend who is several years older than me, and who has great memories of shopping in our little city in the 50s. She remembers a 4th department store, MV Moore, which was bought out in the late 50s and became a high quality men's store. I have a few things with that label, and it was a very nice shop.

Jessica Cangiano said...

I'm with you 110%, it would be incredible if department stores were still common fixtures on the shopping circuit.

By the time I emerged into the world a lot of them had already gone the way of the dinosaur, but I do fondly remember trips to Eatons and Woodwards (two Canadian chains) as a child. Sadly both of these companies are long gone now though.

Thank you for the trip down memory lane, I hope you have a splendid weekend!

♥ Jessica