Thursday, August 28, 2014
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
 

The Age of the Downtown Department Store

Before shopping malls took over the Jacksonville region, downtown's streets were once lined with grand department stores. In honor of the upcoming 100 year anniversary of the Cohen Brother's St. James Building (now city hall), and with our second book currently in production, Metro Jacksonville takes a look at a few retailing landmarks from yesteryear and encourages our readers to share their memories of a retail era gone bye.

Published July 24, 2012 in History      46 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

It could be argued that despite the opening of the Jacksonville Landing and construction of some of our tallest skyscrapers, the 1980s were downtown's darkest period in our decades long fight to create a vibrant urban core.  Before then, Hogan Street between Hemming Plaza and Bay Street was the home to a May-Cohens (most May stores eventually became Macy's), JCPenney, Levy/Wolf, Furchgott's, Rosenblum's, and Sears.  Here is a brief summary of the rise and fall of downtown Jacksonville's largest department stores.


Cohen Brothers "The Big Store"


Cohen Brother's "Big Store" in 1939. Courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/51293

Known as the "Big Store", the Cohen Brother's massive department store was the 9th largest in the country when it opened its doors on October 21, 1912.  Founded by brothers Samuel and Morris Cohen in 1867, the store was originally housed in a small log cabin on Bay Street.  Under the direction of younger brother Jacob Cohen, the business grew to become the anchor pulling the retail core of downtown from Bay Street to Hemming Park.  The younger Cohen himself, would end up being known as the "Wanamaker of the South."  With nearly 330,000 square feet of space during its heyday, the store dwarfed the average 186,000 square foot Walmart Supercenter.  Cohens would be acquired by May Department Stores in 1959 and renamed May-Cohens.  During the depressing 1980s, the "Big Store" fought a valiant fight for its survival, outlasting all of downtown's former grand department stores.  However, with the opening of the Landing, it's doors closed permanently in July 1987.





 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 NEXT 






46 Comments

riverside planner

July 24, 2012, 07:44:53 AM
Thanks for the memories! Some of my earliest memories are of shopping with my mother and grandmother at May Cohen's, Iveys and Furchegott's.  My aunt worked at Sears for a short time and we would go meet her for lunch at the restaurant.  I miss the grand department stores!

sandyshoes

July 24, 2012, 07:48:02 AM
Sears...I remember going downtown used to be a big deal.  When I was very young, (pre-kindergarten age) we only went so I could see Santa Clause and we could see all the Christmas lights downtown.  (At that age, the escalator fascinated me, to watch people go into the ceiling and then watch more people come down from the ceiling, until finally, Mother came down from the ceiling and we could all go home.)  When I was school age, we went the Saturday before Labor Day for school shopping.  We made a day of it, riding the bus, going to the library, having lunch at the wonderful Morrisson's Cafeteria, and then to Sear's for school clothes and shoes, then back home on the bus.  It was a huge outing for us.  The things I most remember about Sear's were the orange and black doorpulls, where you would walk in and immediately smell the fresh, hot popcorn,  see the candy counter, and also they had a bakery right there where you could buy the most wonderful buttery rolls.  All of this was right there at the front door, all together.  Children hate shopping for clothes, so I'm sorry that I don't recall much about what was where, and I was never taken on the escalator to see what lay beyond.  Later on, in the seventies, I remember the little coffee shop tucked into a spot to the right of the entry.  Okay, Sears is not fancy and trendy, but the things you buy from there last and don't wear out quickly.  Thanks for allowing me to share what sparse memories I do have of Sear's downtown.   

fsujax

July 24, 2012, 08:16:47 AM
My great grandmother worked at the May Cohens, she used to always tell me about how great it was.

jecjax@gmail.com

July 24, 2012, 09:28:04 AM
Wow what fond memories ! I used to ride the bus with my mom to shop downtown growing up in the 60s.  I remember even on Saturdays downtown was bustling with people !  The bargain basement at May Cohens and the clearance center in the "attic" at Furchgotts were among my favorites ! Christmas was also very special with the massive stores all decorated for the holidays.  Later I worked downtown in the late 70's when the stores were still there but the malls were taking their toll on downtown.  I still enjoyed these stores up to the very end and still miss them dearly. 

rcmmngs

July 24, 2012, 09:41:45 AM
My grandmother was recruited from Furchgotts to work at Sears when it opened in 1958.  Ah, the smell of the hot roasted cashews as you walked in the back door through the garden department.  :)

Bike Jax

July 24, 2012, 09:42:36 AM
I think this post illustrates my frustration with Jacksonville of today. I am old enough (and lucky enough) to have visited each of these stores as a child and young teen. Growing up in what was then rural Mandarin, I soaked up the pleasure of walking the streets of a rich and vibrant downtown Jacksonville  with each and every trip my family made into Downtown. It is through those experiences I gained my love of urban living. I know what Downtown was and also what it could be again with the proper vision and leadership.

Jason

July 24, 2012, 10:32:46 AM
I had no idea ALL of those stores tanked in the 80's....  Very nice history lesson!

Just imagine the retail empire that Jax would be if those stores were able to hold on.  Think of the shiney corporate headquarters buildings lining the fiverfront skyline whith their names scattered through the Fortune 500 list...

gedo3

July 24, 2012, 10:34:30 AM
This is truly a wonderful site--always adds to my knowledge of Jacksonville and its history, or reminds me of things I had forgotten.  A couple of added notes.  I'll bet a lot of people remember those wonderful Anaclairs (please forgive misspelling) at May Cohens. Absolutely delicious and, I think, exclusively theirs.  And, mentioning sweets, many Chicagoans were thrilled to find that there eventually was a connection between Marshall Field's (now Macy's) and Ivey's.  How could you tell?  They sold Frangomints--which at that point were an exclusive Marshall Field product.  Thanks--as always--for some wonderful trips down Memory Lane!

avonjax

July 24, 2012, 11:14:17 AM
I knew all these stores very well and I worked at Furchgott's, May-Cohen's and Ivey's. It was a tremendous loss to downtown when they closed. I have a lot of stories about all three stores. Furchgott's was going strong when I worked there, but May-Cohen's had already closed the basement and Ivey's had already closed three floors when I work for them. I worked for Ivey's when they closed in 1984. I was in visual merchandising so I did the big windows on the street. When I worked there the Ivey family had already sold to Marshall Field's which was purchased by BATUS. (British American Tobacco-US) The Ivey family were very religious and conservative. There were drapes in the windows that were drawn so the nude mannequins could not be seen from the streets as the windows were being "dressed." Things changed drastically after the sale to Marshall Fields. There was an interesting day when a member of First Baptist came into the store and asked for scissors and the manager. She cut her credit card into pieces and told the manager she would never shop at Ivey's again because of the disgusting window displays. (Yes, I am the guilty party. It was one of the proudest days of my life that something I designed was actually noticed. LOL.) If anyone wants to know what I did I'll do another post. I probably have photos somewhere. I also had access to the upper floors where we stored a few props. Some of the original wallpaper was still on the walls. I so regret I didn't take pictures. As an employee who worked in the entire store I got to see, literally, every square inch of the store.
When I was in high school I worked as the "layaway boy," at Furchgott's. On Friday night I got to work in the  "Attic," which was the boutique that was added catering to younger fashion for both males and females. Of course my job let me snoop through the entire store. I loved the adventure. The store was very similar to the views at this site except the employee terrace was gone when I worked there. Another cool thing Fuchgott's used were Pneumatic Tubes to make change for the departments. All the money was kept on the fifth floor.
http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville%20Story/Picture%20of%20Furchgott's%20Page%20One.htm
Furchgott's was THE premier department store downtown. The only store, in my opinion, that trumped the womens clothing at Furchgott's was Barton Sleigh in the Greenleaf building.
In the late sixties Downtown Jacksonville was a booming place. On Saturday the streets were filled with people. I am not one to live in the past, but the heyday of downtown may be the exception. I wish you could have all experienced those days. For DT Jacksonville they were the "good old days."

thelakelander

July 24, 2012, 12:35:02 PM
There was an interesting day when a member of First Baptist came into the store and asked for scissors and the manager. She cut her credit card into pieces and told the manager she would never shop at Ivey's again because of the disgusting window displays. (Yes, I am the guilty party. It was one of the proudest days of my life that something I designed was actually noticed. LOL.) If anyone wants to know what I did I'll do another post.

Please do tell!

Debbie Thompson

July 24, 2012, 01:20:07 PM
I remember all the stores.  But before I say anything else, I want to hear that credit card story too!

When we moved here in the mid-1960's, downtown is where one shopped. At that time, if you can believe it, bus tickets for students were $.04 each, as some students rode the city bus to school. So, yep, you could buy them 25 for $1.00 at the bus ticket kiosk in Hemming Plaza, on Monroe, corner of  Laura.  They were only good until 6:00 pm though.  So when we needed bus tickets, we'd hop on the bus after school, buy bus tickets, and then shop for a couple of hours.  We'd go to the Woolworth lunch counter and have a coke, check out Woolworth's basement and maybe buy some of that Tangee lipstick, then go over to Penney's and look around.  I'd catch the 5:55 bus, 35 Spring Park, and get dropped off on the corner by our house by 6:15.  The streets were bustling, the busses came and went at Hemming Park, and our parents were not concerned about our safety because there were so many people out and about downtown.

Later, I worked downtown in the early 1970's.  I still rode the bus, and did my Christmas shopping on my lunch hours.  We ate at the restaurant in the Robert Meyer Hotel, or Cohens, the lunch counter at Woolworth, or the Desert Rider sandwich shop.  We bought Triple Threats (OJ, coconut milk, and grapefruit juice) at the juice bar.

I loved shopping downtown, in a vibrant humming downtown, with the busses coming and going downtown.  I miss it.  It used to be special, to go shopping downtown.  A real "outing."

Dapperdan

July 24, 2012, 01:34:52 PM
Did the Heming Plaza conversion have a large part in killing all the business or was it more the suburbanization of America? I beleive most cities around the 80s experienced their downtowns decline rapidly.

simms3

July 24, 2012, 03:25:01 PM
Loving the stories.

Timkin

July 24, 2012, 04:55:19 PM
^ Agree. Miss these downtown department Stores.   At Christmas time, they were just stunning.

I can hardly recognize anything , downtown , anymore.

Mike D

July 24, 2012, 09:20:34 PM
Great article, and yes, I too fondly remember downtown when it was alive with people in the mid to late 1960s.  I remember going with my dad to buy my first suit...we went to Penney's.  Hey, that was high end as far as I was concerned.  In high school, you wanted to go to Levy's or Rosenblum's for weejuns, Gold Cup socks, Gant shirts, etc.  May-Cohens had a great book department along with everything else and I remember feeling like you could just keep going higher and higher on the escalators. It seemed like there were more floors than there really were if that makes sense! Everything downtown seemed big.  The Morrison's cafeteria had two serving lines, not a measly single line like their location at Southgate Plaza on Beach Boulevard...the counter at Woolworth's seemed to go on forever. And, as several people have already mentioned, walking into the "new" Sears was always a sensory experience as you were hit by the aromas from the candy/nuts/popcorn section that was right by the entrance.  Finally, at one point during that period they had the traffic lights next to Cohen's rigged so that there was a pedestrians-only crossing time...the signal would turn red for all drivers, and you were allowed to not only cross the street in the usual manner, but you could also walk cross-ways through the center of the interesection.  Think of an "X" pattern and you'll see what I'm trying to describe.  That's how busy the sidewalks were on a Saturday.  Does anyone else remember that?

avonjax

July 25, 2012, 12:21:03 AM
 OK here goes. First the disclaimer. This window was done before PC Correctness and I am not misogynistic.

It was in 1983 and animal print swimwear was the look for summer.
Downtown Ivey's was about a year from closing so I worked alone and had a small budget. All the stores in Florida and the Carolinas did animal print swimwear on their main display areas and in the windows of applicable store. As far as I can remember there were only 3 Downtown locations. Charlotte, Orlando and Jacksonville. (DT Orlando had already closed.)
Anyway, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted in the window as long as it was animal print swimwear.
I had about 5 female mannequins in swimwear in the window. I used rope and bamboo as props. The main attraction in the middle of the window was a bamboo and rope cage. In the cage was a male mannequin sitting on a rope wrapped stool. Since safari was a big look for men and women around this time I had him dressed in safari shorts and jacket. Epaulets, belted waist, lace up boots and pith helmet.
This is where it gets dicey. Balanced on his shoulder was a female mannequin. She was in a sitting pose. Her wrists were crossed and her feet were close together. In my display her wrists and ankles were wrapped and tied with rope. Of course in my mind this was innocent and fun. He was a big game hunter and she was his catch.
My peers and my boss thought it was clever and creative.
But the card cutter didn't agree. But instead of being offended by the demeaning treatment of a woman, she was upset at the image of sexual bondage.
Go figure.

avonjax

July 25, 2012, 12:21:57 AM
Great article, and yes, I too fondly remember downtown when it was alive with people in the mid to late 1960s.  I remember going with my dad to buy my first suit...we went to Penney's.  Hey, that was high end as far as I was concerned.  In high school, you wanted to go to Levy's or Rosenblum's for weejuns, Gold Cup socks, Gant shirts, etc.  May-Cohens had a great book department along with everything else and I remember feeling like you could just keep going higher and higher on the escalators. It seemed like there were more floors than there really were if that makes sense! Everything downtown seemed big.  The Morrison's cafeteria had two serving lines, not a measly single line like their location at Southgate Plaza on Beach Boulevard...the counter at Woolworth's seemed to go on forever. And, as several people have already mentioned, walking into the "new" Sears was always a sensory experience as you were hit by the aromas from the candy/nuts/popcorn section that was right by the entrance.  Finally, at one point during that period they had the traffic lights next to Cohen's rigged so that there was a pedestrians-only crossing time...the signal would turn red for all drivers, and you were allowed to not only cross the street in the usual manner, but you could also walk cross-ways through the center of the interesection.  Think of an "X" pattern and you'll see what I'm trying to describe.  That's how busy the sidewalks were on a Saturday.  Does anyone else remember that?

I remember crossing that way many times.

Timkin

July 25, 2012, 01:54:06 AM
OK here goes. First the disclaimer. This window was done before PC Correctness and I am not misogynistic.

It was in 1983 and animal print swimwear was the look for summer.
Downtown Ivey's was about a year from closing so I worked alone and had a small budget. All the stores in Florida and the Carolinas did animal print swimwear on their main display areas and in the windows of applicable store. As far as I can remember there were only 3 Downtown locations. Charlotte, Orlando and Jacksonville. (DT Orlando had already closed.)
Anyway, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted in the window as long as it was animal print swimwear.
I had about 5 female mannequins in swimwear in the window. I used rope and bamboo as props. The main attraction in the middle of the window was a bamboo and rope cage. In the cage was a male mannequin sitting on a rope wrapped stool. Since safari was a big look for men and women around this time I had him dressed in safari shorts and jacket. Epaulets, belted waist, lace up boots and pith helmet.
This is where it gets dicey. Balanced on his shoulder was a female mannequin. She was in a sitting pose. Her wrists were crossed and her feet were close together. In my display her wrists and ankles were wrapped and tied with rope. Of course in my mind this was innocent and fun. He was a big game hunter and she was his catch.
My peers and my boss thought it was clever and creative.
But the card cutter didn't agree. But instead of being offended by the demeaning treatment of a woman, she was upset at the image of sexual bondage.
Go figure.



You GO GIRL!! . Love the story... sorry the Starchy drawers lady got her panties in a wad over it.  O well. :P

BackinJax05

July 25, 2012, 03:22:59 AM
Thanks for posting, and thank GOD I was able to experience most of these stores before they closed.

SEARS: My sister & I went to see Santa Claus there when I was in 2nd grade. The "Santa" claimed to be the REAL Santa Claus!! (as opposed to his many helpers) We felt special he decided to visit Jacksonville that year.

A year or so later mom took me there to get my Cub Scout uniform.

MAY COHENS: Downtown store had the best mens department of all MC stores. Bought several shirts there, and a Members Only jacket there in 1986. (They were still cool then)

WOOLWORTHS: Not mentioned in the article, but bought lots of stuff there.

It was sad to see them all go. Equally sad is the picture of JCPenney and Woolworth with the Robert Meyer behind them. All gone. Sears closed in 81. The building was torn down in spring of 83. I remember because I was on Spring Break in 9th grade. I went downtown that week and watched the wrecking ball bring it down. It was sad to see, but there was a bit of happiness:

Ive always been terrified of escalators. During demolition the wrecking ball dropped, smashing one of Sears' old escalators in two! Standing on Bay Street I clapped and shouted YES!! (If they could have saved the building and only smashed the escalators) ;)

sandyshoes

July 25, 2012, 07:41:37 AM
Yes!!!  Mom got my Girl Scout uniform from Sear's downtown, I think that was the only place that carried scout uniforms back then.  ;D  Thanks for bringing back that memory.  And they still make Annaclairs - I got them at a friend's gift shop a couple of years ago, so they must be online, too. 

BackinJax05

July 26, 2012, 01:25:00 AM
^^ I think you're right. Now that I think of it, mom got my sister's GS uniform there also. Dont know about Girl Scouts, but with Cub Scouts Sears sold the basic uniform only. (OFFICIAL SHIRT*, pants, cap, neck thing, and neck thing clip) All patches and other flair had to be earned or picked up at the North Florida Council office in Riverside. Living in Arlington, that was a pain in the butt.

Getting back on topic, the downtown May Cohens also had a very good restaurant on the 1st floor. Ate there several times while shopping.

*The tag on my Cub Scout shirt read: OFFICIAL SHIRT, in bold print, all caps. Guess they wanted it to be official.

thelakelander

July 26, 2012, 10:42:14 AM
And they still make Annaclairs - I got them at a friend's gift shop a couple of years ago, so they must be online, too. 

What do you remember about the Annaclairs and white chocolate-dipped strawberries made at May Cohens?

vintagejax

August 08, 2012, 12:40:02 PM
I'm not old enough to remember a lot of the big stores, but my mom worked at May Cohens, Iveys, and Levys.  I can remember going to Woolworths and poking the turtles.  I remember the huge sale when Woolworth closed, I think my parents bought half the store. 

The juice bar was always my favorite place in downtown.  My dad would stop three times a week and get me a jumbo coconut milk, and the nice old man that owned the place would give me a chunk of coconut to chew on.  I really miss that place. 

There's also Lu's Chinese Restaurant.  I have no clue what the real business name was, but we just called her Lu.  I had so many early birthday dinners in the back room of that place.  Walking through the kitchen to get to the big room in the back and Lu always sneaking my sister and I small boxes of rice candy on the way out. 

I have no clue where either of these places were located.  Lu gave her daughter the restaurant in the late 80's and it was turned into Chinese fast food.  The juice bar closed after the Landing opened.  I remember my dad was friends with the owner and they would talk about the pressure being put on businesses to relocate to the Landing. 

If anyone can remember names of these places or locations, so I feel less crazy when I talk about them, that would be fantastic.

Debbie Thompson

August 08, 2012, 01:40:16 PM
I think the juice bar was in several locations over the years, but I seem to recall it on Laura somewhere between Forsyth and Hemming Plaza in 1971.  That's a 40 year old memory, though.  The location could be faulty.  Not the yummy juice though.  LOL

Does anyone else remember that restaurant in the Shultz Building?  There were no signs on the street. You took the elevator up and opened a door that looked line any of the other offices on that floor, but there was a restaurant there. I don't even know what it was called. I just remember eating there. 

Oh, and the roast beef sandwiches with horseradish in the downstairs bar at the Robert Meyer?  Yummy.

Now I'm really going to date myself. I also remember the Roosevelt Hotel and/or George Washington Hotel had an elevator with a brass accordian door on each floor.  It was polished until it shone.  An elevator operator sat on a little stool.  I seem to recall several of the wonderful (now demolished) buildings/stores/hotels downtown still had elevator operators in the 1960's.

BackinJax05

August 09, 2012, 01:15:27 AM
^^ If I remember correctly, one of the locations for the juice bar was in the Heard National Bank building on the SW corner of Laura & Forsyth. It was demolished & Helmut's pencil is there now.

It was called Hawthorne's, I think.

As for elevator operators, there was also one at the Marshall Taylor Doctors Building in the Baptist Memorial Hospital complex. (Today its Baptist Medical Center. The Marshall Taylor building was razed in the early 80s to make way for the Baptist Pavilion)

Never ate at the Robert Meyer, but I still say that building would have been excellent for condominiums. It had everything!

Timkin

August 09, 2012, 02:54:34 AM
I'm not old enough to remember a lot of the big stores, but my mom worked at May Cohens\

 
My Grandmother , also worked at Cohens when it was still Cohen Brothers .   I have no memory of the Store but do remember Iveys, Woolworths, Penneys, and Sears very well. 

What Downtown would be like if only these places had survived.

BackinJax05

August 10, 2012, 01:24:14 AM
I'm not old enough to remember a lot of the big stores, but my mom worked at May Cohens\

 
My Grandmother , also worked at Cohens when it was still Cohen Brothers .   I have no memory of the Store but do remember Iveys, Woolworths, Penneys, and Sears very well. 

What Downtown would be like if only these places had survived.

Yes! And if the Robert Meyer had survived (either as a hotel or condominiums) guests/residents would be within walking distance of great shopping. Sears would be a bit of a walk, but it'd still be faster than driving.

Garden guy

August 10, 2012, 07:43:41 AM
I spent some of my younger years as a maycohen model and spent many a hot afternoon covered in make up standing in the window on the square...fun days and less crows feet...those were the days.

Timkin

August 10, 2012, 08:44:34 PM
I spent some of my younger years as a maycohen model and spent many a hot afternoon covered in make up standing in the window on the square...fun days and less crows feet...those were the days.

^ haha pretty cool, Garden Guy.

WmNussbaum

August 11, 2012, 05:56:10 PM
The bar in the Robt. Meyer was the Marlin Bar, but dammit I can't remember the name of the greasy spoon on floor 2 of the Schultz Bldg. I think is was just a man's name, like "Larry's," or some such.

Jaxson

August 17, 2012, 08:56:57 PM
I seem to think that the renovation of Hemming Park into Hemming Plaza was the final nail in the coffin for the struggling downtown stores as the renovation created inconveniences from which the suburban stores further reaped the benefits. 
I also would like to think that, in hindsight, department stores realize that they were cannibalizing their own stores by following sprawl out into the suburbs and exburbs of a city. 

Timkin

August 17, 2012, 11:05:07 PM
I was quite young when we would go with my Mother and Grandmother, shopping at these various department Stores.  I'm pretty sure I have no recollection of Cohen's being in the St.James building.. Pretty sure by that time it was at Roosevelt Mall and other locations. 

What I vividly remember is Woolworth's, Ivey's and Sears.. And Christmas time was just amazing. The beautiful window displays, decorations , ornaments and lights,     Downtown may have been declining by that time, but it was still quite alive.

A very vivid memory of the Downtown Sears was the Candy counter at the front entrance of the Store.. Seemed like every kind of candy , known to man was there ( wasn't really but seemed so as a child), the Escalators,  the basement, and the beautiful displays of merchandise everywhere in the store.  I remember rows of new bicycles in that area of the store and asking a clerk if they had any One-dollar Bicycles.. She chucked and said no honey, I'm afraid not . 

This is one of those things in Jacksonville's history that I will always wonder..... Why some thought it was for the better to create the suburban sprawl,  Build stores/malls in outlying areas, and do all of it in the name of progress. Progress for who is the question. 

The result was the death of the Downtown Jacksonville Shopping district, perhaps forever, as we know it .

BackinJax05

August 18, 2012, 12:21:48 AM
^^ After the shopping district went, the rest of downtown quickly followed. What was left was then imploded, bulldozed, or wrecking balled.

ronchamblin

August 18, 2012, 12:32:06 AM
I remember Cohen Brothers and the other department stores in the forties and fifties.  Yes, I am old.  And if you are lucky, you too will be old.

Back then we had no choice but to come downtown to shop.  There were no department stores in the outlying areas where we lived.  There were the little feed stores, which had some general supplies.  And there were the general stores, having many things one would need.  These were the convenience stores of the day.  The gas stations, where the attendant always pumped your gas, had only a candy machine, a coke machine, and the pin-up girl hidden on the wall around the corner.  Before Playboy and the current Internet porno, those pin-ups were exciting for us young boys…. getting a glimpse of a real naughty pin-up.     

I think occasionally about the mad rush to the suburbs of all that was in the core.  It was of course, necessary for the competition department stores to open in the outlying areas.  But why was it necessary.  And was it really necessary? 

Instead of simply building malls and inviting department stores to open in the malls, what if the city, the powers within the government, had been wise enough and creative enough to gradually build a transportation infrastructure which would have allowed all of the outlying areas to have easy transport to the city and back to their homes….. to their jobs and back….. to shopping and back?

If this had been done, “theoretically” the department stores would still be in the city core, and none would be in the suburbs.  But since the growing population in the Duval County borders would overwhelm only one large Cohen Brothers or Pennys, the original old city core would have had to expand so that other department stores could have opened up in the core area.  The result would have been that the core would have expanded, all the while maintaining a density as seen in New York or other mega-cities.  If this thought experiment would have actually evolved in reality, a vibrant city core would now exist, perhaps from five points in the west to Regency in the east, from Trout River in the north to San Marco in the south..... a truly large city, having an efficient and effective mass transit.  Is this what we would have wanted?  Sounds like it.

This mega-city could have been accomplished by building a transportation infrastructure which might have included subways and streetcars and trains, and even a river ferry or two. 

The outlying areas would have had no malls, only small stores for convenience.  People would get around much as in New York or other large cities…. by mass transit. 

And here we are, trying to build something approximating the large city, by avoiding the main ingredient of one, which is a good transportation infrastructure……  allowing people in the outlying areas to come into the core to the future department stores, and other similar stores, which will return only when the infill is vibrant enough to support them. 

BackinJax05

August 18, 2012, 12:46:19 AM
Excellent ideas. :) The problem is, they make sense - something that doesnt go over very well in Jacksonville ;)

As for the naughty pin-ups, they're still exciting. Unlike today's stuff, pin-ups leave something for the imagination.

Sometimes I wonder what the Mathews Bridge would be like if a streetcar line had been built with it. The line running along the Arlington Expressway to Regency Mall.

Oh well.

Debbie Thompson

August 18, 2012, 10:20:48 PM
And sometimes I dream about what downtown would be like if Martin Stein had never built Regency Square. :-)

thelakelander

August 22, 2012, 08:53:02 AM
Does anyone know or remember what colors were synonymous with May Cohens stores?

Timkin

August 22, 2012, 06:00:22 PM
Does anyone know or remember what colors were synonymous with May Cohens stores?

I remember the May Cohens logo vividly..  I believe my Sister still has one of my Grandmother's Catalogs from the store... Will see if she does and bring it to you Lake.

thelakelander

August 22, 2012, 06:12:58 PM
Do you remember the colors used?  I found these logos at http://departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com/2011/12/may-cohens-jacksonville-florida.html



Ocklawaha

August 22, 2012, 09:00:16 PM


If you have sharp eyes you will spot the logo atop the old store. A large Old Antique English or Germanic lettering style with a large C and B, spelling out in red, 'Cohen Brothers.'

Every day, my mother Pauline Mann, would board the '70 Naval Air' bus of the old city coach company a block up from Ortega Village, at a Shell Station if memory serves me right. Her immediate supervisor popped into my head a couple of days ago, a sweet southron lady named Mrs. Walker. My mom worked in the basement, it was a true wonderland in the style of the little New York luggage shops that seem to stack every possible thing in plain sight. Rich woodwork on the walls and counter tops was always polished. They had a large toy department, and actually had quite the model railroad store in hobbies. I recall looking a steam engines that were on display, I think it's where I first came face to face with actual scale model railroads, rather then tinplate toys. Mom always laughed that they would have playing cards for .25 cents a deck but they were slow movers, then when they had a 'sale' they marked them '2 for .50 Cents' and they couldn't keep them on the shelves.

Y'all might also note in the photo above how the downtown sidewalks were nearly completely covered with a series of awnings and roof overhangs.

thelakelander

August 22, 2012, 09:24:30 PM
What was the color scheme of the store's interior?  Was it simply white walls and lighting?

BackinJax05

August 23, 2012, 12:39:03 AM
^^Back in the 80s, May Cohens at Regency was tacky brown & white earth tones. Cant remember downtown, though.

roninvirginia

December 13, 2012, 10:46:55 AM
Dr. Sloat, DDS. Had his office downtown. My mom would take the lucky "victim" in for their appointment. If we were good we would first go to Woolworths for a BLT at the lunch counter. Then we would walk through Cohen's. it was a fascinating place. I remember getting my Davy Crockett" coonskin cap there.
Yes, Sears was the official Boy Scout uniform supplier. I got my Cub Scout uniform there, then later on, my Explorer Scout uniform.

fishman

June 17, 2013, 11:32:24 PM
I have very fond memories of shopping downtown at May Cohens with my Mother in the early, mid and late 1960's. My favorite store was May Cohens. I used to enjoy going downtown at Christmastime and seeing all of the Christmas lights, and going down in the basement to see Santa Claus. I also enjoyed going to the May Cohens bakery and eating their delicious sugar cookies. Even in the 1960's, my Mom would still wear her hat and gloves when she would go shopping downtown. My family enjoyed saltwater fishing, and my  brother espeically enjoyed offshore fishing, so during Christmastime I would go down in the basement of May Cohens in the sporting goods section, and buy my brother "Sea Witch" lures for just 1.00 each (probably 5.00 to 10.00 each now). Man, I really miss May Cohens downtown. It is kind of depressing going down there now, because now it is City Hall and those good old days are over with. It is really depresssing going down there now, kind of like a ghost town where some of those old department stores used to be.

Seraphs

June 27, 2013, 10:28:25 PM
Does anyone know or remember what colors were synonymous with May Cohens stores?

I remember the May Cohens logo vividly..  I believe my Sister still has one of my Grandmother's Catalogs from the store... Will see if she does and bring it to you Lake.

^^Back in the 80s, May Cohens at Regency was tacky brown & white earth tones. Cant remember downtown, though.

Somewhat-The old bags way back when were green with gray writing.  Some smaller bags were white with burgundy writing.  Later they went to brown paper with dark brown writing.  As far as the interior of the store, I'm assuming you are talking about the downtown store.  No white with lighting.  It was beige like walls, marble floors.  Color schemes beige to light browns.  Some mauve like browns in marble pattern on floor.  Huge crystal chandeliers all over store. 

Whisperliner401

March 19, 2014, 10:49:24 AM
Moving to Jacksonville from DeLand as a kid, I never knew stores like that existed. Taking a bus and walking around downtown. I thought this is how the other half lived. Have not been there in years, but from what I gather from the comments, there must not be much left of downtown. What a waste. Lots of good memories floating around those sidewalks.
View forum thread
Welcome Guest. You must be logged in to comment on this story.

What are the benefits of having a MetroJacksonville.com account?
  • Share your opinion by posting comments on stories that interest you.
  • Stay up to date on all of the latest issues affecting your neighborhood.
  • Create a network of friends working towards a better Jacksonville.
Register now
Already have an account? Login now to comment.