Author Topic: The Age of the Downtown Department Store  (Read 18036 times)

Metro Jacksonville

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The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« on: July 24, 2012, 04:02:56 AM »
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.

Full Article
http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2012-jul-the-age-of-the-downtown-department-store

riverside planner

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #1 on: 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

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #2 on: 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

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #3 on: 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

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #4 on: 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

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #5 on: 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

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #6 on: 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

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #7 on: 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...
« Last Edit: July 24, 2012, 10:36:24 AM by Jason »

gedo3

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #8 on: 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

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #9 on: 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

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #10 on: 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!
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

Debbie Thompson

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #11 on: 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

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #12 on: 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

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2012, 03:25:01 PM »
Loving the stories.
Bothering locals and trolling boards since 2005

Timkin

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Re: The Age of the Downtown Department Store
« Reply #14 on: 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.