Saturday, September 15, 2012

"The Beat Goes On" at Dillard's


Here’s a set of vintage snapshot photos I purchased several months back. Taken in Austin, Texas in April 1967, they depict famed pop stars Sonny and Cher on a bandstand in front of a Dillard’s department store. The photos are a bit overlit and fuzzy (not unusual for outdoor shots from an inexpensive Kodak 126 Instamatic – like millions of others in those days, most of my childhood photos were taken on this exact type of camera), but you can tell that Sonny and Cher seem to be having a good time and the crowd is excited.  

When I first saw these photos I was intrigued, and two questions came to mind: What brought these entertainers, L.A. denizens to the core, to Texas? And what prompted a personal appearance at Dillard’s, then among the smallest specks on America’s department store landscape? (We’ll get to that in a minute.) Through a bit of research I found a satisfactory answer to first question and reached a fairly obvious conclusion about the second.

It turns out that Sonny and Cher were in town for a movie premiere. On April 11, 1967, the world premiere for the movie “Good Times”, the first picture to feature the couple in starring roles, was held in Austin. The premiere was part of a weeklong promotional Texas trek that, according to an April 29 Billboard magazine article, included stops in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Abilene and El Paso. (“A cowboy’s work is never done”, they say.) My guess is a fashion show at Dillard’s was added at some point to the duo’s itinerary.

The “rock and roll movie” was a fixture of American culture by 1967, and if an artist had a few hits under their belt (Sonny and Cher had scored a number one smash with “I Got You Babe” in 1965, one of five Top 20 hits for the pair in just a little over a year), some personality and a unique presence (Cher’s dusky voice and exotic looks, Sonny’s fur vests and bowl haircut), a movie offer was usually a solid bet. These movies varied wildly in quality, and more often than not were “star vehicles” with minimal, hackneyed plots. “Good Times” featured the rock and roll singers in a movie about…well, rock and roll singers becoming movie stars. (Viewing it today, it’s a fun, much better than average sixties romp. And the styles were incredible, topped off by George Barris-designed his-and-her Mustangs specially built for the film. Long clips can be found on YouTube, but you didn’t read that here!)

History shows that 1967 was the start of a long dry spell for Sonny and Cher. “Good Times” bombed at the box office, and “The Beat Goes On”, a number 6 pop hit, would provide the Bonos’ last Billboard chart action for a very long time. So they headed for Las Vegas. Only made it out to Needles. There, they found steady work as a casino act, and over the next few years they carefully honed their stage personas (personae?) – Sonny, the na├»ve, somewhat air-headed dreamer, and Cher, his quick-witted, sharp-tongued wife, always ready to burst his bubble with the perfectly timed wisecrack.

Audiences loved it, and in 1971 CBS came forward with an offer for an hour-long summer replacement series. “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” quickly became a national sensation, a Top 10 show for several seasons in a row, and a weekly fixture of millions of TV viewers’ homes, mine included.

When the couple announced their divorce in 1974, it was a palpable shock. Their lives took very different courses over the ensuing decades, with Sonny eventually entering Republican politics, winning the office of Mayor of Palm Springs, California then a seat as a U.S. congressman. In 1998, he died in a tragic skiing accident. Cher, no last name necessary, remains an entertainment icon, with at least number one hit in each decade since her first emergence on the scene. I still think of her 1999 hit “Believe” as “the inescapable song”, because unless you stayed in your house all year with a supply of food, windows and doors duct-taped shut and the lights turned off, you couldn’t escape it. We took a family vacation to California that year and heard it at least once every 15 minutes, including while standing in line for the mine train at Calico. Somehow it made perfect sense.

All right. Lest you think this site has turned into “Retro Entertainment Tonight”, I figure it’s about time I said something about that stately structure behind our Hollywood heroes. That, my friends, is the first “real” Dillard’s store, which opened in February 1964 in Austin’s Hancock Shopping Center.

It was a far cry from the first store opened by William T. Dillard in Nashville, Arkansas, a rural town southwest of Hot Springs, in the late 1930’s. Born in 1914, Dillard grew up in the tiny town of Mineral Springs, Arkansas, where his father owned a dry goods store. His early years were typified by hard work at the family store and a desire to learn the retailing business inside and out, the quintessential American story of a young man diligently following in his father’s footsteps.

By his mid-twenties, however, Dillard had earned a distinction that set him apart from most American young men of the day, certainly those from rural Arkansas. In 1938, he earned a masters’ degree in business from New York’s prestigious Columbia University, where he attended on a scholarship.  Valuable as a Columbia education was, however, Dillard’s exposure to the Big Apple’s legendary department stores – Macy’s, Gimbels and John Wanamaker (Dillard worked at their Manhattan branch while in school there) – arguably did as much to shape his future career.  

Leaving New York, Dillard pursued management trainee jobs with Sears, Roebuck and Co. and J.C. Penney, and received offers from both. Penney offered Dillard positions in Walla Walla, Washington, of all places, and the much closer to home Topeka, Kansas. Dillard took Sears’ offer, which was closer still –a Tulsa, Oklahoma store. He stayed there only seven months before leaving to open his own store, in Nashville, Arkansas, as mentioned.

The store did well, but over time Dillard grew restless. Most of all, he was eager to avoid his father’s mistake of “wast(ing) many of his abilities because he was confined to a small town”, according to author Leon Joseph Rosenfeld in his brief but excellent 1988 book “Dillard’s: The First Fifty Years”. In 1948, Dillard purchased a 40 percent in Wooten’s department store in Texarkana, -- miles to the southwest on the Texas border, a much larger market with a population of 55,000. The following year, he bought the remaining interest in the Texarkana store (by then called “Wooten & Dillard”) and sold off the Nashville business.  Within five years it became the leading store in Texarkana, and Dillard, who had relocated his family there, was one the area’s prominent citizens.

Interestingly, Dillard reversed course in a sense when he bought back into a small market with the March 1955 purchase of a department  store in Magnolia, Arkansas from a friend. It was back to bigger things the following year, however, when the opportunity arose to acquire a well-respected East Texas  department store. For years, Dillard had admired Mayer & Schmidt, the leading store in Tyler, Texas, a town with a population similar to that of Texarkana.

Mayer & Schmidt, founded in 1899, was a well run store with a fine reputation, drawing customers from a radius well beyond the city of Tyler. In 1956, however, they were in trouble. The previous year, Mayer & Schmidt opened a second store in town “to capitalize on its prosperity”, but the new location turned out to be a flop, and “within a year it was closed and deeply in debt”, according to Rosenberg. Based on his success in Texarkana, Dillard was able to line up financing, and in April 1956, acquired a majority stake in the Mayer & Schmidt store. Dillard immediately embarked on a complete remodeling and expansion of the store, adding furniture, appliance, jewelry, records and hi-fi departments along with leased shoe, book and fur operations. The revamped Mayer & Schmidt debuted on September 17, 1956, and would prove to be a great success under Dillard’s ownership.

In 1959, a banker friend of Dillard’s informed him of another well-regarded department store recently befallen by rocky times. Brown-Dunkin Company was Tulsa, Oklahoma’s largest department store (more than twice as large an enterprise as Mayer & Schmidt), founded in 1924 by brothers-in-law John H. Dunkin and John A. Brown, and “occup(ied) the first nine floors of the fifteen-story Hunt building at Fourth and Main streets, the city’s busiest corner”, Rosenberg states, and “had become a household word in northeast Oklahoma”.    

Brown-Dunkin’s problem was one of succession. Dunkin had passed away in 1958 and Brown some years before that, and the store went into decline under the management left in place by the founders’ widows. Intrigued by the challenge of running a well-known store and the chance “to prove his abilities before a national audience” as Rosenberg put it, Dillard set off on an arduous seven-month process of negotiations with the Brown and Dunkin widows and numerous banks. Ultimately, he was required to put up the Mayer & Schmidt store as security for the transaction. Knowing he could fall back on the Texarkana and Magnolia stores should things go awry, Dillard pressed forward confidently. On the last day of February 1960, Dillard took control of the Brown-Dunkin store.

Initially there were headaches – after the ownership change was publicized, picketers from the local Building Services Union showed up on the sidewalks outside the Brown-Dunkin store. Unbeknownst to Dillard, the previous ownership had recently dismissed the store’s cleaning ladies and elevator operators, contracting out those functions to outside firms. Dillard refused to reopen the issue and eventually the picketing stopped. Then there was the matter of $150,000 worth of unpaid invoices discovered in a drawer, which forced Dillard to obtain an additional line of credit.

On top of these hassles was one more that ended up turning into a considerable plus. In sharp contrast to today, mid-20th century America was dotted with department store companies that ranged in size from single-store outfits to 20-plus-unit multi-regional chains, with most falling somewhere in between. To increase their negotiating power with clothing manufacturers and other suppliers, many department store firms signed up with (usually New York-based) buying cooperative agencies. These agencies strove to represent one department store chain in each major city, while doing their best to avoid any competitive overlap between clients. When Brown-Dunkin’s buying agency, Mutual, caught wind of the buyout, they figured Dillard wasn’t capable of pulling the potatoes out of the proverbial fire and dumped Brown-Dunkin in favor of Vandever’s, another Tulsa department store.

Not long afterward, Dillard joined up with the Frederick Atkins Company, “one of the more prestigious buying houses in the country”, as Rosenberg put it. The Atkins firm represented a host of marquee names including John Wanamaker (Philadelphia), B. Altman (New York), Hochschild-Kohn (Baltimore), Miller & Rhoads (Richmond), Ivey’s (the Carolinas and Florida), Pizitz (awesomely-named, Birmingham), Chas. A. Stevens (Chicago – did you really think I’d leave that out?) and The Broadway (of latent “Mad Men” fame, Los Angeles), among many others. When he signed on with Atkins in 1962, Dillard was their smallest client. By the early 1980’s, he was their largest.

Two years on and these problems behind him, Dillard was eager to expand.  Dillard had “recognized the shift of the population to the suburbs and the need to provide stores close to them” as far back as his brief tenure with Sears, Rosenberg noted, and he “had wanted to open a unit in a mall for some time to see if it would work”.  For this exciting new venture he partnered with Homart, a recently created mall development subsidiary of Sears, then ferociously active in the Southwest.  Dillard initially considered Homart’s first mall project, the just opened Seminary South Shopping Center in Fort Worth, Texas. (Many years later, in 1987, Dillard finally put in a store there.) Also in the running was Homart’s still-in-development Coronado Center in Albuquerque.

Instead, he chose a third Homart project, the Hancock Shopping Center, to be located in Austin and co-anchored, of course, by Sears (second photo here). Dillard’s methodology behind this choice was novel, to put it mildly. From Rosenberg’s book: “Dillard had been visiting in the city (Austin) and was waiting for his flight to Albuquerque when he happened to thumb through a telephone book. He noticed there were more Lutheran churches in Austin than any other denomination and associated the churches with Germans, who had always impressed him with their work ethic and honesty. On that basis, he decided that Austin would be an excellent place for his store.”  (And here I always thought the Methodists were the benchmark for retail site selection. Shows you what I know.)

Obviously the Lutherans and a great many others liked Dillard’s store. It was an unqualified success, resetting the template for all of the company’s future growth. From that point forward, Dillard “took every opportunity in subsequent years to co-anchor new malls with Sears or Penney’s”, Rosenberg wrote, “…he was not in direct competition with either store, and they both made good mall partners for him”.

Importantly, the store was the first to carry Dillard’s own name, not counting his early dry goods stores in southwest Arkansas. (As a side note, Dillard sold the Texarkana and Magnolia stores in 1962 to Aldens, a Chicago-based catalog retailer then seeking a piece of the brick-and-mortar side of the business. Aldens had recently bought out Shoppers World, and would itself be absorbed by Gamble-Skogmo in 1964.) Although he would continue to put his own name on stores in markets that were new to the company (Austin, for example), for years he maintained the names of acquired companies in their respective markets, such as Mayer & Schmidt and Brown-Dunkin, even when adding new mall-based stores in their areas.

As mentioned, the Austin, Texas Dillard’s store opened in February 1964. Later that year saw the return of Dillard and his family (from Tulsa) to Arkansas, this time to Little Rock, the state capital, where he had recently assembled a considerable retail enterprise. Over the previous year, Dillard bought out the Gus Blass Company and Pfiefer’s, two of the three largest department stores in the area, the other being M.M. Cohn. The buyouts were carried out with the help of funds from the Mayer & Schmidt stockholders and $1.5 million kicked in from Sperry & Hutchinson, who invested on the condition that Dillard hand out their S&H Green Stamps in his stores. Both Blass and Pfeifer’s were large downtown stores with one branch apiece – Blass in Pine Bluff and Pfeifer’s in Hot Springs. In 1965 a mall-based Blass store was opened at Park Plaza in Little Rock, and two years after that, another at the then new (and just recently torn down, except for Sears) Indian Mall in Jonesboro. Starting in 1967, Dillard’s Little Rock-based operations were combined under the name of Pfeifer-Blass, although I don’t know for sure whether this change was extended to store signage.    

The late 60’s and early 70’s were a furious period of growth for Dillard’s companies, and virtually all of it took place at the malls. 1965 saw a Brown-Dunkin store at Southland Shopping Mall in Tulsa, followed by another at the Northland Shopping center the following year. In Oklahoma City, he opened a “Dillard’s Brown-Dunkin” store at the Sheppard Mall, “a first step in phasing in his own name for all his stores”, according to Rosenberg’s book. In 1968, two Dillard’s stores were opened in San Antonio, at Central Park Mall and what is now known as South Park Mall. And the growth continued from there – the first Missouri location, at Springfield’s Battlefield Mall was added in 1970, as was the first Louisiana location at Shreveport’s Shreve City Center.

In 1974, the various Dillard-controlled stores all took on the “Dillard’s” name, reflecting the incorporation of Dillard’s enterprises under one financial umbrella. More importantly, it provided a consistent brand image for marketing purposes. While many (including me) lament the passing of so many great department store nameplates in recent decades, it has proven to be an unstoppable, irreversible trend.  It’s interesting to note, however, that even Macy’s, the proverbial poster child” for department store rebranding, owned Davison’s (Atlanta) for 61 years before converting them to Macy’s in 1986 and Bamberger’s (“New Jersey’s greatest store, and one of America’s finest”) for 57 years before finally hanging the red star on its front door that same year. 

When William T. Dillard passed away at age 87 in 2002, his namesake company that began so humbly was America’s third largest department store chain, according to his New York Times obituary. Today, among “luxury” department stores (i.e.: not including Sears, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney), they remain number three, behind Macy’s and Nordstrom and ahead of Neiman Marcus and Belk, per Stores Magazine’s latest rankings. Today, Dillard’s boasts over 300 stores in a coast-to-coast empire. And the beat goes on.

Below, a 1972 newspaper ad hailing the new Dillard’s store at the Northwest Arkansas Plaza, as reproduced in the Rosenberg book - an enjoyable hodgepodge of names and architectural styles if there ever was one.


33 comments:

  1. It's funny. I looked at the last picture with all the stores on it. I remember going to or seeing about half of those, especially the Shreveport store. I believe that store lasted all the way to the late 90's as a clearance center. And I also remember the signs coming down at the Longview store when it was moved out to the mall (which is now known as the chain's largest single floor store).

    It is of great interest to note that the majority of Dillard's growth has not been through new store openings, but largely through acquisitions (Mercantile Stores; DH Holmes, Joske's, Higbee's and Horne's come to mind). However, the company is very strong, and is truly independant. The stores they have acquired through the years fit neatly into their fold.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your Austin-based readership may be hung up on the otherwise unavailable information on Hancock Center; as I am. In the interest of full disclosure, my home is walking distance from the long-standing, but mysterious Hancock Center.

    Upon moving to Austin in 1996 I found the 197(8?) H-E-B Futurestore facing Red River Street and the Sears more-or-less facing IH-35 with a lovely green field between. Some folks suggested these businesses were originally part of a prestigious shopping center which was torn down between 1979 and 1990.

    In 1998 Hancock Center was rebuilt, some say on the very same footprint, featuring H-E-B Grocery's flagship store (I do miss the "Chinese Kitchen" of the Futurestore) and the kind of useful businesses the City of Austin makes a point of chasing out to the suburbs. Hancock Center flourishes today. Indeed, I was there just a couple of hours ago.

    That Dillard's first new so-named store was on that spot is exciting news to HC nerds like myself. And I managed to get through this without a sociopolitical rant about Dillard's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I miss the original courtyard layout of Hancock. I liked going to the old Dillard's as well, which closed around 1990, because they bought out the Joske's store in nearby Highland Mall. Ironically that store closed as well, only several years ago.

      Delete
  3. Loved your post- as always! My family never missed the Sonny & Cher show either. My sister and I used to perform "I Got You Babe" for my parents- where I always had to take on Sonny's role thanks to my sister lol. This was a nice walk down memory lane!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you liked this, Shanon! It's funny how unified pop culture was in those days - Sonny and Cher, Carol Burnett, Flip Wilson...nearly everyone I knew watched every one of those shows, every week.

      I loved the humor on the Sonny and Cher show, and those orange globe lights on the stage with their "cartoon faces" is something I can picture to this day.

      I'll bet you and your sister were a hoot singing that song! :)

      Delete
  4. Seems like Sonny and Cher should have been appearing at an H-E-B instead of a Dillard's. "The grocery store's a supermart, uh-huh," indeed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would have made a much better Facebook post title for me, Jim! ;)

      Delete
    2. Ha Ha. Actually there still is an HEB in Hancock Center where Sony and Cher appeared in '67, unlike the Dillard's there that closed in 1990.

      Delete
  5. Great post about Dillard's, although I have mixed feelings about what they had done with Higbee's in Cleveland once they were acquired by Dillard's in 1992. Higbee's once had very nice stores, both downtown at Tower City Center and in the malls. Once the Higbee's name was dropped, the stores went into decline, as well as some of the malls where the other stores were located. Some merchandise lines were dropped, and at least a few locations closed, including the flagship downtown Cleveland store, which became the Horseshoe Casino 12 years after Dillard's closed in 1999. Malls dying or redeveloping closed the Dillard's stores at Severance Center in Cleveland Heights (formerly Higbee's at one end and Halle's/Joseph Horne's at the other end); Westgate (former Federal's/Higbee's and Halle's/Horne's), as well as the Randall Park and Rolling Acres locations, both at dead malls. Another dead mall, Euclid Square, still has a Dillard's outlet store. I do miss Higbee's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Higbee's is just one example of how Dillard has been destructive to the retail landscape. They've generally gotten a poorer reception N of the Mason-Dixon than below it (they've not done well in Cincinnati either), but the general theme is the same. They bought modestly high end stores and dumbed down their slections through centralized buying and by cutting back on swervice. They also killed off even viable downtown stores. The result are the stores that, in many places, no one shops. When I go back to Cleveland, the Dillard stores are ghost towns filled with crappy house brand merchandise. For all the complaining about Macy, Dillard really has been the scorched earth ruiner of stores and this was evident seeveral decades ago. They were a Wall Street darling which enabled them to make acquisitions and raise earnings while creating a business model that was destined to crater in the long run (as it has). Sadly, many places have lost their upper middle brow shopping options unless they happen to have a token Nordstrom or other outpost of high end retailing.

      Delete
  6. "Good Times" was directed by William Freidkin, would go on to become one of the major figures of the "New Hollywood" with THE FRENCH CONNECTION and THE EXORCIST. And in early 1970, Sonny & Cher were headlining at the Riviera in Las Vegas, while across the Strip at Caesar's Palace was...the Partridge Family (in the series pilot, filmed on location). Finally, one of the stores now part of Dillard's was Stix, Baer & Fuller in St. Louis.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paul - Wow, Friedkin certainly moved on to bigger things! Hard to imagine (less The Godfather and The Sting, of course) two more iconic early 70's films.

      I need a time machine, as the old cliche goes, to transport myself to early 70's Vegas - Frank, Dean, Elvis, Sonny and Cher...and the Partridge Family!

      Execellent point about Stix, lest people get the impression that Macy's alone swallowed up all the great department store chains.

      Delete
  7. Brown-Dunkin..? If only the latter had thought to open a donut shop...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Tulsa runs on Brown-Dunkin"...possibilities! ;)

      Delete
  8. Howdy. I was born in 1963, and spent roughly ages 2-7 in Little Rock and the time since in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

    If I remember correctly, the old Pfeifer's and Blass stores still had the old names on the big facade signs, but on the doors and bags and such, the name "Pfeifer-Blass" was used before the change in 1974.

    The old Blass store in Pine Bluff was located in Jefferson Square, a big strip-type shopping center. JS still exists and contains other active stores, but the Pine Bluff Dillard's moved to the Pines Mall when the PM opened in 1986, and Dillard's remains one of its anchor stores.

    Pines Mall has declined quite a bit in the past several years; if not for the anchor stores (Dillard's, Sears, and Penney's), and the movie theater (the only one in PB; it has 8 screens), it would probably have died by now.

    However, the Pines Mall was recently sold to new owners, who hope to revive it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hamfast - Thanks for that information on the Pfeifer-Blass combination - it seems to confirm my understanding of what I've read on this.

      You know, I could swear that I saw the old Blass building (with the huge B L A S S lettering)in Pine Bluff just a few years ago (2009-ish)on a business trip there, but I would have been sure it was long gone, since the Pines Mall has been around quite a while. Maybe you can tell me if I'm hallucinating here!

      Also, being from Pine Bluff, I suppose you would remember the great circa-1958 Sears store that was there prior to the current mall location.

      Delete
    2. I know the sign you mean, but it's gone now, and I don't remember exactly when it was removed. Part of the store is now occupied by a clothing store (Fashion Metro, IIRC), unless it has closed since the last time I went to JS. (I don't have a car, so I don't make too many shopping trips other than for groceries.) For a while several years ago, Pine Bluff's main post office was located in the old Blass building, while the PO building was being renovated.

      The old Sears store you mentioned is only a few blocks from Pine Bluff High School. When I was attending school there, I would sometimes go to Sears on lunch break and eat in the little restaurant they had. I thought their burgers were pretty good, plus it wasn't mobbed with other students. The building still exists. It now houses the Arkansas River Educational Service Cooperative.

      Delete
    3. Update: I seem to remember now that the clothing store which occupies part of the old Blass building is Citi Trends rather than Fashion Metro.

      Delete
  9. I had not realized that the Dillard's I grew up with at Battlefield Mall was the first in Missouri! I noticed that the ad you featured, the last image in the blog entry, included a sketch of the Battlefield Mall store. Dillards was an original anchor at that mall, way back when the mall was just a long corridor. At the opposite end was Wards, and midway along the corridor on the west side was (and is) Penney's. The Dillards pictured in the ad is now Macy's (it was Famous Barr after it was Dillards til Macy's rebranding) and Dillards has TWO mall locations. The older of the two, an octagonal-shaped structure, now houses men's and kids, and housewares; the other location is in the old Ward's anchor and caters to women (shoes, clothes, handbags, cosmetics). The structure where Macy's is looks pretty much exactly like the Dillard's location in the ad; little has been done to it. I know I have said all this before, but you keep talking about all these stores I have been familiar with since I was old enough to say their names!

    I remember Dillard's as a swanky place to shop, as was Famous-Barr. Most of my family's shopping happened at Wards, Sears, Penney's or local Heers. I am pretty sure that Dillards, when it was in the current Macy's anchor, had a cafe/cafeteria in it, and Famous-Barr kept it around for at least a while after it took that anchor over and Dillards went to its octagonal digs in the "new part" of the mall. I'm not certain anymore, but even that new Dillards may have had a cafe for a while. When I hear people talking about shopping in the 50's and 60's, it seems it was an all-day adventure, and lunch at the department store was a special treat that was a key part of that adventure. To me, it is sad that this feature is pretty much a thing of the past in department stores.

    ReplyDelete
  10. What? No love for Joske's?

    Anyway, never heard of this "Futurestore" prototype (a bit of an H-E-B buff, here), though a 2004-built store in Bryan, Texas includes a "Shanghai Wok" Chinese stand. I also know (or at least of last knowledge) there's a very old H-E-B in Marlin, Texas (low ceilings, green metal facade).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. H-E-B built only the one Futurestore, which went up within months of completion of the nearby IH-35 split in Austin's Hyde Park neighborhood. It was pretty much what a larger grocery is like today, although the produce section was quite small and the aisles narrower as groceries were built until the 80s. Remember in the late 70s an on-site bakery, live lobsters, full delicatessen, and so forth was quite a big deal. The Futurestore also offered a relatively broad selection of cookery implements and countertop appliances. I do not know when the Futurestore signage was removed but most likely 1988-89 when the store was revised on the 10-year plan.

      Another Futurestore-scale H-E-B was planned to open not so far away near 38th St. and Lamar in Austin by 1992. The city and the neighborhood pitched a fit about having access to food in comfortable surroundings so nearby. By the time those folks were satisfied the store had evolved into the original 1994 Central Market. CM is most significant as the vitamin store just down Lamar used it as a model for their remodeling and future growth. The vitamin store was called Whole Foods Market.

      Delete
    2. Oh yes. The H-E-B Futurestore is the Lance Armstrong 24-Hour Fitness (open 'til Midnight) on Red River near 41st in Austin.

      Delete
  11. Truly a superb article about one of my favorite department stores which has a very low presence here in California. For the past 20 years, I've been yearning for Dillard's to make an opportunity to make a larger California presence through the bankruptcies and closures of department store anchors such as Buffums, Carter Hawley Hale, JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, Mervyn's, Gottschalks, and Robinsons-May. However, most of them have become a secondary Macy's, Target, or Forever 21. I have created a group on Facebook called "Petition to Bring More Dillard's Stores to California". I hope my cause comes to fruition, economy permitting. BTW, that's founder William T. Dillard himself with Sonny & Cher!

    ReplyDelete
  12. In case any of you are wondering, Frederick Atkins Co. (now-defunct) was NOT a retail holding company like Federated, May, Allied, or Associated Dry Goods. One store not on that list was Gottschalks of Fresno (probably not an Atkins store at the time).

    ReplyDelete
  13. Dave, you mean you don't believe in life after love? Or is it love after life? However it goes, it's stuck in my head now thanks to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Didi - "If I could turn back time", I'd try not to do that. Oh crap, there goes again! ;)

      Delete
    2. Next time try to get photos of the Bonos dressed as gypsies, tramps and thieves. Endless possibilities and instant will be stuck in your head all day long.

      Delete
  14. Great article! Re: Sonny & Cher's act - eventually they got the same manager that had managed Louis Prima and Keeley Smith - and their stage personas utilize the same dynamic - goofy husband, singer with deadpan style.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, good information there, thanks! It stands to reason that the manager helped Sonny and Cher shpe their act, as it worked so well for his previous clients. Nothing is really new, when you think about it!

      In a similar vein, after he and Jerry Lewis broke up their act in 1956, Dean Martin floundered a bit until he adopted his "lovable lush" persona from the comic Joe E. Lewis, who enjoyed moderate popularity in the 40's and 50's.

      One more thing about Keely - she was one of the few female artists to record duets with Frank Sinatra in his prime recording years (not counting Sinatra's "Duets" albums at the tail end of his career in the 90's)."Nothing in Common" was a fun song of theirs.

      Delete
    2. Well before its current behemoth status, Macy's had a division called "Macy's Missouri-Kansas." I believe this division (or at least the majority of its stores) was sold to Dillard's some time in the '80s.

      Delete
  15. I wish we had Dillard's instead of Boscov's in Greater Philadelphia. And as far as grocery stores go, I wish we had Kroger instead of Giant. Also, I wish Target had gone out of business instead of Montgomery Ward. In the 80's and 90's, Target stores were at least a little bit interesting. But I miss their old garden centers, ceiling fan displays, and color-coded department signage. Even their selection of Hot Wheels cars was better in my childhood, but maybe that's more of a Mattel/Hot Wheels issue than a Target issue. It's a shame what department stores we DON'T have in Houston anymore. Mervyns, which was similar to Kohl's but nicer, Montgomery Ward, Lord & Taylor (they left the Houston market in 2003 after not that long), and of course Foley's.

    ReplyDelete
  16. These pictures are so neat! What a find! S&C had a song called "A Cowboy's Work is Never Done," so I appreciated that reference!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had the 45 of that song, Angie - glad you liked this!

      Delete