Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

All right, so this one might be a little obvious- a photo showing a “Happy New Year” sign for a New Year’s Day post, but I like it a lot. This photo, a 1985 original snapshot, depicts the tri-faced tower sign for the Macomb Mall in Roseville, Michigan, a northeast suburb of Detroit, an area where cool shopping center signs were the order of the day, it seems. When the photo was taken, the sign (and the mall) was already 21 years old, but believe it or not it still stands today, just one year shy of Macomb Mall’s golden anniversary.

There have been a few changes over the years, naturally. Crowley, Milner and Company (background of the photo), a proud department store presence in the Detroit area since 1909, prospered in the shadow of its much larger department store competitor J.L. Hudson Company for decades. Things grew tough by the 1990’s however, and despite valiant efforts to reinvent itself and to introduce new formats, Crowley’s closed its doors in 1999, selling out to Columbus-based Schottenstein Stores, owners of Value City. The Macomb Mall store, along with two other locations, was reopened under the name of “Crowley’s Value City.”  These were closed in 2008.

In 1985, a MainStreet store (division of Federated Department Stores) was opened, later becoming a Kohl’s in 1988, amid the wild selloff of Federated assets that followed in the wake of the Campeau takeover that year.

The script-signed Sears store was magnificent. Built at the peak of the company’s power, it’s an enduring reminder of that great institution’s glory days.  

Regarding the tower sign, this was actually the second of this design to be installed in the area – in 1962, two years prior to Macomb Mall’s opening, its developer Schostak Brothers & Company opened Livonia Mall, northwest of Detroit, with the same two anchors – Sears and Crowley’s.  Livonia Mall was torn down in 2009 and a new shopping center, Livonia Marketplace, occupies the site.

A third area center, Troy’s Oakland Mall, was developed by a different company yet sported signs that were very similar to the Livonia and Macomb signs, with a just a few differences. Once again, Sears was the main anchor (opened in 1965, it preceded the rest of the mall by a couple of years), but this time it was Crowley’s competitor Hudson’s supplying the local department store flavor. Hudson’s was later converted to Marshall Field’s and is now (cue the rimshot) a Macy’s. The signage that exists there now is, shall we say, less than inspired.

At any rate, thanks for joining me as we begin a new year of Pleasant Family Shopping. I hope you’ll stick around as we continue to explore the great architecture, the good, bad and just plain crazy business decisions, the strange coincidences and the tender moments of America’s retail past.

Oh, and please…drive with care!      


  1. Another Good One Dave! I'm A Big Fan Of Your Post's and Life from the good Ol' Days. I Check Back Daily To See If There Are Any New Post. Consider Me....A Fan! Thank You and keep up the good work.

    - ROB.H

  2. So glad to see another post so soon! I love the mid-century styling of this sign! Seems that many are passionate about saving old buildings, but great old signage often get short shrift. Companies change logos, or want to update a property, and the building often gets a make-over while the signage goes completely. Nice to know that this sign has survived mostly intact.

  3. Dave you always do a great job. It's always a pleasure to check in and see a new post. As we talked in the past I grew up in a retail household, my dad was at S.S. Kresge and mom at K-Mart, then I spent 25 yrs at Sears.

    I actually worked at that Sears store in 1998 and ran the Auto Center. That auto center had 35 bays...in the real glory days of tune-ups etc. that place rocked. We still did a very respectable business in 98.

    That store in 98 had a volume of $70 million in sales per year...not bad for a neighborhood store. The store manager of the big box termed it a neighborhood store, the mall was essentially dead....Sears and possibly Kohls were destination stores and served that local neighborhood.

    It was definitely a night and week-end store which was an indicator that it served the working class people. The store was absolutely huge and it was definitely built in the glory days.

    It's sad to see the condition of Sears today. It only slightly resembles the "Great Store" of yesteryear.

    Dave, Happy New Year and keep up the great work.

  4. Got anything in the back, Dave? It's been about a month, so it's about that time...

  5. 2/12/13
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    Yes, I remember all three of the "tower tall" mall signs as a kid, the Oakland Mall one at the corner of 14-Mile rd. & John R. Road by 1-75 being the most memorable one (and the one most sorely missed.)The Macomb Mall one is the only one left standing,with The Crowley's store long gone, replaced for awhile by a Value City store, extinct by 2008.The Livonia Mall one is also missed as well,replaced by a less than spectacluar sign. the Pontiac Mall once had a large sign, not anything resembling the "Tower Tall" signs, but memorable with a huge sign just stating it in big letters as "The Mall" from 1962-1985. The Summitt Place mall took it's place in 1985, and still stands, despite most of the stores closing from 2007-2011, only a lone Sears store anchoring the East side of the mall.

  6. I have just discoverd this blog, and I am in love! Lots of reading to catch up on. I was born in 56 and have been in retail since 73. I so love all the old department store pictures and info! Thanks so much for doing this, and please keep it up!

  7. I worked at 4 places in that mall when I was a teen. Still live by it today