Friday, July 7, 2006

Davison's


Atlanta had two big department stores: Rich's and Davison's. Atlanta also had Kessler's, Muse's, Regenstein's and Allen's, but these were the big two and most remembered. Rich's was the reverenced store while Davison's played second fiddle, though ultimately they sold basically the same merchandise. Still, at the time it was pretty unmistakable which was the better store, and owner R.H. Macy, Co., which had bought out the much smaller Davison-Paxon-Stokes Co. in 1925 decided 60 years later in 1985 that the local division of Macy's for Atlanta was no longer worth keeping local.


Davison's was actually more expansive than Rich's in Georgia with not only the big downtown store on Peachtree Street, but also downtown stores in Athens, Columbus, Macon and Augusta during its 60 years. Davison's, however, was much slower than Rich's to hit the suburbs across Atlanta.


Being tied to Macy's, Davison's had two logos. The more famous of these was the blue all-caps logo that was used prominently through the 1960's and 1970's during suburban expansion. That logo was changed in 1980 to match the Macy's in logo in font as evidenced by ads on this page. An interesting note is that during the 1970's, Rich's had its memorable green sign while Davison's had its blue sign.

Davison's today serves as an interesting reminder of the insanity of department store consolidations. Davison's was owned by Macy's, but merged into Macy's along with sister chains Bamberger's, La Salle's and Taylor in 1985 and was called Davison's/Macy's in 1985 into 1986 before being simply Macy's. Eighteen years later, through buyouts, Macy's came to finally kill off the beast that made life so hard for them in Atlanta: Rich's. Like the ultimate insult to the once grand chain, Rich's became Rich's-Macy's and finally just Macy's in early 2005. As a result, both of Atlanta's once grand old department stores are now just dull Macy's stores in name only anchoring all of the malls in Atlanta.

13 comments:

  1. i wasn't quite through with that post actually...i see the flaw of not giving you due credit. i'll add that when i finish the post.

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  2. That's a pretty amazing advertisement. It manages to sum up its decade so succinctly.

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  3. JT, I was actually happy to see it up. I am in love with that Davison's ad.

    You can give me credit if you like, but it's not a big deal.

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  4. ...got to love the "D" and that elegant curvature. I rememebr the blue letters. Very cool.

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  5. The Davidson's logo with the script D monogram bears more than a slight resemblence to a long-gone Birmingham department store, Loveman's.

    The logo may be seen atop this page:
    http://www.birminghamrewound.com/lovemans.htm

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  6. Macy's converted all of their banners (Bamberger's, LaSalle's, etc.) to the Macy name in the 80s. For awhile Bamberger's & Macy's advertised together (Bamberger's was based in Newark and covered the New jersey suburbs of NYC). Davison's actually was switched to Macy's a few years later later than the other banners. The switch came with a change in merchandising--Macy stores had previously been "promotional" (famous for their sales and bargain basements rather than their style). The different chains had a fair amount of local autonomy and different kinds of competition, but Davison's probably would have been a store less known for style and more known for sales than Rich's.

    In the late 70s, Macy's changed their merchandising, first at Herald Square, then in the New York suburbs, and then nationwide. The new format was basically a cheaper, somewhat less hip version of Bloomingdale's. It did better in some markets than others. Macy's ultimately sold their Toledo & Kansas City-Wichita-Topeka operations where it didn't work. Those stores were briefly run out of Atlanta in the mid-80s, before they were sold.

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  7. Macy's converted all of their banners (Bamberger's, LaSalle's, etc.) to the Macy name in the 80s. For awhile Bamberger's & Macy's advertised together (Bamberger's was based in Newark and covered the New jersey suburbs of NYC). Davison's actually was switched to Macy's a few years later later than the other banners. The switch came with a change in merchandising--Macy stores had previously been "promotional" (famous for their sales and bargain basements rather than their style). The different chains had a fair amount of local autonomy and different kinds of competition, but Davison's probably would have been a store less known for style and more known for sales than Rich's.

    In the late 70s, Macy's changed their merchandising, first at Herald Square, then in the New York suburbs, and then nationwide. The new format was basically a cheaper, somewhat less hip version of Bloomingdale's. It did better in some markets than others. Macy's ultimately sold their Toledo & Kansas City-Wichita-Topeka operations where it didn't work. Those stores were briefly run out of Atlanta in the mid-80s, before they were sold.

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  8. After working for Rich's and Davisons for 38 years, I hated to see their individual distinctions merge under the Federated umbrella with the Macy's name. I guess Herb Greenwald is smiling. JJc

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  9. I have an idea of what they can do with the old Davison's. (although I grew up with it being Macy's...I wasn't even born when it was still called Davison's) Now I know this is the Real-Estate-Developer-in-training talking, but they should convert part of it into a mall and reopen another part as Macy's again (I know...but at the same time, that would be the most appropriate thing considering that it was a Macy's at one time.) And I also know you're thinking "yeah just what Atlanta needs...another mall". But this'll be different. It'll be more like a Retail-Entertainment-Dining kind of thing as opposed to a strictly fashion-oriented center like the other malls in Atlanta.

    The only thing is that for this to happen, the building needs some serious modernization. I think that the building should be gutted out to do this while leaving the facade standing, as Davison's is an Atlanta landmark. About 3-4 floors should be added to the top of the building to house a Movie Theater and other stores. I also think that the old parking deck across Ellis Street should be torn down with a new deck being built for the first 4-5 floors and extra Macy's space taking up the upper 2-3 floors atop the deck as the part of the store in the would-be main building would be quite thin and it'll be connected to the old building by a huge multi-level bridge similar to the old Rich's. And another thing (that may or may not be architecturally possible) is to build a concourse between the mall and Peachtree Center right under P'tree St, therefore attracting more traffic.

    The best part will be it's nod to the building's past. I call my idea "The Shops at Davison's Plaza". And the center's logo should be in the same blue typeface as the stores from the 1970's.

    This could work with a new generation of people moving back into the city and all the new downtown attractions and conventions that come to town.(they won't have to go to Buckhead...in fact, I once volunteered for a convention once and so many people asked me how to get to Macy's and I had to explain the unfortunate closure and refer them to Lenox Square)

    Sorry for the long post. I just thought you'd be interested in my idea as I find your site very interesting myself.

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  10. Cool idea...I like it a lot. However, your post gave me another idea that would probably be a lot cheaper and would also really be incredible.

    Note that down there you still have signs for Muse's and Kessler's even though those have long become lofts. What we need to do is use pictures, the original sign plans or both to restore the vertical D-A-V-I-S-O-N'S sign where the current "180" is now. That Macy's sign actually is exactly where the Davison's sign was. I would like to see that restored with the original blue letters. It would be inexpensive to restore and would quickly become a real landmark for Five Points in which is badly needed.

    Here is a link to what it looked like: http://www.library.gsu.edu/spcoll/spcollimages/av/lane/jpeg/LBGPNS04-104a.jpg

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  11. My first job out of grad school was as an assistant buyer in the furniture dept at Davisons downtown store in 1979. We took a 1 month training course first - R.H. Macy was reputed to have the best training program in retail. I still remember the crazy personalities of the buyers in that section of the store. I won't name names, but there was lots of yelling and throwing of papers! It was a great first job and I was sad to see the store close later on. The first floor and the cosmetics departments were beautiful - you just don't see that anymore.

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  12. Davison's was located in downtown Columbia and was one of my FAVORITE stores. They always had the best, in my opinion, merchandise in Columbia. It was a three level store and though they closed after changing to Macy's, i remember the layout quite well. The store had a very sophisticated image and for anyone that remembers had these unusual street vents at the main entrance that reminded you of the subway. They also had a great restaurant downstairs. The store was very special and going downtown to Davison's was an absolute treat. It is sorely missed!

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