Monday, July 6, 2009

Sears in Atlanta

While most of this blog has seemed to focus on the imprint of Rich's and Davison's in Atlanta, we must not forget the impression that Sears left on the city. Foremost, Sears may be lagging behind these days, but the most successful stores in the entire chain are nowhere else but Atlanta. Stores at two metro mall locations continue to compete for the top spot in sales, so obviously there is a respect for the store by the people of this state. Indeed, to this day my parents choose to buy all of their appliances from Sears, and I found out the hard way in the past what happens when you don't.

This photo taken in 2004 from Atlanta Time Machine shows today the old Sears building on Ponce de Leon Ave.

Sears original store in Atlanta was a monolithic combination store/warehouse located at Ponce De Leon Ave (US 78) & Glen Iris Drive in the Inman Park neighborhood. While I currently do not have any historical shots of Sears in Atlanta, I am going to share some pics from other people made through the years of Sears with links to the where the photos came from.

Long-demolished Sears store in Buckhead from the Atlanta History Center archives. As a side note, the Atlanta History Center is right down the street from where this used to be, which might relate to why this photo exists in their archives.

In the late 1950's, Sears opened its first suburban store in Buckhead. This store was originally located at the intersection of Peachtree Road and West Paces Ferry Road. Unlike later stores, this Sears was free-standing and not attached to any mall. Lenox Square never had a Sears, but this was within a short distance. In the late 1980's, this Sears location was demolished and replaced with the first building of Buckhead Plaza in 1988.

This rare photo from 1974 was taken by Judy Baxter of her new car with Sears and Columbia Mall in the background. This is from

After this, the next suburban store constructed was at Columbia Mall in Belvedere Park south of Decatur. This store was constructed by Sears-owned Homart Properties, who also partnered with RH Macy to develop the rest of Columbia Mall. Opening in 1964, this marked the second suburban entry in Atlanta with the rest history. In 2007, this store was demolished along with the rest of Columbia Mall to make way for a Super Wal-Mart. The Columbia store closed in 1983.

This photo is of the brand new Sears at Columbia Mall in 1964. It is taken from Pleasant Family Shopping on a post dated March 9, 2008.


  1. My mother worked at that Sears on Ponce De Leon when she was young! It's nice to see someone writing about the early history of Sears in Atlanta. I'd love to see a complete listing of Sears locations around Atlanta with the dates they opened and closed. I remember a "Sears surplus" location in Smyrna that my parents went to in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I'm thinking it was at Windy Hill Rd. and Atlanta Rd. in a shopping center with many "outlet" stores.

    My parents were the "Sears" types, and typically would go to a mall to only go in Sears, which I hated as a kid and teenager because I wanted to see the malls and never got to see much outside the Sears stores.

    Their appliances and tools are great. Nearly all our household appliances have come from Sears, and most have been very good and reliable.

    After we moved to Alabama, we did a lot of shopping at the Sears store in Rome, GA on 2nd Ave. I've always wondered what year that Sears store was built. It closed when the Sears opened at Mount Berry Square in 1991 or 1992.

    The other Sears that we used a lot was the one at Gadsden Mall in Gadsden, AL which opened in the summer of 1974 with the mall.

  2. Sears developed incredible brand equity in Kenmore, Craftsman, DieHard. It's somewhat ironic that these brands retain more of their equity than the Sears brand itself.

  3. My first Sears experience ever was at the Ponce Sears, probably 1977. My mom let me order a toy from the big Sears catalog (back when it was a truly gigantic book). Back then, there wasn't really anything like home delivery so we ordered this thing and had to go to the Sears in person and pick it up. I recall it was underground right off a parking deck. I still remember the thrill when they handed me a small box from Sears that had my name on it.

    Also remember the Buckhead store. Used to spend time in the lower levels in that store looking at the stuff they sold for Boy Scouts. Kits, projects, etc. I was never in scouts but Sears always seemed to have neat stuff ready to buy. Got a wooden car kit once.

    My first CD player came from Sears -anyone else remember the LXI Series brand? My first VCR came from Sears too. That's where you went when you needed things like that.

    MUCH later, I still buy many things at Sears. Clothes, luggage, shoes, washing machine. I am glad they are still around and glad that some of their products are now in Kmart, not that there are too many Kmarts left in Atlanta. "Where Kmarts used to be" is worthy of a whole series of articles.

  4. Chris -- I think you're thinking of the store at Belmont Hills, which also had a Penney's (among other stores) before the both of them turned into outlets. I don't think either exists anymore, but the Sears lasted longer than the Penney's. In fact, there is a redevelopment plan in the works for the whole center...although I'm still amazed at how much they can redevelop in Smyrna (from a capacity/market standpoint).

    Also in Marietta we had a Sears store about 1/4 mile west of the Big Chicken on Roswell Street. I honestly don't remember much about it at all other than the catalog pick-up area. This property eventually turned into a Macy's furniture store (pre-Federated and pretty much halfway between Cumberland and Town Center) before closing.

    JT -- I'm just dying to know what happens when you don't buy your appliances from Sears! Do you happen to know which stores are at the top of the sales list? I don't know that I even want to hazard a guess.

    Thanks, as always, for your great work.

  5. My first CD player came from Sears as well in June 1986 and it lasted a year and a half before becoming unreliable, and I remember the LXI store brand of stereo equipment well, since my first two "high fidelity" capable stereo systems were LXI, mainly because my parents didn't buy hardly anything except from Sears. It wasn't the best equipment, but their higher end more expensive stuff was OK. I figured out that many of the systems were identical to Sanyo and Fisher units that could be found in other stores selling similar grade equipment.

    Our first color console TV in November 1977 came from the 2nd Avenue Sears store in Rome that I mentioned earlier. "Sensor Touch" for the channel selection was the new thing. When I was a kid, the guy who worked that department for at least 10 years always knew me and spoke to me. The store sold records as well, and was still selling them in 1979. I'm not sure when they quit.

    The two main stereo units I got from Sears were a "Sears Best" LXI mini system in December 1982. It was 20 watts per channel and had a good radio and tape deck but tiny boom box type speakers. In January 1983 they got me a turntable to go with it, which I still have and it still works. It was the type that had the counterweight and antiskate control so that a better cartridge could be put on it. In December 1985, I got a 100 watt per channel system which was better than what I had, but it hooked together with computer style flat cables instead of RCA style so the components couldn't be used with anything but that system. It came with a very cheap turntable, but I kept my other turntable and used it (it had phono input and an aux input for a CD player).

    We got another 25 inch TV from Sears in 1984 which was fine as a regular TV but was terrible for anything else since the antenna input is all it had, so that anything coming in had to come through channel 3 or 4. The set had a nice bright picture but not a high resolution picture due to it having the cheapest comb filter. The set always had the "picture bending at the top" problem when viewing certain VHS tapes due to its cheap horizontal deflection circuitry.

    Our first VCR came from Sears in spring 1986. It was a 2 head no frills unit that was not hi-fi but strangely had Dolby B on the linear stereo tracks (only 33.35 mm/s in SP), which gave low quality sound. Lightning fried it in 1988.

  6. The store on Ponce was/is not in Inman Park, which is on the the other side of Freedom Parkway and was hemmed in by industrial proprty on and around Highland. The store's area is really a border land between Poncey-Higland (formerly considered part of Virginia Highland) and the Old Fourth Ward. For many years, the distribution facility and regional operations fell under a Chicagoan who eventually married into a wealthy Atlanta family. His daughter used to be a work colleague of mine.

  7. I worked as a "receiving clerk" for Sears at the old Ponce store when I was fresh from high school. We got a 10% discount on anything we bought there and I still have a heavy, plaid "Mackinaw" hunting coat and still wear it. This was in the mid-1950s. Also bought my first Winchester .30-.30 lever action, "model 94" hunting rifle there for about $60.00 (pre-64).