Photo from "Metro Spirit" article "Downtown Devotion" from 11/24/09. See link to article below.
This department store is Ruben's: a distinct old-fashioned downtown department store founded in 1898 that continues to operate today. I tend to wonder how that is possible in today's day and age, but as people rediscover downtown these relics are also rediscovering business that malls long took away. With that, Ruben's is very unique in how it hung on during the mall era up to the disheartening period of final consolidations that took down the department stores of lore such as Rich's, Marshall Field's and others. In fact, these malls nearly erased stores like Ruben's from the 60's to the 90's, but a similar small downtown department store known as Mansour's in LaGrange, GA also survived into the 21st century.
Ruben's did not pass over the mall era, though. According to the article (and Jarrett Edwards), it was one of those mall tenants at Regency Mall, the city's first mall. However, it never built a huge department store there, instead operating as an inline tenant. When that location closed after 15 years, the owners who remain in the same family continue to operate the historic store. It should be noted, though, that Ruben's survives because of its savvy business model that filled a niche that large department stores have failed miserably at: fitting big and tall, and aiming at maximum customer satisfaction such as offering layaway and in-house alterations. This business model is part of what brought JCPenney from the brink of extinction in 2000 to the raucous comeback it has made since then.
Kudos to this small family owned department store for keeping history alive. I remember when Rich's finally was rebadged Macy's in 2004 how bittersweet the Rich family descendants were of selling off the family store, effectively selling out the rights and say-so a big part of the city of Atlanta's history. That sale happened over 30 years ago. I am glad to see that one held strong.
An article published only a couple weeks ago details this store, which is the last of a legacy of department stores in the city which once also included J.B. White, Cullum's and Davison's. This article details Ruben's as well as many other downtown Augusta establishments that held strong through the late 20th century retail earthquakes to come out alive and well.