Sunday, April 4, 2010

Former Golbro/Golbro Jewelry Center: Irondale, AL

I do not know a whole lot about Golbro, but what I do know about it is that it is was a lot like Service Merchandise, so I am assuming the catalog merchant part of the business was closed in the mid to late 1990's.  Service Merchandise was just one of many catalog merchants, but through a series of acquisitions including Ellman's of Atlanta it became the largest.  Up until the 1990's, Alabama had many stores and chains that were very specific to the state only.  One of these was Golbro, which was at least in Birmimgham and also in Huntsville.  A tattered Golbro sign in Huntsville also became a famous photo after a large tornado destroyed the shopping center it was located in.  In Birmingham, a Golbro sign today remains at a location along Crestwood Blvd (US 78) in Irondale just east of the former Century Plaza and Eastwood Malls.

What is most curious about Golbro is that, like Service Merchandise, it did not completely close down.  What it did instead was downsize into a jewelry-only operation much in the way Service Merchanside continues to operate only as a web site.  This might explain why today the signs for the otherwise defunct chain remain.  Most of the Golbro space, however, was taken over by Superpetz...lesser competition to better known PetSmart and Petco.  It also appears that, much like stores of its kind, it had a rather distinctive design.  Nevertheless, what remains today appears quite dated, but "dated" is something worthy of photography for me.  Considering all this, I would like to hear a little more about this chain since I ran across it.  For me, it was one of those "finds" I always encounter on these trips, but I'm sure others of you have stories to tell about it, and I would love to hear them!

The smaller Golbro sign looks much more deteriorated looking southeast than looking west.  It looks like a creepy afterthought next to the modern Superpetz sign.  In both pics, I-20 is in the background on the overpass.

The tall sign looks newer, but still is designed in a fashion that looks no later than 1982.

Golbro Jewelry Center itself looked out of business.  It was the middle of the day in the middle of the week and there was a metal screen on the inside of the door.  The original Golbro took up the entire building where Superpetz is today.

A view of the store and building in greater detail.  I am guessing this was built in the mid to late 70's.


  1. I found this at this link dated Sep. 1, 1995, so it looks like Golbro closed all its stores for good June 1995:

    According to the article, 1995 was the company's 100th anniversary and Golbro had 10 stores throughout Alabama at its peak.

    Golbro filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in 1994 after a bank terminated its line of credit. Soon after, the company closed four of its seven remaining stores.

    I remember the old Golbro store at Westbury Shopping Center in Huntsville before the tornado came through. I never went in the old store, but after the tornado, the shopping center was rebuilt and a new Golbro existed there for several years. I remember it being a place to get Super-VHS tapes more cheaply than anywhere else and it was the main thing I bought there.

  2. When I last saw that sign from I-20 in October of 2004, I erroneously thought that Goldbro was still in business.

    I also recall family shopping trips in the late '80s to the Bel Air Village Goldbro store across from Bel Air Mall (Oldest Mall in the State!) in Mobile. Eventually, it and a struggling multiplex were demolished for a relocated Toys R Us in 2004.

  3. If I recall, the taller interstate facing sign has a red VMS display attached to it. I think it would flash/scroll sales and hours of operation.

  4. I remember the location in Hoover near I-65 which is now occupied by Ellis Piano. It was very much like Service Merchandise. I bought a Magnavox stereo for my mother at the Hoover store sometime in the mid to late 80's.

  5. I remember the location in Hoover near I-65 which is now occupied by Ellis Piano. It was very much like Service Merchandise. I bought a Magnavox stereo for my mother at the Hoover store sometime in the mid to late 80's.

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  7. I worked at Golbro from 1980-1993 in Huntsville. It was a company started in 1895 by Sam Goldstein and was passed down to his 5 sons who turned it into a very successful company. At its peak, there were 10 stores - 6 in Birmingham, 3 in Huntsville and 1 in Mobile. The one thng that will always stick with me was after the tornado of 1989 which completely destroyed the Airport Road Huntsville location, our store manager called the president of the company, Julius Goldstein, and told him what happened. The first thing out of Mr. Julius' mouth was, "Is anybody hurt?", His focus was on the people not the multimillion dollar inventory. He was a true gentleman and gentle man who put his employees first. If he met you once, he always remembered you. You don't see that much anymore. As the original 5 brothers aged and started to step out of the business, their sons and son-in laws took over. The company changed after that. The focus went from customer satisfaction and putting quality merchandise in the showcases to increasing the bottom line by carrying poor quality jewelry and keeping payroll low. Employee raises were a forgotten thing. In the last 5 years of my tenure there, there were no raises which led quality people to leave and go to competitors. When things got really tight financially, they began to release managers at the store level - some with 25+ years of service - in an attempt to reduce costs and replaced them with people who had less knowledge of the business. The company closed all its stores except one within 2 years. It was so sad. A company that was thriving in 1989 was gone by 1995. Here is a lesson for all who want to open a business - quality merchandise + quality people + ownership who understands they wouldn't be successful without those quality people = success.

  8. Golbro (Goldstein Brothers) was originally owned an operated by the 5 Goldstein brothers, Morris, Arthur, Sidney, Hyman and Julius. They had a total liquidation bankruptcy in 1995. 2 second generation relatives (a son and a son-in-law) bought the name and a few of the remaining assets out of the bankruptcy and opened a Jewelry and giftware only store under the Golbro name, in a part of the only location where the building was actually owned by members of the Goldstein family. This business (which really had nothing to do with the original Golbro) was subsequently also closed (bankrupted), several years later.