In 1845, Jeremiah Bacon opened Bacon's Dry Goods in Louisville, Kentucky, founding what later became known as "Kentucky's oldest department store". The stately, downtown flagship store was opened in 1901 on the corner of Fourth and Market streets. Revered by Louisville shoppers for its elaborate sales events, this hometown store expanded into suburban shopping malls in the 1960s and 1970s, enhancing service to the Louisville and Southern Indiana areas. Bacon's legendary Midnight Madness sales were very popular with Louisville locals and further established the chain as an iconic Kentucky brand. Dillard's acquired Bacon's as part of a large acquisition in 1998.
John A. Brown and his brother-in-law, John H. Dunkin, founded Brown-Dunkin in 1924 when they bought the Hunt Department Store located at Fourth and Main streets in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. The huge store operated nine floors of a fifteen-story building. Brown-Dunkin became a household name to customers in northeast Oklahoma, northwest Arkansas and parts of southern Missouri and Kansas. The Brown-Dunkin tea room was a favorite downtown gathering place for Tulsa locals. Customers dined on fifty-cent daily special lunches while models, sporting the latest available in-store fashions, strolled from table to table. Our founder, William T. Dillard, acquired the Brown-Dunkin store in 1960.
"Meet me under the clock at Holmes" was a common phrase in New Orleans vernacular for over a century. Known for the famous large clock hanging above its Canal Street store entrance, D.H. Holmes was a landmark Louisiana company that forever occupies a revered place in New Orleans history. D.H. Holmes, founded by Daniel Henry Holmes in 1842, later became the largest department store in the South. Mr. Holmes was known as a retail visionary at the time, modeling his department store experience after successful New York City and Paris stores. The chain eventually grew to operate seventeen stores in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Dillard's acquired D.H. Holmes in 1989.
Gayfers was founded by native Englishman, C.J. Gayfer, in downtown Mobile, Alabama in 1879. Known for its philanthropic efforts in communities across the South, Gayfers grew to be a prominent chain of 29 stores across Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida. "The Gayfer Girls" were a select group of teen girls, hand-picked by each store to serve on an advisory board. Gayfer Girls provided valuable input on popular teen fashion trends and helped produce local fashion shows. Dillard's purchased Gayfers as part of a large acquisition in 1998.
Higbee's, originally Higbee and Hower Dry Goods, was founded in 1860 by Edwin Higbee and John G. Hower in Cleveland, Ohio. The flagship store was built years later in 1929 at Terminal Tower on Public Square, providing suburban shoppers with easy railway access to the store's vast, multi-floor merchandise assortment. The Public Squre store is well-known for its prominent role in the 1983 Christmas classic movie, A Christmas Story. Dillard's obtained a half interest in The Higbee Company in 1987 through a joint partnership. In 1992, Dillard's purchased the remaining interest in Higbee's and the stores were renamed "Dillard's".
North Carolina's legendary J.B. Ivey & Company was founded in 1900 by Joseph Benjamin Ivey on North Tryon Street in downtown Charlotte. An experienced storekeeper, Mr. Ivey introduced Charlotte shoppers to the innovative retail practices of one-price selling (rather than negotiating with the customer over price) and installment buying. The flagship Charlotte Ivey's store was built in 1924 on the corner of Fifth and North Tryon Streets. The store featured an elaborate restaurant named "The Tulip Terrace" reflective of Mr. Ivey's love of the flower. During the nation's mall boom, the company later grew to operate 23 stores spanning the Carolinas and Florida. Dillard's purchased the J.B. Ivey chain in 1990.
Irish immigrant James Brice White founded J.B. White & Co. in downtown Augusta, Georgia in 1874. Best known by long-time Augusta locals for its flagship downtown Broad Street location built in 1924, the company grew to operate several locations in Georgia and South Carolina by the 1980s. Under the tagline, "Augusta's Pace Setter" the flagship Augusta location marketed the latest fashions for the entire family along with chandeliers, sewing machines and lawnmowers. Some Augustans fondly recall the friendly, knowledgable sales staff of the Broad Street store. In 1998, Dillard's acquired all nine remaining J.B. White stores as part of a large acquistion in 1998.
In 1915, John A. Brown and A.O. Rorabaugh, purchased Brock's Dry Goods, a thriving downtown Oklahoma City store and founded Rorabaugh-Brown Dry Goods Co. Growing to occupy many adjoining storefronts on Oklahoma City's bustling Main Street, the business eventually became solely the John A. Brown Company and operated under the name "Brown's". The large, iconic downtown store was well known for its elaborate, animated Christmas window displays which added to the holiday excitement in Oklahoma City and drew crowds from miles around every year. Oklahoma City residents could hop off the Main Street trolley in front of the store and enjoy lunch in Brown's Colonial Lunch Room or grab a quick refreshment at the Soda Fountain. Over time, Brown's expanded southward to Norman, Oklahoma and to Oklahoma City suburbs and was eventually acquired by Dayton Hudson in 1971 and then by Dillard's in 1984.
Joske's was founded by Julius Joske, a German immigrant, in downtown San Antonio, Texas in 1867. The flagship store, known as "The Big Store" by San Antonio shoppers, was opened in 1887 on the corner of Alamo and Commerce Streets. Joske's was the first fully air conditioned store in the state of Texas as well as the first Texas store to utilize escalators. The five-level flagship store was known as the largest store west of the Mississippi and was touted as "the biggest store in the biggest state". During the Christmas holidays, Joske's fourth floor was transformed into "Fantasyland" and the store's massive windows displays excited and inpired San Antonio children. "Rusty the Reindeer" added to the festivities as the store's holiday mascot. Joske's expanded into Houston, Austin, El Paso and Dallas, Texas and into Phoenix, Arizona through a series of acquisitions. Dillard's purchased the 27-store Joske chain in 1987.
Maison Blanche was founded in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1897 by Isidore Newman, a German immigrant. The original building, located on Canal Street, was demoloshed in 1908 and rebuilt soon thereafter forming the flagship store revered by New Orleans shoppers for decades. Maison Blanche is best known by New Orleans residents and friends for its beloved Christmas mascot, Mr. Bingle. Mr. Bingle, a festve snowman character with an ice cream cone hat, remains an enduring New Orleans holiday icon. Dillard's purchased seven Maison Blance stores in Florida 1991 and nine more Louisiana locations in 1998 as part of a large acquisiton.
The Pfeifer department store was founded in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas in 1910 when Joseph Pfeifer joined forces with his sons, Leo and Harry, to merge with a family owned jewelry store. Pfeifer, and German tailor who arrived in the United States with only $5, was already a successful business owner, after founding a men's clothing store in Little Rock in 1865. The store became one of the most prestigious and successful deparment stores in Arkansas at the time. The Pfeifer family was well known in Little Rock not only for their extensive retail connections but also for their philanthopic and civic contributions to the growing Arkansas community. Pfeifer's was purchased by Dillard's in 1963 gaining the company a foothold into the Little Rock market and returning Dillard's operations to its homestate of Arkansas. A year later, Dillard's moved its corporate headquarters into the Pfiefer building at 522-524 South Main in Little Rock.
Mercantile Stores Company roots date back to 1914 when a failing chain of dry goods stores, H.B. Clafin Company, was purchased by a group of investors. The headquarters was in New York City and the 22 stores were widely dispersed in locations including Washington state, New York, Pennsylvania, Canada and Alabama. Early on, the company was quick to embrace the emerging trend of ready-to-wear fashions (off the rack as opposed to tailored). The stores were especially attractive to fashion-savvy female shoppers who had gained new spending power as a result of their entering the World War II labor force. After decades of growth, the headquarters was moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1990. By 1998, the company had amassed 102 stores operating under 13 regional nameplates in 17 states. Iconic nameplates included McAlpin's in Ohio, Castner Knott in Tennessee and Alabama, Hennessy's in Montana and Jones in Kansas and Missouri. The company was purchased by Dillard's in 1998.