...A Step Back in Time   


If there's one authentic landmark in Memphis, it surely is A. Schwab Dry Goods at 163 Beale Street.  It is the oldest store in the Mid-South and is located in the oldest building now on Beale Street. To visit A. Schwab is literally a trip back in time.  There's a selection of everything you need and for sure, even more of everything you don't need.  If you do need some love potions?  You'll find them there, along with crystal balls, bongo drums, vinyl records (remember those?), and penny candy.    And a new old-time soda fountain has been added which makes the store a true tourist attraction.  And if that's not enough, there's a small Beale Street museum on the balcony.

Abraham Schwab founded the store in 1876 and it began as a men's haberdashery and  grew into a dry goods store, and later into a seller of quirky merchandise.  Until 2011, the store was run continuously by the Schwab family.  After 136 years the family sold the business to a group who are as as dedicated as the Schwab's to preserving the heritage of the store to offer a true old time experience.  And they are totally into the old Schwab motto: "If you can't find it at Schwab's, you're better off without it".

Click on small photos to enlarge them. 



In 1874, Abraham Schwab left Gerstheim, Alsace Loraine, France to avoid conscription into the German army.  He sailed to New Orleans and, later  joined family members in Memphis.   Around 1876 he joined the Hirsch family and opened a “Boots and Shoe Company” at 66 Beale.  That store was known as "Hirsch, Schwab & Co and it eventually expanded to include basic clothing, house wares, and hardware.  Hirsch and Schwab split in 1886-87.


     Alsace Lorraine, France

By 1911,  A. Schwab relocated to 163 Beale.  His sons Sam, Elias and Leo, operated the store.  Sam's daughter , Eleanor Schwab Braslow, and Elia's son Abram, succeeded them in the next generation.  Eleanor was the buyer for the store and Abram became the family speaker.  Abram's son, Elliott, managed the store in the next generation, and his sister, Beverly worked there for years.   Eleanor's sons, Sam and Marvin participated in the business on a part time basis.  Sam's son, Joseph became the fifth generation to join the business.   *

Schwab Family


Rosa - Maurice

Abraham Abram - Beverly   1990 Elliott


By 1924 the firm had expanded into the building next door at 165 Beale.  Both of these buildings were constructed before 1890.  And 165 Beale had been one of the original Piggly Wiggly stores.   Schwab's also added an addition to the rear of the building  which added an additional twenty percent of space. 


Aerial View of Schwab's

Vintage Schwab Photo Schwab's 1912 Schwab's Sale Schwab's 1939



* The above paragraphs represent the official Schwab's biography.   When checking the Memphis Directories, we discovered that Abraham Schwab's name first appears in the 1877 directory and he's listed as a "grocer" at 68 Beale. (There is a listing for "Schwab & Co" at 304 Main, but the Schwab's in this case are Jacob and Louis who may be relatives.  Abraham is not part of this listing)  Abraham's  listing as a grocer at 68 Beale continues up to 1881.  In 1882 a listing for  "Hirsch, Schwab & Co"  at 390 Main first appears.    




The names Henry and Solomon Hirsch first appear in 1883 and this is also the first listing at 66 Beale.   The "Hirsch, Schwab & Co" listing continues to 1887.  Then the  listing changes to "A. Schwab" and the address remains the same until 1905 when the city re-numbered.  The number then changes from 66 to 149 Beale Street.  In 1912,  during the time-frame of the store's move to a new location, the directory listing for A. Schwab changes to 163 Beale - the same location as today.

1880 1882 1882 1883 1886 1887 1905 1908 1912



The eclectic collection at Schwab's continued to expand to farm implements, washing implements, old bottles and jugs, vintage documents, newspaper clippings, old Blues records, incense - lots of incense, candles, various hoodoo-voodoo items, and of course, tourist memorabilia.

Voo Doo stuff


Schwab's Interior Schwab's Schwab's 1900 Schwab's Schwab's interior

In 1974, Schwab's launched their little Museum on the balcony, showcasing the rich history of Beale Street.  In
the 1980s, the Schwab family played a vital role in re-launching Beale Street as an entertainment district. They adapted their merchandise to appeal to tourists while continuing to offer an old-fashioned experience.  A. Schwab had indeed become an anchor in the community and eventually, it was the only business on Beale that survived. 


Schwab's 2017




In 2011, after 136 years, the Schwab family sold the business.  A group consisting of Terry Corona Saunders, Tommy Peters, and Posey Cochrane bought  the two buildings at 163 and 165 Beale.  The new owners are dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of the store and telling the story of the Beale Street through historic artifacts and relevant merchandise.

Schwab's is SOLD...2011

There are only two noticeable changes:  The spacious 2nd floor has become a venue for private functions and private parties, plus a popular old-time Soda Fountain has been added to the ground floor.  The old store's characteristic battered wooden floors and tables remain, along with the quirky merchandise. 
If you can't find it at Schwab's, you're better off without it ...


In you can't find it at Schwab's, you're better off without it ...

Candy Interior Vinyl Records

Schwab Anniversary 1950

Balcony Museum Stamps Harmonica Soap

Knife Patterns Buttons Vintage Hats

Plates Mugs Advertising Key Chain T-Shirt

Gum Ball Machine

  Museum Brochure Postcards





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