Memphis Department Stores


Memphis had 4 major Department Stores on Main street.  From the early days of these stores up to the 60's, when one went shopping, it meant getting dressed up and going downtown.  It was often an all day event where you might have lunch at one of the restaurants or Tea Rooms in the Department stores and then take in an afternoon movie.  And the stores would deliver your parcels free of charge.  As these stores began to open branches in the suburbs, and TV kept folks away from the movie theatres, Memphians made fewer trips downtown and the area began to decline.   Today, all the stores are gone, but three of the major buildings have been renovated for new use. 



Goldsmith's Department Store - 123 S. Main  Click on small photos to see enlargement.


Goldsmith's was a well-known Memphis department store which traces its origins to the antebellum period and German immigrant Louis Ottenheimer. After moving to Memphis from Arkansas, opened a store on Main Street with partner Moses Schwartz. In 1867 Ottenheimer brought his nephews, Isaac and Jacob Goldsmith, to the United States and employed them in his Memphis store. As soon as the Goldsmith brothers saved five hundred dollars, they opened their own store, grossing twenty-five dollars on the first day of business. The Goldsmiths soon expanded to larger quarters on Beale Street. Memphis experienced several outbreaks of yellow fever during the 1870s. During the epidemic of 1878, the Goldsmiths kept the store open at least three hours a day. 
By 1881 the brothers had bought ...
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       I. Goldsmith & Bros. on Beale

Goldsmith's Logo and store

The Goldsmith Building today.


Goldsmith's Restaurant

1909 Postcard

1910 Tri-State

Goldsmith's Santa

Goldsmith's 1925


Goldsmith Brothers -1953

Enchanted Forest


GoldThrift Accnt

Employee 5 yr Pin


Souvenir Plate - Red

Souvenir Plate - Back

Souvenir Plate - Blue

Souvenir Plate - Back

Golden G Pin


Goldsmith's - Half-Yardstick


Souvenir Plate

Plate Back

1969 Ad



G.Pressley Charge Card



Sheet Music

Geo Hamilton 1963

Prints - Gift Shop

Prints - Gift Shop

Prints - Back


Window Display           Ribbon <----------------------   1920 Goldsmith's Fashion Brochure    ------------------->

<   1914 Goldsmith's Dinner at the Gayoso    >


  1920 Golden Jubilee Dinner at Scottish Rite Cathedral


1930 Catalog  1908 Ad 65th Anniversary

75th Anniversary

Vintage Postcard

Goldsmith Label


     1907 Envelope

Guide c. 1940s

1950s ChargePlate Good Luck Token

Interior - Rare


Dior Tie

Under construction Vintage Siding... Elias Fred Jacob Leo


Lowenstein's Department Store - 64-68 N. Main . 89 N. Main  . 99 N. Main .  27 S. Main


Elias Lowenstein emigrated to Memphis in 1854. The firm which he headed, B. Lowenstein and Bros. Department Store, was Prominent in Memphis for 125 years.  Their store at 26 Main was a classic cast-iron building.  In 1924 Lowenstein's built a large building on the site of the old Main Street Peabody at 27 S. Main.  This building was renovated in 1987 and renamed Brinkley Plaza.  In 1956 Lowenstein's purchased Bry's at 99 N. Main.  In 1962-64 they demolished the Bry's building and built Lowenstein's Tower.   Today the Renaissance Apartments Tower occupies this site.   Lowenstein's closed and liquidated in 1981. 

When Lowenstein's vacated the "old Lowenstein" building in the 20s, the old building was taken over by Rhodes-Jennings Furniture Co.  They moved out in 1980 and the old building sat  vacant for almost three decades.   With terra cotta angels and a cast-iron facade, the store, built in 1886, was threatened with demolition in 1996. Three developers—John Basek, C. Yorke Lawson, and William Chandler, then president of Memphis Heritage—united in 2000 and eventually saved the National Register-listed building with a $20 million renovation. Now home to 28 apartments and retail space, the Lowenstein is part of a three-building project called Court Square Center.  On Mar. 18, 2009, 500 people in Memphis attended the grand opening of the newly renovated Lowenstein Building.  "It's the building that nobody said could be saved, and it's got new life again," says June West, executive director of Memphis Heritage, which owned the easement that protected the building's facade and has contributed $35,000 over the years to save the Lowenstein. "It's one of those projects that you wait for all your life. Now I get to say to people, 'Don't give up."


Old Lowenstein Building  

Lowenstein Building today

Renovated Building 2017

Lowenstein-Brinkley Plaza


Elias Lowenstein was a leader in the Memphis Jewish community.  He served as president of Temple Isreal for 15 years. He contributed liberally to rebuilding the city after the disastrous 1870's yellow fever epidemics. In 1891 Elias Lowenstein built a mansion which was Memphis' most important Victorian Romanesque residence and one of the finest of its styles in the South. After his death in 1919, his family donated it to the Nineteenth Century Club for use as a residence for young working women who did not have family in the city and, therefore, under social customs of the day were expected to live in a protected environment. A porch with cupola was removed in 1929 for construction of an annex.


Elias Lowenstein House


The Lowenstein Building        

1884 Invoice

Ad from 1865 Memphis Directory


Lowenstein Credit Card

1927 Letter

1930 Candy

Candy Label

Mr. Bingle

Santa - 1956

Souvenir Plate

Souvenir Plate - Back

Elias Lowensteins


B. Lowenstein


1930s Card


1878 check to Lowenstein's for $444 signed by Jefferson Davis


Lowenstein's interior

Lowenstein's interior

Brinkley Plaza - interior

Brinkley Plaza - interior

1903 Ad      


1890 Billhead

1896 Invoice

1871 Article

Hat Box

Vintage Hat



1907 1920 1887-88 Catalog Lowenstein's interior Lowenstein's interior

1943 Envelope     1909 Postcard


Bry's Department Store - 89 N. Main at Jefferson

In 1902, the store, founded by Nathan and Louis Bry, and I. D. "Ike" Block, opened at the SE corner of Main & Adams.  Ike Block took over management of the store at the outset since his partners were also operating Bry Brothers - a wholesale firm in St. Louis.  In 1905 they moved to a new store at Main and Jefferson, where they competed successfully for over fifty years with Lowenstein's, Gerber's, and Goldsmith's.  Bry's was noted for its annual "Daring Sale" in which it dropped prices and doubled the number of clerks.  In 1912, Bry's enterned the history books when it became the first store to sell sheet music written by W. C. Handy.  This was also the first store to use ladies as clerks.  Bry's anchored North Main and Goldsmith's anchored South Main.  In 1956 Bry's was sold to Lowenstein's and closed in 1964.


Bry's - 1918                   

Bry's Postcard

Bry's - building enlarged

Shoe Hook    


Bry's first store- Main and Adams

Bry's Employee Button

Bry's Ad 1924

1924 Ad

Bry's Ad

Bry's Spoon

Louis Bry Obit

I. D. "Ike" Block

I.D. Block c.1925

Nathan Bry

Louis Bry

Mellie-Louis Bry

Nathan Bry Obit


Bry's Ad - 1918

Bry's 1919

Rare Santa Button

Bry's 1909

Bry's 1914


Bry's 1940

Bry's Badge-1920s

Bry's Front Street 1910

Vintage Button

Vintage Button



Gerber's Department Store - 25 North Main


John Gerber opened his first store in 1880 and expanded greatly over the years - eventually taking up most of the block.  s installed Memphis’ first escalators and they opened to great fanfare and free publicity in the two newspapers for the store.  The first escalators had been planned by Goldsmith’s but Gerber's quietly installed theirs about 6 months ahead of Goldsmiths.   Gerber's was particularly noted for its TEA ROOM - a popular meeting place downtown.  When retailers began to abandon Main Street in the 1960s, Gerber's struggled to stay.  But after going through two fires in 1968 and 1971, the store was doomed.  The store closed October 15, 1974 and the building was demolished in the mid 1980s.  A hotel stands on the site today. 



Gerber's - 1926

Gerbers Ad -1946        


Gerber's Christmas - 1937

Souvenir Plate

Plate - Back

Chas Gerber

Gerber's Interior 1880s


Gerber's Windows

Postcard 1950s

Charles Gerber


Gerber Tribute


1930s Sales Receipt

Shoes Vintage Hat 1st Gerber on Main

Gerbers Tea Room

Patio Rest. 1956





Kress - 7 North Main  .  80 S. Main


The Kress building is easily recognizable by its colorful and decorative terra-cotta facade.  Kress opened the first, in what was to become a nationwide chain of five-and-dime stores, in Memphis in 1896 and moved to the Main Street location in 1927.   In 1980, the Kress Store became McCrory's and the store finally closed in 1994.  Conscious of the historical significance of the building, the new owners have restored the structure in accordance within historical guidelines and have adapted it and adjoining buildings for use as a hotel - Spring Hill Suites by Marriott. 

Samuel Henry Kress (1863 - 1955) was one of seven children of a Pennsylvania coal-mining supervisor. Originally a Pennsylvania schoolteacher, he opened a stationery and notions shop in Memphis in 1887.  This grew into the nationwide chain S. H. Kress & Company.  Kress would eventually own about 400 stores, including nine in Florida.  A businessman and philanthropist, he was an art lover and with his fortune, amassed one of the most significant collections of Italian Renaissance and European artwork assembled in the 20th century.  In 1929 he established the Kress Foundation to sponsor traveling exhibitions, scholarships in art history, and restorations of monuments in Italy.  He also donated a significant portion of his art collection to Brooks Memorial Art Gallery.

Samuel Kress  


Kress  -Vintage

Kress - Detail

Detail on the building

Kress -80 S. Main

Lunch Counter 1950s




W. T. GRANT  - 113 S. Main at Gayoso 


W. T. Grant

Building being renovated

W. T. Grant

GGrant Ad

Grant Record Brand


W. T. Grant,  or Grants was a chain of United States-based mass-merchandise stores.  The stores were generally of the "dime store" format located in downtowns.   The Grant store in Memphis closed  in 1976.  The building has now been converted to luxury lofts.  At its peak there were 1200 Grant stores nationwide.

William Thomas Grant (1876-1972) was the founder of the W. T. Grant stores.  He began his career by selling flower seeds, and as a young man, developed his philosophy:  sell people what they need at prices they can afford, making only a modest profit.  Grant dedicated much of his life and fortune to philanthropic efforts, though after his death his stores folded in the biggest retail bankruptcy in history.  The W. T. Grant Foundation, due to diversification, survived and continues his philanthropy.



Black & White Store - Busy Bee - Shainberg's  -  122 S. Main


Black and White Store - 1948




When Daniel Lewis first opened this store in 1905, it was named the Black and White Store and it was next door to Brys.  Later the store moved to the building across from Goldsmiths and remodeled with the distinctive black and white tiles.  When Lewis's daughter married Sam Shainberg, he took over the store's management.  In the mid 1950's, the name was changed to Shainberg's to upgrade the image of the business and to recognize its new owner.  The old store on Main became Jolly Royal Furniture in 1978.  (In 2017, the black and white tiled building was still standing on S. Main and the now Royal Furniture is still there).


Blk-Whiie next to Bry's

30th Anniversary



Shainberg's Logo    



Greener's Department Store - Harris Department Store     308 - 12 Beale

Greener's 1954


1937 - "Jug Bands"

Harris Depart. Store - c 1960s


Greener's Department Store opened here in 1928.  It was generally considered to be a mirror- image of Schwab's Department Store further down Beale.  It operated from this location for 30 years before it became the Harris Department Store in the early 1960s.  Today the building houses the Pat O'Brien night club.





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