Sunday, October 9, 2011
Davison's of Atlanta was the major competition to Rich's, once itself an Atlanta shopping institution. The chain took the Macy's name in 1986.
Davison's was founded around the time Rich's was founded as Davison-Paxon and later Davison-Paxon-Stokes, rising from the same Civil War ashes from which Rich's rose. While what was then known as M. Rich Brothers Dry Goods Company remained a family owned store, Davison-Paxon-Stokes sold out to R.H. Macy & Co. in 1925.
Davison's Flagship store. 180 Peachtree St.
By 1927, R.H. Macy built the huge Peachtree Street store that still stands today. The location no longer as a department store though. Owned by Taconic Investment Partners, it is now known as 180 Peachtree and is partly vacant, although it does contain offices for Level3 and others on upper floors. There are about 185,000 square feet of potential retail or museum space on the three lower levels: roughly 75,000 square feet on the first floor, 50,000 square feet on the mezzanine, and 60,000 square feet on the lower level.
The downtown Davison's store was a classic example of a downtown shopping experience. The main entrance on Peachtree features a very stately marble-floored cosmetics and jewelry area, modelled after Macy's flagship store on Herald Square in New York. There is a mezzanine overlooking the level with escalators leading to that floor. A bank of elevators in the rear serves floors from the basement through the sixth floor. The mezzanine and the third floor connected with the parking garage across Carnegie Way. When the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel opened next door in 1976, an entrance connected the two buildings, although the difference in floor heights required several steps up from Macy's into the hotel.
Davison's was owned by R.H. Macy & Co for sixty years before the name change. The chain made no effort to disguise its affiliation with Macy's. Advertisements clearly stated "Davison's - a division of R.H. Macy & Co." and charge cards from Davison's were usable at Macy's and Bamberger's (and vice versa).
Over time, the Davison-Paxon Company name was shortened to simply Davison's. Not long after, the company embarked on an aggressive expansion plan across Georgia and South Carolina. Locations opened in the downtowns of Athens, Augusta, Macon and Columbus, as well as a store in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. During this time, Rich's remained exclusively in Atlanta. In Augusta, Davison's competed with the J.B. White chain and in Columbus, Kirven's was its main rival. In 1959, Davison's opened its first suburban location at Lenox Square Mall along with Rich's.
Throughout the 1960's, Rich's began to very aggressively expand in the suburbs while Davison's remained a downtown player for the most part. However, Davison's did open one mall location at the now-demolished Columbia Mall (later known as Avondale Mall) near Avondale Estates. Davison's expanded once again in the 1970's and 1980's with locations at Cumberland, Southlake, Gwinnett Place, Shannon, Northlake and Perimeter Malls. New locations also replaced the downtown stores in all the other cities mentioned except Columbus, which faced stronger competition from regional chains, and Columbia, where the downtown Macy's store closed and was left vacant. The new Davison's stores were typically white brick with small glass atriums at the entrance. An example of this style is still visible at Northlake Mall and the Bloomingdales at Perimeter Mall.
In the mid-1980's, Macy's began to consolidate its regional divisions to streamline its corporate structure. In January 1985, Davison's and Macy's Midwest were combined into one division, Macy's Atlanta.
Macy's slowly began to retire the Davison's name. In 1984, the logo was changed to the same font of its more famous counterpart in the ITC Avant Garde font.
Davison's/Macy's Banner from 1985.
By early 1986, all Davison's stores were formally renamed Macy's. In late 1986, the first Atlanta store to begin under the Macy's name opened at Town Center at Cobb in Kennesaw.
By spring 2003, most all former Davison's stores were closed when Rich's and Macy's were consolidated under the "Rich's-Macy's" nameplate. That same year, the historic downtown Davison's/Macy's store on Peachtree Street was also closed. This ended the era of department-store shopping in downtown Atlanta. All of the old Davison's mall stores in Atlanta were left vacant except for three locations. The Perimeter Mall and Lenox Square locations were closed, renovated, and reopened several months later as Bloomingdale's in late 2003. The Northlake location was re-branded as Rich's-Macy's before changing back to simply Macy's two years later. One floor of the Town Center location, which had originally opened as Macy's, became a Rich's-Macy's Furniture Gallery location. It is now a Macy's Furniture Gallery location and a Macy's Furniture Clearance Center on the upper level, and now has a Macy's Men's Store on the lower level.
The remainder of Davison's former locations remain vacant except for the locations at Cumberland Mall, Avondale/Columbia Mall, and Augusta Mall. The Cumberland Mall location was torn down in late 2005 for a major overhaul at the 32-year-old center, a detached Costco now sits just to the west of the Davison's footprint. The Avondale/Columbia Mall location was completely demolished with the rest of the mall for a Wal-Mart SuperCenter. The Augusta Mall location was open till 2006 as a Macy's Furniture Showroom. It has closed to make way for a lifestyle center similar to Cumberland Mall, another General Growth Properties mall.