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Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Goldsmiths

In 1867 the Goldsmith brothers, Isaac and Jacob came to America to work for their uncle's dry goods business. The uncle, Louis Ottenheimer was a German immigrant who moved to Memphis from Arkansas to start the business with partner Moses Schwartz. When the two brothers managed to save $500 they opened their own store which was an immediate success. The Goldsmith Brothers soon expanded to a larger building on Beale Street and rode out the Yellow Fever epidemics, opening the store every day for at least three hours.

In 1881 the brothers bought their uncle's store and rebranded it “I. Goldsmith and Brother“, located at 348 Main Street. Goldsmith's catered to the customer and was the first store in the midsouth to arrange merchandise by department and the first to have escalators and air conditioning. The Goldsmith's organized a Christmas parade a decade before Macy's did the same and in 1960 instituted “The Enchanted Forest“ which has been a beloved tradition ever since.

Elias and Fred Goldsmith assumed ownership of the store when Jacob died in 1939. In 1959 the store became an affiliate of Federated Department Stores. The 1970's saw a shift to mall affiliation, competing primarily with Dillard's department stores. Today the Goldsmith's stores have been re-christened “Macy's“ by Federated. The beautiful downtown Goldsmith's building was restored and christened “Peabody Place“, a large collection of stores, arcades, restaurants and theatres.

What follows is a contemporary account of the Goldsmith's written in 1888:

I. Goldsmith Brothers, dry goods merchants at 348 Main Street, Memphis, began business at 81 and 83 Beale Street in 1870, where they still have a branch store, which is the largest dry goods house on the street. When they began business in Memphis their capital was limited, but by judicious management and honest dealing they have secured and retained the confidence of their patrons and built up an extensive business. When the yellow fever raged in Memphis they opened a branch house in Helena, Ark., where they were very successful. In 1881 they commenced business at 348 Main Street, and are now enjoying an extensive trade upon a cash basis. Isaac Goldsmith, the senior member of the firm, died in June, 1885, and Elias and J. Goldsmith, the two remaining brothers, who constitute the firm, purchased his interest in the business and continued it under the old firm name. The brothers immigrated to America from Germany in 1867, and since then have been residents of Memphis. Elias Goldsmith was married. in 1880 to Miss Belle Stein, daughter of L. Stein, of St. Louis, Mo., and J. Goldsmith was married in 1875 to Miss Dora Ottenheim, daughter of L. Ottenheim, a merchant of Memphis. The brothers are members of several benevolent and relief societies of Memphis, and are among the city's most enterprising and liberal citizens.

Source: Internet