Having worked in retail real estate in Dallas for over, ummm, well, lots of years, I am amazed at the rich history of the area’s retail and shopping communities. Dallas, after all, was settled in 1841 by John Neely Bryan as a trading post, and if that’s not a sign that Dallas was born to be a shopping mecca, I don’t know what is.
The Sanger Brothers had somewhat of a monopoly on finer retailing in Dallas having opened their first store here in 1857, but that didn’t stop Herbert Marcus and his sister, Carrie Marcus Neiman, from opening the first Neiman Marcus store in downtown Dallas in 1907. The rich history of this establishment alone really set the stage for things to come.
An excerpt from Stanley Marcus’ book, Minding the Store, sums up the founders’ state of mind pretty well:
“On Sunday, September 8, 1907, a full page advertisement appeared in the Dallas Morning News announcing ‘the opening of the New Exclusive Shopping Place for Fashionable Women, devoted to selling of Ready-to-Wear Apparel’ and labeling Neiman Marcus as ‘The Outer Garment Shop.’ It went on to state that ‘Tuesday, September tenth, marks the advent of a new shopping place in Dallas – a store of Quality, a Specialty store – the only store in the City whose stocks are strictly confined to Ladies’ Outer-garments and Millinery, and presenting wider varieties and more exclusive lines than any other store in the South.’ “
Since that time, Neiman Marcus has become a world-renowned brand in retailing and fashion and, in my opinion, helped cement Dallas as a city known for high fashion and visited by millions of tourists from around the world simply to shop.
Over the decades, Dallas retail has grown, of course, to include retail establishments and shopping styles encompassing all trends and walks of life. The area’s retail centers and shopping districts boast unique designs and rich histories, and some have even set the standard for the way shopping centers are built and leased across the country.
Southlake Town Square, for example, opened in 1999 and has become an icon among the country’s lifestyle center developers. In 2003, the Urban Land Institute named the property as one of eight Exemplary Projects in the nation and published a case study of the property as an example of a “great place” in its publication Place Making: Developing Town Centers, Main Streets and Urban Villages.
I’m looking forward to further exploring the history of retail in Dallas and how it has affected the world of retail in other cities. Stay tuned…