The Long Road to Retail

Posted by    |    August 11th, 2010 at 8:33 pm

The Jewish immigrants who wrote some of the most important retail stories in Dallas history (Neiman Marcus, Sanger Harris, Volks Brothers) took root in North Texas via varied routes of entry.  Until the early 1900s, nearly all Jewish immigrants began their U.S. journey by sailing into Northeastern ports.  Beginning in 1907, however, Galveston became their main port of entry.  But why the switch from the traditional ports of entry to a port thousands of miles to the south?  The Galveston Movement, of course!

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Dallas Truly is the “Shopping Center”

Posted by    |    August 9th, 2010 at 11:33 am

If you were ever in doubt that the city of Dallas gave birth to retail in the United States, doubt no more!  Did you know that Dallas is the home of the very first planned shopping center in the country?  Moving on from the concentration of retail department stores located in downtown buildings, area developers were coming up with new ways to bring retail to the masses.

Highland Park Village (HPV), which received its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 2008, was conceived by Edgar Flippen and Hugh Prather in 1928 and opened in 1931.  According to the designation record:

“…Highland Park Shopping Village represents a pivotal point in the evolution of the shopping center as a distinctive building type in 20th century American architecture.”

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The Shopper’s Architect

Posted by    |    August 6th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

The great retail department stores of downtown Dallas had much more in common than their Jewish founders and luxurious merchandise.  Some of the most iconic and innovative buildings in downtown Dallas were all designed by the same architect.

George Leighton Dahl is known as the brains behind the design of the Neiman-Marcus Building (1927, 1618 Main St.); the Titche-Goettinger Building (1929, 1900 Elm St.); the Volk Brothers Buildings (1930); the Mayfair Department Store (1947, 141 Elm St.); and Philipson’s Fashions (1949, Elm at St. Paul).  He even designed 32 stores for Sears Roebuck.

Dahl was an adaptive architect.  According to the Handbook of Texas Online, “In contrast to contemporaries O’Neil Ford and Howard R. Meyer, who developed their own unique styles, Dahl, as critic David Dillon noted, remained a stylistic chameleon who produced works to suit the needs and tastes of his clients.”

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First-Hand Account: Priceless

Posted by    |    August 5th, 2010 at 9:46 am

So we now know about the European immigration that brought retail to Texas.  Let’s look a little closer at the roots of retailing in Dallas by exploring the history of one of the first major merchants to set up shop downtown.

Emanual Meyer Kahn (dba E.M. Kahn’s) was born in 1849 in Alsace-Lorraine, France.  According to the publication Pioneer Jewish Texans, he arrived by ship in Georgia and began working as a merchant.  From Georgia he moved on to Mississippi and then Dallas.

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Merchants Yes, But Leaders Too

Posted by    |    August 3rd, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I ran across a great article from D Magazine called “The Jews Who Built Dallas.”  The article details the Jewish professionals who came to Dallas and became a major influence on its economy and culture.  And many of our aforementioned merchants are discussed in the article as great leaders and businessmen of the time.

For example, The article calls Alex Sanger (of Sanger Brothers/Sanger Harris) “the most powerful merchant in Dallas in 1899 and an important player in the Jewish Community.”

Alex Sanger

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But where did it all begin?

Posted by    |    July 31st, 2010 at 11:40 am

Jewish immigrants at the port of Galveston

If we focus only on the history of Dallas retail from a Dallas perspective, we are blasting right past the fascinating roots of retail in Texas and, more broadly, the United States.

Many of the iconic pioneers of  Dallas retailing, after all, were not natives of Texas or even America. They were born in Europe to immigrant parents and only became part of the fabric of Dallas retail after years of living and working in different parts of the state and country.

It is interesting to note that some of the most well-known and influential Dallas retailing families were of Jewish descent.  The Marcus, Sanger, Hrris, Linz, Kahn and Volk families belonged to a group of Jewish merchants active in the cultural, economic, and political development of Dallas.

According to materials gathered and published in the Handbook of Texas Online (Handbook), “Jews have been part of the warp and woof of the Lone Star State since the period of Spanish Texas.”

Prior to 1821, Texas was a Spanish colony “where only Catholics could take up residence.”  If you were an openly practicing Jew, you could not legally live in the state.  But the earliest Jewish immigrants to Texas soon planted roots in places like the Brazos River (Samual Isaacks) and East Texas (N. Adolphus Sterne), and by 1838, outposts including Velasco, Bolivar, San Antonio, Galveston, Goliad and Nacogdoches were home to many early Texas Jews.

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When Downtown Was the Place to Be

Posted by    |    July 28th, 2010 at 9:20 am

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, retail establishments in Dallas were located mainly in the downtown central business district, along Main, Elm, St. Paul, Austin, and Lamar Streets.  The real estate mostly encompassed large, multi-story buildings with street front parking.

Early examples in Dallas include Sanger Brothers Dry Goods, Titche-Goettinger, A. Harris & Company, Volk Brothers and others. 

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The Birth of Convenience

Posted by    |    July 26th, 2010 at 8:03 am

In my last blog, I discussed the early days of retail and shopping in Dallas by describing the beginnings of our beloved Neiman Marcus, an event that set the stage for high-fashion retailing in the city and really helped paint an image of Dallas as a fashion-forward shopping mecca.

Today, I am swinging in a completely different retail direction.  If we were to follow a historical timeline of major events in Dallas retail history, this event follows the founding of Neiman Marcus, and it kicked off a completely new type of retail type and location:  the convenience store.

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Dallas…Born to Shop!

Posted by    |    July 23rd, 2010 at 9:27 am

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.

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Office Buildings! Get Your Office Buildings!

Posted by    |    June 24th, 2010 at 8:30 pm

“The number of distressed properties continues to rise,” says a new report from Delta Associates, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area now has almost $2 billion worth of commercial properties with shaky financing. (It could be worse: New York City has more than $14 billion in distressed property.) Real estate guru Steve Brown has the story in DMN. As lenders scramble to refinance, brokers say the deal-making is heating up with investors and office-needy companies looking for deals.