Behold: The Old "Lowen-Behold" Company Newsletter for Lowenstein's Department Stores

Is there no end to the historical treasures to be found in the Lauderdale Library? Tonight, riding my tricycle through the lonely hallways of the Mansion, I crashed into a big cardboard box, and inside I discovered a nice collection of Lowen-Behold newsletters, the company publication for the old Lowenstein's Department Store chain.

And look, if I have to stop right here and explain what and where Lowenstein's was, then you are reading the wrong column. (It was one of our city's top department stores, children.)

These are from 1948 and 1949, and they are packed with wonderful old photos, news, vintage ads for products they offered in the early days, and lots of gossip about the company employees. Each newsletter, in fact, had a "reporter" who covered the events on his or her particular floor, and the titles of their columns were quaint and amusing. You had "Basement Bits," for example, "The Main Drag" (main floor, natch), "Second Glances," "Third Floor Flickers," "Fourth Floor Facts," "Jive on Five" (my personal favorite), "Snooping Around Seven," and "Behind the Eight Ball."

Were you paying attention? No news from the sixth floor, for some reason. Perhaps this is where they kept Marsha. (And if have to explain that Twilight Zone reference, then you are really reading the wrong column.

Looking over all these news items, most of them discuss sales awards, or marriages, or births — the usual stuff. Some of them come across to me as just a bit snippy. On the third floor, for instance, you have this: "And we can't forget that Mr. Gene Houseal is back from his one-week vacation. He finally got that fence built that he's been talking about for the last six months."

Gene certainly sounds like the life of the party. What will he talk about for the next six months?

Of course, the big news in the March 1949 issue was the grand opening of Lowenstein's Poplar Plaza store (scheduled for April), which was the centerpiece of our city's first shopping center development "out east." How quaint that sounds now. Highland "out east." Ha.

The $1,000,000 store would open for "public inspection" on Friday, April 1, 1949, "but no merchandise will be sold that day." Instead, shopping would actually begin on the following day, and it seems that Mrs. Wilma G. Person, "whose family have been owners of the Lowenstein's East property for many years, has requested that she be allowed to make the first purchase at our new store." I wonder if they let her do that? It kind of puts a lot of pressure on Mrs. Person, doesn't it? — having to decide just what to buy, on such a special occasion and all, and with all the other shoppers around her saying, "Hurry up!"

What's interesting, too, is the proposed "Roll of Honor," which would include the names of all Memphians who had been present at the grand opening of the main store downtown back in 1924. Where is that now, I wonder?

I'd tell you more, but now I've got some reading to do.

Reader Comments:
Jan 20, 2013 12:10 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I wonder where those names also. And the roll of honor. I feel those people should be recognized now even if the company is gone. The 'little' people; the people who interacted with customers day by day need their recognition. I would love that they got a bonus too, but that is another forum. Roxanne

Jan 22, 2013 05:59 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I came to Memphis State in the fall of 1949. All of this was a whole nother world to me as I was from a very small, rural town in West Tennessee. The shopping center was great but the thrill was going downtown. That is where it was all happening. And that Lowensteins store was amazing.

Jan 22, 2013 10:03 pm
 Posted by  Mrs. Paris

I had many lunches at the Grillette in Lowenstein's, while I worked at Lowenstein's as a secretary to a merchandise manager named Mr. Morris Raff from 1964 to 1966. I was pals with the hat buyer and another buyer named Ann Ross. Downtown Lowenstein's was a beautiful store, and I had a lot of fun working there. Thanks for revitalizing my memories of the Grillette.

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

You can find him from time to time in the pages of the Memphis Flyer and MBQ, on WKNO television, and on Facebook. When he is not exploring the highways and byways of Memphis, he spends his time sleeping, napping, and dozing.

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