Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stores of our Memories and Sense of Place


On a recent trip through Richmond, Virginia, I was reminded of the profound sense of disappointment my parents experienced when legendary Richmond department stores--Miller & Rhoads and Thalhimers--decided to close their doors after years in business.  During their early married days in that city, prior to malls and chain merchandising and even long after they ceased to live there, these two stores served as more than favored shopping venues:  they served as places in which to dine, have a rendez-vous with friends "Under the Clock," or share afternoon tea with visiting grandmothers from South Carolina who couldn't wait to visit the milliners there for their annual Easter hats.  The stores served as impressive visual landmarks, too, and community focal points where people still dressed up to shop; their closures marked the beginning of a downward turn in Richmond's once vibrant downtown.  Although this part of Richmond has started to come back to life, the vibrancy they once injected into that city's land use won't be recaptured soon.  Dwight Young of the National Trust's Preservation Magazine wrote recently on this topic, so for all of you who miss a favorite corner grocery, hardware store, soda counter, local Woolworth's, or bakery, read more by clicking here.

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

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