Greater Hamilton Shopping Centre. Hamilton Historical collection. Nov. 4, 1960
Greater Hamilton Shopping Centre. Hamilton Historical collection. Nov. 4, 1960

The departure of U.S. retail giant Target offers a contrast to the days when people formed lasting bonds with classic department stores and food stores across the city of Hamilton – architectural gems downtown like The Arcade and Eaton’s – where elevator operators wore white gloves and ladies sipped tea in the Green Room.  As The Spectator’s Jon Wells writes, we once flocked to these stores to relax, aspire and shop with a shared faith that this was as good as it gets.

Read the full Jon Wells story here.

Woolworth's store. Hamilton Historical collection. March 9, 1966
Woolworth’s store. Hamilton Historical collection. March 9, 1966

The city is full of shopping history, including the opening of the brand new Woolworth’s.

When Simpsons-Sears opened, it was a big event, drawing head office execs from Chicago.

Simpson-Sears Hamilton Historical collection. Nov. 16, 1954
Simpson-Sears, Hamilton Historical collection. Nov. 16, 1954

Edgar G. Burton (right), president of Simpson-Sears Ltd. , visits the new store. Left to Right: General Manager Gene Coffman, Findley Williams, manager of national store planning and display for the parent company in Chicago, and Robert C. Gibson, VP merchandising. Nov. 12, 1954. Hamilton Historical collection

Edgar G. Burton (right), president of Simpson-Sears Ltd. , visits the new store. Left to Right: General Manager Gene Coffman, Findley Williams, manager of national store planning and display for the parent company in Chicago, and Robert C. Gibson, VP merchandising. Nov. 12, 1954. Hamilton Historical collection

Simpson-Sears staff. Nov. 8, 1954. Hamilton Historical collection.

Simpson-Sears staff. Nov. 8, 1954. Hamilton Historical collection.

At Simpson-Sears, the big pre-Easter sale is a success as shoppers throng the big east end store. Mar 12, 1959 Hamilton Historical collection.
At Simpson-Sears, the big pre-Easter sale is a success as shoppers throng the big east end store. Hamilton Historical collection.

Fennell Square was a popular destination.

Eatons was a prime destination.  Redevelopment began in the 1950s.

Redevelopment of the James Street North area will take place next year when the old City Hall is demolished to make way for the extension to the corner of the T. Eaton Company store. Eaton's. Hamilton Historical collection. Feb. 8,1959
Redevelopment of the James Street North area takes place next year when the old City Hall is demolished to make way for the extension to the T. Eaton Co. Hamilton Historical collection. Feb. 8,1959
In 1957, Eaton's new escalator offered 'rapid transit' from the basement to the fifth floor.
In 1957, Eaton’s new escalator offered ‘rapid transit’ from the basement to the fifth floor.
Mrs. Gordon Paterson goes through evolving door at Eatons, James street. December, 1970
Mrs. Gordon Paterson goes through revolving door at Eatons, December, 1970. Spec Archives.
Eaton's heavy-goods driver Lloyd Oakes, left, and parcel delivery man Gill Marcotte, sport new uniforms, in 1971. Eatons Hamilton Historical collection
Eaton’s heavy-goods driver Lloyd Oakes, left, and delivery man Gill Marcotte in new uniforms, 1971. Hamilton Historical collection.
Eaton’s Christmas window. Hamilton Historical collection. Dec. 13, 1961

 

Riding the elevator with always-polite operators was a thrill for many kids. Eatons. Spec Archives. Dec. 19, 1988
Riding the Eatons elevator with always-polite operators was a thrill for kids.  Spec Archives. Dec. 19, 1988

3 thoughts on “FLASHBACK: Shopping

  1. Downtown stores started to close in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The openniing of the Centre Mall was the start of the end. Very few cities have been able to return their downtown centres to the past.

    1. Downtown department stores closed because of rapidly rising business taxes. The stores’ owners practically begged city council to provide relief. In a Hamilton Spectator story, they argued that they could afford to pay their staff and their real estate taxes and make a profit, but there was no profit once business taxes were also levied. They said that if they left, they were never coming back. There was no relief forthcoming from council, so they left. There are currently no department stores in downtown Hamilton, a part of the city that has suffered through thirty years of economic decline and stagnation.

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