Goodbye Dayton’s, er Marshall Fields, er, Macy’s.
You would think I’d be used to saying goodbye to those buildings and businesses that have been a part of the landscape that is my life. Having grown up in Minneapolis, I often find myself envisioning those once-upon-a-time places. The pending closure of Macy’s, aka Dayton’s downtown, has me reeling.
I remember when the building — save for three floors — was filled to the rafters. A pet store on the eighth floor — a fully-stocked drugstore in the basement, where my mother bought mothballs. Dayton’s bargain basement was probably the humble beginning of what became Target. In the fifth-floor children’s shoe department, you climbed a special ladder where “experts” checked for the perfect fit.
Going downtown was exciting. I wore my best dress and white gloves to eat in the Skyroom on the 12th floor with my grandmother and mother. Creamed chicken on mashed potatoes — the Little Miss Muffet — was for girls; boys had the Little Boy Blue — a hamburger and fries. Women were not permitted to dine in the Oak Grill unless accompanied by a male, making it special and sexist at the same time — only that wasn’t something we talked about back in the ’60s. It took me years to be comfortable wearing jeans downtown!
And who doesn’t remember Dayton’s big sales — Daisy in June, Jubilee in October, along with the less-exciting Anniversary Sale. Every fall, we were excited to hear what theme would transform the eighth-floor auditorium. The Spring Flower Show was a must-see.
There wasn’t anything you couldn’t buy at Dayton’s. The furniture department took up the entire seventh floor. Dayton’s carried record albums, TVs and radios. I bought my first computer at Dayton’s. When I got engaged in 1973, my mother and I headed to the bridal department on the sixth floor. The registries were updated by hand.
I remember my grandmothers — neither drove — taking the bus downtown every week to get their hair done and to shop at Dayton’s. Like them, I never lost that love and attachment to the downtown store — even when Dayton’s stores opened closer to home.
Come holiday time, I dragged my kids to the Velveteen Rabbit and Willy Wonka displays — despite the fact we don’t celebrate Christmas. With the advent of Holidazzle, I took my 5-year-old daughter, Amy, to dinner in the Oak Grill (we no longer needed a male escort). It became our tradition. Amy is now 27 and that Oak Grill visit became lunch the day after Thanksgiving. This past summer, Amy’s childhood dream came true — her wedding shower was held in the restaurant.
Losing the Dayton name to Marshall Field’s and then Macy’s was a hard blow. But still, that building, that special building where Mary Tyler Moore tossed her hat upward, remained a department store. I’ve continued to patronize the downtown Macy’s. Free parking on weekends with a $20 purchase was a plus, but even more so was recreating memories of long-ago shopping days in a special place. Maybe Macy’s could have promoted the advantages of downtown shopping a tad more.
The North Loop is growing. Hard to believe that Macy’s wouldn’t have witnessed increased traffic in the years ahead. But alas, Macy’s isn’t “our” department store. That honor belonged to Dayton’s. And now it will be gone forever.
Thanks for the memories.
Connie Sandler lives in Golden Valley.