Saturday, September 17, 2016

Rich, Schwartz & Joseph.

Rich, Schwartz & Joseph Building, 227 Fifth Avenue North, at center now occupied by Sam's Clothing, google images.

Rich, Schwartz & Joseph Building, 202-204 Sixth Avenue North2016, photo by Debie Oeser Cox

Nashville's First Ready To Wear Store
and a story of three buildings

This story was researched and compiled by Debie Oeser Cox, from numerous news articles that appeared in local newspapers.  There was no byline for the authors of the news stories but it was from their research, interviews, and writings that this information was taken to tell this story.  A few other sources that were used are identified in the story.

Rich, Schwartz & Joseph Clothing Store operated in Nashville from 1902 until 1987.  The main store was at three different location during those years. The company started out at 227 Fifth Avenue North.  The store moved to 202-206 Sixth Avenue North in 1936.  In 1956 Rich, Schwartz & Joseph moved to 2400 West End Avenue.  From 1961 until 1986, Rich, Schwartz & Joseph also had a store in Belle Meade Plaza.  The buildings on Fifth Avenue North and Sixth Avenue North are both still standing.

Julius Rich and Leo Schwartz, partnered together in 1902, to open Nashville's first exclusive ladies ready to wear store.  Mr. Rich previously worked for Lebeck Bros. and had 17 years of retail experience.  Mr. Schwartz, worked for Loveman & Co. and had experience selling ladies apparel for a number of years. The men were so excited about their new venture, that ran an advertisement in the Nashville American, a month before their opening date.

Nashville American, January 19,  1902

 Opening day was February 19, 1902.  The store was located at 227-229 North Summer Street, now 5th Avenue North.  The owners proudly proclaimed that theirs was the first and only exclusive ready to wear store in the city.  In the first year of business, Julius Rich and Leo Schwartz were joined by Robert Schwartz and Arthur Joseph. After a few months, Robert Schwartz left the firm.  Arthur Joseph remained, as a full partner.  In 1903, a skirt factory was opened by the partners, on the second floor of their building.  The store owners had become aware of a need to accommodate ladies who were not of an average size with well fitting, ready to wear garments.

In 1906, Harry Joseph, brother of Arthur Joseph, joined the firm, as office manager and manager of a planned millinery department to be added on the second floor.  The second floor was being used as a skirt factory, owned by the firm.  A contract was signed with George Moore and sons to refit the entire second floor.  The contract called for one hundred mirrors to be installed, to include private mirrored booths. The walls and ceilings would be painted green and the carpet would be green Wilton.  The department would carry, feathers, lace, flowers, ribbons, and other decorations to be used to design a hat to the customer's liking.  The millinery department was very successful.  The store had started out using about half of the first floor.  By 1908 all of the three floors were in use.  The company cut through the wall of an adjacent building to add more retails space and redesigned the storefront windows to better exhibit the merchandise.  A 1911 advertisement, indicates the store has it all, furs, suits, hats, dresses, costumes and coats.  In early 1915 Harry Joseph, left the firm, to open his own millinery store.  His brother Arthur, remained with the Rich, Schwartz & Joseph.

The Tennessean and Nashville American, September 24, 1911

 Business was good for Rich, Schwartz & Joseph. In 1926, the store had a grand reopening, after a full remodel of the interior and a new look for the storefront.  The skirt factory was long gone, and the first and second floors were used fully for retail.  The third floor housed the executive offices for the store.  A new color scheme of cool gray walls and white trim, with deep gray carpet, was used throughout the first and second floors.  The recessed alcove main entrance had been designed with show windows around both sides, allowing the most show space for the passerby of any store in Nashville.  The floor of the entrance was of gray and white tile with inlays of the name of the firm.  In an interview in 1926, Leo Schwartz stated that the building was built about 1900 by Samuel Murphy, a well known local businessman.  However, when Murphy purchased the lot in 1899 from Ellen Tynes, the price paid was 25,000 dollars.  The 1899 deed stated that there was a three-story brick building on the lot. Ellen Tynes had owned the property since the mid-1870's.  Research indicates the building may have been erected about 1891, while Tynes was the owner.  The building was the first home of the YWCA in Nashville, in 1898.

The Tennessean, May 1, 1926

 After more than thirty years at the Fifth Avenue location, Rich, Schwartz & Joseph announced in 1935, that a new store would be built at 202-204 Sixth Avenue North.

Architect rendering of the new store, Tennessean, July 5, 1936

The four-story building opened in August of 1936.  The newspaper's stories at the time credited, Architects Marr and Holman as having designed the Art Deco building. Gundling Building and Construction Company of Chicago designed the interior fittings and fixtures. The first three floors were for retail space.  The fourth floor had a large customer lounge and the companies offices were also located there.  The entire store was air conditioned and had modern indirect lighting.  Beginning in the late 1930's, advertisements often had the shortened, and popularly used, Rich-Schwartz, rather than the formal name of Rich, Schwartz & Joseph.  This building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The original nomination stated the building was constructed in 1930 and was three stories high. Additional documentation was added in 2008 stating the building was constructed in 1936 and that the architect was the Sidney Morris firm of Chicago.  The fact that the building is four stories high seems to have been overlooked.

In 1955, Rich, Schwartz & Joseph announced a move from downtown to 2400 West End.  They would occupy the 1929 E. Gray Smith Packard building.

The Tennessean, October 2, 1955, image by Jack Corn

 The store opened in March of 1956.  In only a few months the old Packard dealership had been turned into a showcase for fashion.  Rich, Schwartz & Joseph, ran an ad on March 4, thanking the many businesses and people who had helped the company make the transition from the old store downtown to the new store uptown.  At the top of the list was Sidney H. Morris and Associates of Chicago who had planned and designed the new store at 2400 West End.  Next was T. E. Akers & son, a general contractor who had totally transformed the space in 90 days.  Many local suppliers, craftsmen, and contractors were on the list.  And last, they thanked Mr. Fred Harvey, for being their patient and understanding landlord since January 1.  The West End location was a good one for the company and their customers.  The continued to be innovative.  For some time after the move buses picked up downtown workers on their lunch hour, sold lunch items on the bus and brought the riders out the West End store. The first pre-teen beauty salon, Miss Muffet, was at the West End store.

The store appealed to females of every age and could provide any outfit from casual sportswear to prom dresses and luxurious furs.  From 1961 until 1986, Rich, Schwartz & Joseph, operated a store in Belle Meade Plaza.

In December of 1987, after a run of 85 years in Nashville, Rich, Schwartz & Joseph, closed the West End Store.  There were two stores remaining, one in Memphis and the other in Lexington, Kentucky.

The 2400 West End building would survive as Tower Records from 1988 until 2006. It was also home to F.Y.E for a few years.

Tower Records, 2400 West End, Facebook Tower Records Nashville

The building at 2400 West End Avenue, was demolished in 2012 and is now the site of a large hotel, Homewood Suites by Hilton.

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