A remark on the Life’s A Stitch blog the other day got me to thinking about department stores. It seems to me that they’ve evolved into being mostly a clothing store with small sections for perfumes, purses, china, and linens.
When I graduated from high school, I worked as a secretary at one of our local department stores. It seems to me you could buy almost anything there … appliances, car tires and batteries and other accessories, sporting goods, toys, luggage, furniture, get your hair done, eat in one of the restaurants, buy books and stationery, good cigars and pipe tobacco, purchase sewing fabric or needlework supplies, and even hire a decorator to help you design and decorate rooms in your home. There were sales clerks behind the counters who would help you make your selections, ring up your sales, and bag your items.
Two departments which disappeared somewhere along the line were the bakery department and the candy department. These were usually adjacent to each other. At the one you could get bread or cakes or other baked items. I especially remember some pecan muffins. I haven’t thought of or had one in years but they were a favorite treat. Our local department store’s bakery also made a wonderful cheesecake. In the candy department, clerks would scoop loose candies, pieces either wrapped or unwrapped, into the vessel on the scale. These were then tipped into a white bag for you to take with you. You could also buy loose chocolates or you could get a box of the store’s house brand of boxed chocolates which were as good as any on the market.
When did department stores change? Why did departments like the bakery and candy departments disappear? I suppose the answer will be that “management” decided they weren’t profitable enough to occupy the floor space. But I sure miss them. At this point, I don’t know where you can go to buy candy by the scoop. The bakeries are now found in supermarkets but their products don’t measure up to my memories.
It’s sad but in a way, the closest thing to the old-time department stores these days is Wal-Mart. Maybe that’s why so many of us shop there.