On display through May 27, 2014
“Rich’s is related to Atlanta. It came out of the same cradle, and it has known the same joys and severe tragedies. In both the creatively civic and the personal emotional sense, Rich’s and Atlanta are kissing kin.” – Dick Rich, 1967
Rich’s often hosted free classes in knitting, sewing, dressmaking, cooking, canning, and bridge. Nathalie Dupree, one of America’s foremost chefs and cookbook authors, founded an influential cooking school at Rich’s in 1975.
From 1945-1947 and then 1957 to 1991, Fashionata was held annually and included notable designers such as Coco Chanel, Bill Blass, and Yves Saint Laurent. The event, revived by by Sol Kent in 1957, moved around the city, sometimes hosted in the Biltmore Hotel, the Marriott Downtown, and the Fox Theatre. After Kent retired in 1991, Susan Hancock and Sheila Gerstein took over the production. The last Fashionata was held at Lenox Square mall in 1994. Rich’s replaced Fashionata with another show called “Serious Fun,” but it never held the same place in Atlanta’s social scene.
Throughout its history, Rich’s was on the forefront of developing advertising campaigns that both intrigued and entertained customers. The proof sheet in this image was meant for a full-page spread in the newspaper. This along with a dozen other advertising sheets given to the Cuba Family Archives from former Rich’s president Joel Goldberg will be on display in the exhibition Return to Rich’s.
Rich’s was a beloved Atlanta institution. Inspired by Celestine Sibley’s Dear Store, the Breman Museum has gathered stories from former employees, customers, Civil Rights participants, models, and others who recount the role Rich’s played in their lives and the life of our city. We invite you to reflect on the meaning of Rich’s to our city, to the South, and to the Jewish community. In a recreation of the Penelope Penn reading nook in our gallery, you can once again write a letter to Rich’s to share your memories of the store and what it meant to you and your family.
From 1940-1942, winter uniforms for Delta stewardesses consisted of a navy blue jacket and skirt worn with a white silk blouse, a navy blue overseas hat, a purse, gloves, and black pumps. Delta employees purchased this uniform from Rich’s for a cost of $110.
In 1924, Rich’s opened its new $1.5 million downtown store at Broad and Alabama Streets. Designed by famed Atlanta architectural firm Hentz, Reid & Adler, the now famous Rich’s clock was not on the original architectural plans. It was added later and became the store’s iconic symbol. Rich’s customers have fond memories of saying to friends, “I’ll meet you under the clock!” When you visit the exhibition, you will have a chance to take your photograph with Rich’s clock once again.
The lighting of Rich’s Great Tree began in 1948 and remains an Atlanta tradition. More than 60 feet tall, the tree was decorated in many different ways over the years. When you visit Return to Rich’s, you will see some of the tree’s ornaments that were the size of basketballs and have a chance to light the Great Tree.
Many Rich’s shoppers have fond memories of the beloved tea room that first opened in 1924 and was redesigned and christened the Magnolia Room in January 1942. From 1942 to 1961, the Magnolia Room was a place where white customers could enjoy Southern treats, participate in “Spend the Day Parties,” and see fashion shows. In 1960 and 1961, the Magnolia Room became a visible battleground, when college students and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. targeted it as part of the sit in movement. In Return to Rich’s, this story is illustrated through community members detailing fond memories of the tea room as well as opposition to Jim Crow policies. An oral history from Civil Rights leader Lonnie King is a centerpiece of this section.
Rich’s most beloved children’s tradition, the Pink Pig, began in 1956 as the Snowball Express. The monorail ride debuted in Rich’s downtown store. It had several different names, and in 1959, the ride was redesigned and the Pink Pig Flyer was born. The pigs were named Priscilla and Percival in the mid-1970s and remained at the downtown Rich’s store until it closed in 1991. Now part of the Atlanta History Center’s collection, come take your picture with Percival at Return to Rich’s.
This statue was commissioned in 1967 by the Rich Foundation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the store’s founding as well as to celebrate the relationship of the company with Atlanta. Rich’s employee James Seigler drew the original sketch for the statue. The bronze sculpture was refurbished in 1995 and rededicated in Woodruff Park for the 1996 Centennial Olympics. A replica of the statue is on display in Return to Rich’s.
In 1942, to celebrate the store’s 75th anniversary, Rich’s unveiled five murals painted by noted American artists. Fashion Through the Years showcased changes in women’s clothing from 1867 to 1942 under the various American presidents. The mural, which is the centerpiece of the exhibition’s fashion section, was painted by Wilbur Kurtz, a prominent Atlanta artist best known for his work on Atlanta’s Cyclorama and as technical advisor to Gone with the Wind.
Personalized customer service began with Morris Rich and remained part of the store’s daily operations until it closed in 2005. From the store’s liberal return policy to special events, Rich’s customers were treated to more than a shopping experience. For many customers, Rich’s was their home away from home. In 1972, this camera was given to customers for free after making a purchase. While Rich’s may not have been the first department store to introduce special incentives, no retailer was more enthusiastic than Rich’s in providing customers a memorable shopping experience.
The Breman is excited to tell the story of one of Atlanta’s favorite stores. Rich’s was part of our city and the south for nearly 138 years. Most customers and employees didn’t think of it as a Jewish company, but an Atlanta institution that shaped their lives. But there is an important Jewish story here, and the Breman is proud to open Rich’s doors once again.Aaron Berger, Executive Director, The Breman Museum
Founded in 1867 with a $500 investment by Jewish immigrant Morris Rich, Rich’s Department Store grew into one of the most influential and beloved institutions in Atlanta before being absorbed into Macy’s on March 6, 2005. Rich’s visionary leadership, commitment to its customers, and keen sense of civic duty inextricably linked the store to the commercial, political, social, cultural, and architectural development of Atlanta.
In 1949, the Saturday Evening Post documented that special relationship in an article entitled: “The Store that Married a City.” That love affair lasted nearly 138 years. Rich’s became an iconic symbol of the community in which it was based, and the store and city were often united in a common purpose. What was good for Rich’s was good for Atlanta. What was good for Atlanta was also good for Rich’s.
We hope this exhibition stirs fond memories of a ride on the Pink Pig, a glamorous evening at Fashionata, or Rich’s legendary customer service. Rich’s story also includes some of the most turbulent moments in Atlanta’s history—the economic crises involving school teachers’ pay and falling cotton prices, the Winecoff Hotel fire, and student sit-ins that propelled Rich’s onto the front page of national newspapers during the Civil Rights Movement.
Rich’s first four presidents led the company for nearly a century and shared a common vision that the most precious asset of the store was “the spirit of Rich’s.” This spirit, shared by employees and customers alike, is best expressed in another common saying among Rich’s top management—“people are more important than things.” Rich’s doors are once again open to you, and we invite you to come to the Breman and Return to Rich’s.
-Dr. Catherine Lewis, Guest Curator
Return to Rich’s is the Breman’s signature exhibition for 2013. What begins as a story of Jewish immigration from Hungary has become a great story of American entrepreneurship and innovation.
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