Saturday, July 07, 2007

R.I.P. - m.m.Cohn

One of Little Rock's retailing icons is about to die. Possibly one of the last department store chains in the country to have kept it's original name since being founded in the 1870's, M.M.Cohn will be closed -along with it's parent company, Dunlap Stores of Ft. Worth at the end of 2007.

M.M. Cohn's was to Little Rock, as Neiman's is to Dallas, Sak's to New York... Nordstrom's to Seattle, etc. You always knew that you would always find 'the best' there, whether it was a tie, a bathtowel or a full-length fox. You can read a little about the store's history here. I remember, as a child, my family shopping at this downtown store (pictured above). I remember the elevator operator. Seems like I remember a lunch counter. I remember being in awe of the Christmas windows. I remember so much... I even remember it's neighbors: Pfiefer's and Blass Department Stores (later merged and renamed Dillard's). In all three, the entreprenurial spirit of these families who helped build Little Rock will live on only through memory of those who experienced it.

It is a pity that such a local legend has been allowed to die such a long painful death. Purchased from the original family in 1989 by the Dunlap Co., M.M. Cohn immediately began it's downward spiral. Terrible, since it was once not only the premiere retailer of Little Rock/North Little Rock, but also of Memphis, Oklahoma City & Tulsa. I was sad to also see a Memphis icon, Goldsmith's, fall victim to the nationwide Macy's rename, Marshall Field's in Chicago too, but it hurts more to see our little piece of history closing altogether.
It was our 'own little Neiman's'... now it's gone.


Mike said...

No sympathy. Arkansas gave us Walmart, which probably drove m.m. Cohn (and hundreds of chains like it) out of business.

Tony said...

Altho we were a Dillard's family (my sister worked there for years, and moved up the ranks from salesperson to executive level manager of training before she was recruited to Lazarus), I still remember the opulence (well, what seemed like opulence to a simple little Sherwood boy) of their McCain Mall store in NLR. Very sad to see it go...

p.alan said...

I hate Walmart too! And what it didn't do to hurt this retailer, unfortunately Dunlap's made up for. They drove several old-name department stores to their graves previous to Cohn's.
I remember shopping at Lazarus in Pittsburgh. It too fell victim to the Macy's rename.

DWQ Online said...

It is is sad to see how long they let MM Cohn suffer. I mean they could have taken it out on top or at least before it is became the shell it is todya.

BigAssBelle said...

i hate this homogenization of america that's going on. we are very close to having interchangeable cities: the same businesses in tulsa are in little rock are in OKC are in NYC are in LA. i hate it.

when Miss Jackson's dies in tulsa, it will all be over for independent retail. pray for Miss J.

Anonymous said...

Although MM Cohn is going away... it has a current fate better than other stores, like Goldsmith's or Marshall Field's. MM Cohn is part of a bankruptcy which means someone can purchase the name and reinvent the store. Macy's has the rights to names like Lazarus and Goldsmith's so we'll never see them again but MM Cohn - it can be reincarnated. Hopefully, someone will bring it back to the store it once was as we could use an independent department store in this world of nation-wide retail sameness!

Anonymous said...

Born and raised in Little Rock, I remember the mystique of this store. I haven't been back to LR in years so I was surprised to see the store is no longer. It was a Little Rock icon. The last time I was there, it was only a shell of it's original grandeur. My best friend, a retired designer jeweler, tells me stories of her days selling to MM Cohn's. They are very similar if not identical to her musings on selling to Neiman Marcus. The stories are from a generation before, so I can only imagine the level of customer service provided. I just remember staring in the windows of what was "the most beautiful store in the world" and remembering my mother saying "don't touch anything". It was a treat to buy something there...a far cry from today's standards.

A Little Rockian gone Dallasite

Charles Edward Owens Jr. said...

My father Chuck Owens, was the maintaince Man for MMCohn stores from 1981 till they closed the doors in late 2007. He still works for the original owners, who have claim on the name M.M. Cohn. They are up in years, And as far as I know, they won't be selling the name, and won't be opening stores up again.

The MCcain mall store building is still owned by them and is open for rental.

Your pictures showing the University Mall store fronts and inside, are the last of their kind, the Whole of University Mall was razzed last year, down to bare ground, someone bought the land for use as something else, which might not get built.

The DownTown building is Owned by someone talking about making condos and retail with it, but that has been put on hold as well. If you had ever been in there, it is not like it was then, they had to rebuild the walls between them and the Boyle building next door in 1989 when the lease ran out due to Dunlap buying the company.

Get used to living in a different world.