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Is downtown Oklahoma City department store more than a memory?

The idea of a major department store in downtown Oklahoma City is part of the past, and likely won't be a part of the future.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: May 21, 2013

The company closed the downtown store in 1974 with assurances a reopening was possible in the new Galleria Mall. The mall, however, never got built.

Downtown reality

Efforts to get a downtown mall continued through the 1980s, while dreams of attracting a department store back downtown never really went away. During planning for redevelopment of the blighted Core to Shore area between the Central Business District and the Oklahoma River, I heard several civic leaders pine for a Nordstrom's.

Nordstrom's isn't coming downtown.

John A. Brown's, like many regional department store chains, was swallowed up into bigger names such as Dillard's and Macy's.

It's that reality that finally cost Houston its historic downtown Foley's store (which ended life as a Macy's), and St. Paul, Minn., its historic Dayton store (which also ended life as a Macy's) and St. Louis its Famous-Barr Department Store (again, a Macy's in the end).

Being in an exotic locale with a lot of tourists isn't a sure bet for downtown department survival, either — Macy's also recently killed its downtown Honolulu store.

And Higbee's? It closed in 2001.

Don't despair. Almost a dozen new retailers selling clothing, gifts, home goods, wine, bicycles and basic home needs have opened in downtown Oklahoma City in the past few years.

A major downtown department store is part of the past. John A. Brown's is dead — but its spirit, spread out among many smaller retailers — lives on in downtown Oklahoma City.

by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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