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.