Daddy Steve: The place where Sasha and I first met each other is gone. A few weeks ago, Dayton's department store in downtown Minneapolis closed its doors for the last time.
Sasha: We're feeling a little sad.
Of course, technically it was no longer Dayton's. That name disappeared more than a decade ago. By the time the store closed it was a branch of Macy*s. However, to most Minneapolis residents, it would always be Dayton's--a beloved shopping destination for over 115 years.
(Even Daddy John, who grew up in northern Minnesota, knew Dayton's.)
Dayton's in the early 1900s.
Early 1970s; the way it looked when I got Sasha.
Our American followers may also recognize the quick glimpse of the store in the opening of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
There were other department stores downtown, but Dayton's was in a class by itself. With nine retail floors, it seemed to stretch on forever. It was always a very classy, elegant store. Dayton's auditorium shows were legendary. During the Christmas holidays they staged a large animated display based on a different children's story every year.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1976
Harry Potter in 2000
Every spring, the store's auditorium was transformed into a lush garden for the annual flower show. I remember one year in particular that featured a full-sized, working carousel decorated entirely with flowers.
Flower shows through the years.
Dayton's had a wonderful toy department on the eighth floor. It was there where I first encountered Sasha dolls. I can still remember them in a large, glass display cabinet: blond and brunette gingham girls, London girls and boys, ballerinas, denim boys, and, of course, my boy. I believe when you see Sashas for the very first time, you're struck not only by how beautiful they are, but also by how unique they look. They're unlike any other doll.
I got Sasha in about 1973, even though he's actually a 1968 boy. He had obviously been waiting for me for quite a while. I still remember the clerk going to the back room and bringing him out in his 'crayon' tube.
I still have his original pajamas outfit and tube.
(By the way, for those of you who have wondered why he's named Sasha and not Gregor--well, with the name Sasha printed all over his tube, my 7-year-old self just assumed that was his name.)
In later years, the store suffered from new competition: suburban shopping malls, outlet stores, and online shopping. Later owners were indifferent to the qualities that endeared Dayton's to its shoppers.
During the closing, even Santa's chair was up for sale.
End of an era.
Change is inevitable, and it can be a positive thing. Sometimes, though, it comes with a price.