Friday, April 21, 2017

Farewell Dayton's

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.


SimplySasha said...

How sad that all those employees have lost their jobs, that must be a great worry for some (:
Lovely story, especially about how you got your first Sasha, Sasha!

Dee said...

It's sad that all those wonderful department stores are slowly vanishing as peoples shopping habits change. The coming generation will have no idea how wonderful it was to visit such a store and wander it's floors looking at all the wonderful things that could be bought.
The toy departments were always full of the best things, row on row of dolls, car etc a child's heaven!
Now it's all mass market retailers and online shopping. Although I have to say that's now, online, I finally bought my first Sasha.

I love that your seven year old self named him Sasha due to seeing it on his tube and therefore gave him a very European boys name, which suits him well.

The end of an era...

Serenata said...

It seems to be happening the world over that these wonderful department stores are closing down or changing, not always for the best.

You are so lucky to have your original doll and that makes him even more special and of course he is called Sasha! What else would he have been called when you were seven years old. It is funny this story reminds me of my husband's toys - his Teddy is named 'Ted', his lamb is of course called 'Lamb' and his panda 'Panda' ;-) He still has them as well. You obviously looked after him and his clothes very carefully as well.

Angelo's Papa said...

I have so many memories of spending hours shopping at the high class department stores of old. They were a world of their own. I always thought it was fun to shop in the (then) 5 and dime shops, eating and drinking at the soda fountain. But, having tea and luncheon at the department store was something special. The world has changed; the Woolworths, Newberrys and etc are long gone and now the big old department stores are following them. Times change and soon no one will remember what it was like to shop anywhere but in a mall, at chain stores or online.

I named all my stuffed toys but they were collectively known as "my friends". I still have almost all of them but now I can only remember a couple of the proper names I gave them.

Thanks for sharing your story and the photos. I didn't know that bit of trivia about the MTM show!

Gregor Daddies said...

Dayton's had a fabulous restaurant called the Oak Grill. It had a very clubby, old world atmosphere with paneling and a fireplace that came from an English manor house and the most amazing popovers! When the closing was announced, I really wanted to eat there one last time, but it was immediately booked solid until the end. There was a (long gone) Woolworth's right across the street from Dayton's. My mother and I would always stop there and visit the parakeets and guinea pigs in the pet department.

NeverUschi said...

What a grand place!
As a kid, I liked to visit the department stores in Bonn (where we lived then), Kaufhof and Hertie. They were much smaller of course, but even stores that size are struggling now.
We have a large shopping centre close by, Breuningerland, but inside it's just like a pedestrian zone anywhere (only roofed) - the same boring chain stores...
it's probably a sign of approaching old age, me thinking it all used to be better in the past!

Jane said...

I too loved, and still miss, Woolworths. We had one in town and it wasn't expensive. I would save up my few pence a week pocket money and from time to time I would buy a little something for Mum, just because I loved her <3 Mum passed away 6 years ago, and I have a little box that Dad put all the little things in that I bought her from Woolies. We also had a town department store that closed down a couple of years ago. I don't think I ever bought anything from there as it was one of those shops where they only sold 'designer' things; clothes, furniture, paintings and the like, but my friends and I could always get a free 'make-over' in the cosmetics department! I hate those huge shopping centres with the same shops in every one of them :( I suppose in time we all have to give way to online shopping, but for the moment I still love to spend and afternoon in town :)

Gregor Daddies said...

Hi Nanna -

What wonderful memories. It's so nice that you still have those little keepsakes. Woolworth's was indeed a fun place. They sold such a wide variety of things.