At one time, South Dakota's largest department store, Shriver's was a landmark in Sioux Falls' retail history.
The Shriver-Johnson department store got its start in 1914 when A.R. Shriver and J.H. Johnson purchased the Koenig store at 117 N. Phillips, about a block and a half north of the Cataract Hotel.
In 1918, Shriver and Johnson built this 89,900 square foot building with 5 floors and a basement. Staff boomed from 11 employed by the old store to 150 in the new. The Shriver-Johnson department store boasted two cafes, a post office, rest rooms, air conditioning, and incredible deals to be had in every department!
Just Look at those display cases. This view is from the front entrance that opened onto Phillips. The first floor was a real attention-getter. Electric lights for night, enormous windows to let in plenty of light during the day. Awnings were used to keep the summer heat under control.
The second floor is shown here from the elevators. Yes, elevators! This view is looking west toward Phillips from the back of the store. Note that the light in the front has been turned off for better picture-taking. Also of note are the overhead tubes. These were used for cash transactions. The salesperson would send your cash off in a pneumatic tube, the sort today used for drive-through banking. Moments later, your change would return along with a receipt for the purchase. I'm not sure when this practice was discontinued, but Greetings From Sioux Falls friends have recollections of this as recent as the 1950s.
The fourth floor was for home furnishings and held the tea room. Keep in mind that Shriver-Johnson Co. was appealing to the ladies. The men folk could meet for cigars at the local hotels. Ladies would meet their friends at Shriver's for tea and shopping. They could mail some postcards, rest their feet, shop. All needs were met for the enjoyment of the women, which had to take a load off for the men folk. No longer did they need worry about the entertainment of their wives while they guffawed over business deals or attended meetings at some of the numerous fraternal organizations in Sioux Falls.
Behold, the Mezzanine! With a beauty parlor, children's hair cuts, post office, writing room, rest room, lounging room, nursery, and more. "Meet me on the mezzanine, Shriver Johnson Co." was the hook used in advertisements to bring women into the store. The amenities kept them coming back as well. Keep in mind that back in 1918, rest room did not mean just toilets and sinks. It implied actual rest. Couches, chairs, a maid in attendance. Who wouldn't want that? From the mezzanine, one could lounge, wave to friends and rest between purchases until it was time for lunch upstairs.
No floor was wasted at Shriver-Johnson Co. The basement was for Ladies' apparel. I must admit, it does seem less hospitable than the mezzanine with no windows in sight and the thick foundational pillars.
Parts of the basement were used as a civil defense fallout shelter during the cold war. There were large tins of biscuits, medicines, barrels in which to keep potable water. From the basement there was access to the catacombs, the cavernous storm sewers beneath the city, which legend tells, contained hideous, sightless beasts who would disembowel you if you did not solve their cunning riddles. Sewer department officials deny this last bit.
In 1971 it was decided to turn several blocks of Phillips avenue into a pedestrian mall (construction began in 1973). The Western Mall was drawing shoppers away from downtown. This kind of mall had shown some positive results in other communities and Sioux Falls decided to give it a shot as well. Trees were planted, extra lights were added, decorative brickwork was put in. The city began removing the pedestrian mall in 1986 and completed the job in 1989.
March 25, 1979, Shriver's moved from downtown to occupy 40,000 square feet in the Western Mall. This ended the store's 65 years downtown. At the time, Shriver's was operated by P.N. Hirsch & Co., an Interco Company. At the time of the move to the Western Mall, Mildred Horner, daughter of founder Alva Shriver attempted, without success, to get her family name removed from the department store.
There were also Shriver's stores in downtown Yankton and in the Brookings Mall at this time.
In 1980, another location was established in the New Town Mall. This store lasted until 1984.
In April of 1986, it was announced that Shriver's would be closing its only remaining location in The Western Mall. It was perhaps just a shadow of its former glorious self, though the Tea Room remained and was the only profitable portion of the store. For the next month all remaining merchandise was reduced in price, while the faithful patrons of the Tea Room sipped their last few cups of joe and shared the last few stories around the horseshoe lunch counter.
Page Updated: 03/03/2009
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4-30-1986 Argus Leader
5-2-1986 Argus Leader
New Town Mall picture taken from the grand opening supplement to the Argus Leader.
This was provided by Greetings friend Mark.