Jacobson's I miss it so! makes me miss a store I never knew
With 30 department stores across the nation, Jacobson’s was once a big name in business.
The once-upon-a-time retail giant controlled a major share of the market for decades, selling high-end merchandise to loyal customers.
And it all began in Reed City.
One hundred forty four years ago, before its reign as a department store that ended with bankruptcy in 2002, Jacobson’s department store was founded in the small logging community.
“Jacobson’s I Miss it So!” a well-researched book detailing the rise and fall of the store, was published in September 2011 by department store historian Bruce Kopytek and combines a sensitive take on the company with a wealth of anecdotes about the beloved store and its owners. The book gives a history of the fashion institution that began humbly in Osceola County.
In 1868 the Jacobsons "fancy goods" establishment opened its doors in the 50 by 100 foot storefront located at 102 East Upton Ave., which currently houses Pere Marquette dining and catering service.
The store's owner, Abraham Jacobson, was a Jewish immigrant from Poland who started his retail venture only 28 years after Reed City had been settled, and four years before it received a charter as a village. Jacobson’s goal was to bring high-quality items to the residents of a sparsely-populated area.
"Jacobson felt that women, in particular, would readily buy the same merchandise on display in New York's Fifth Avenue stores if they only had the chance," reported Kopytek in the book.
The small store remained in business until the 1930s, as other Jacobson's department stores were established; in Jackson in 1904, in Ann Arbor in 1924, in Battle Creek in 1937 and in 29 other locations across Michigan, the midwest and Florida.
Kopytek brings to life the store’s unique presence and devotion to the community in which it served through interviews with past store employees, a manager and customers as well as research from the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson.
When, the founding Jacobson’s family sold the department store to Nathan Rosenfield in 1939, the store was transformed to hold the values and business morals it is so fondly remembered for by customers.
“He refused to allow comparative pricing, whereby an item was advertised as “regularly $50, now $29.95,” because it indicated that the store was promoting an item that wasn’t worth the $50 to begin with,” Kopytek wrote.
Rosenfield, whose unique and inspirational one-liners gained him an appendix of “Nathanisms” in the book, was fondly remembered for his deep commitment to his employees, the communities in which his stores did business and gaining customer trust through establishing relationships and valuing their opinion.
“Whenever the customer decides that the item is not worth what we’re asking, we mark it down because the customer is the boss. They know more about it than we do,” Rosenfield said, in a “Nathanism” in the book.
Comparing the eighteenth-century American department store as a whole to a sort of Atlantis for modern-day shoppers, Kopytek gives readers an interesting look at the past. From those looking for a fascinating historical read to readers who have fond memories of shopping or working at Jacobson’s locations, his insightful research will give an eye-opening view of a company that operated with a unique care for each of its customers,
Accented with many photos of Jacobson’s locations and memorabilia through the years, Kopytek’s thorough research and enjoyable writing style in “Jacobson’s I Miss it So!” will make any reader miss the cherished store they may never have known.
This historical read can be purchased on Amazon.com for $13.59.