The big department stores there were Esserman’s, Miller Brothers, Belk’s, Fahy’s, Kesslers and JCPenney’s. Four were what would be called chain stores, owned by out-of-town multi-store owners. The three men’s stores ( Wheeler’s, Rome Men’s Shop, and Owens-King) all locally owned. There were few women’s stores as most such shopping was done in department stores with very large ladies fashion offerings.
It must have been real easy to buy a pair of shoes because there were at least seven shoe stores, along with shoe sections in the department stores. Poplin’s, Higgin’s, Hopkins-Gillam and Lee, Worley’s, Cooper’s, Robin’s and Hilburn’s were all there. Murphy’s, Allen’s, Redford’s and McLellan’s/McCrory’s were all variety or five-and-dime stores located along Broad.
Add to that seven or more furniture stores, three drug stores, two optical stores (Pearl and Lee ) and a couple of banks. WRGA and WIYN radio stations were great places to explore and just hang around.
Ten food-serving outlets, some of the lunch-counter variety, fed all the shoppers. If education was your thing, there were two schools, Carroll Lynn School of Business and Rome Beauty School with a number of Broad Street beauty shops for graduates to work in. Also radio/TV stores, a thrift store, loan offices to offer you money to spend, plus of course a hotel (the Forrest ) and Southern Bell offices.
There was also a store that rewarded people for shopping at all the others. Gold Bond Stamps had just come out along with S&H Green Stamps and Gold Bond had a store on Broad to redeem all those stamps I licked and put in books for my mother (ugh!).
Joe Levy had a market at 431 Broad where you could shop for kosher meats and other items. There also were seven or so jewelry stores along the street (Star, Friedman’s, Eve’s, Brock’s, Walter R. Thomas, Hardy, Greene’s and Ford, Gittings and Kane). Also two pool halls, Hill City and Past Times, where kids went to get in trouble and live on the edge.
You could get your car serviced at B.F. Goodrich or Economy Auto or buy a house from a Realtor along the way. There was one shop dedicated to taking care of hats attached to the back of a newsstand with every magazine and all regional/national newspapers offered.
What I want to know is: Where did everybody park? Sure sounds like a lot of commerce was taking place and there was no parking on East First or West First in those days.
We now have 17 restaurants on Broad Street, with Curlee’s (coming soon) and Swift & Finch (just opened) being the newest, from the first block to the sixth block. Don’t think we need many more of them.
What is missing are retail outlets! We need to crank up the old sales machine and try to land a group of multi-store operators to come back to our town center. Gap, Kid’s Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Old Navy and many other similar stores need to be hearing the story of our downtown.
We need to make it easy for them by having a designated person/office to go to when evaluating a move to Rome. Hopefully the city will empower this one-stop shop with a sledge hammer to keep everybody headed in the right direction. Time is money in the location business.
The motto should be” We are here for you, the prospect. Let us know what you need and we will do everything to get it done.”
Yes, this is a call for an attitudinal adjustment for many in government. I know it can be done, especially if the people who supply the money start demanding it.