Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sears story in Fort Lauderdale didn't begin with Searstown


By Jane Feehan

Sears, Roebuck and Company, founded in 1886, has had its ups and downs over the years. The largest retailer in the United States until 1989, it now occasionally announces store closings. When it does, many Fort Lauderdale residents wonder if Searstown on Federal Highway at Sunrise will be shutting its doors. As of this posting, the landmark department store remains open. Few know the history of Sears in Fort Lauderdale; it did not begin with Searstown.
Opening day on South Andrews, 1937

Sears opened its first Fort Lauderdale store Jan. 7, 1937 at 101 S. Andrews Ave. Mayor Lewis Moore (in office 1937-39) officiated at the event along with Chamber of Commerce President J.D. Camp. A reported 2,000 residents “thronged” to the 19,000 sq. foot store. With plenty of product lines to choose from, the store also operated an automotive department offering free tire and battery servicing to those who purchased the products at Sears. Opening day was so busy Store Manager E.E. Carroll summoned additional help to assist at registers and in the aisles.

Sears’ business continued to expand in the growing city. In 1955 the new Searstown opened at 901 N. Federal Hwy where it entered memories of current long-time residents. The transition day between the closing of the store on South Andrews and the opening on Federal was the first business day
Rendering of Searstown before opening in 1955
 Sears had closed in its then 18 years in Fort Lauderdale.  Searstown, touted as having plenty of parking, which it still does, was anchor store to a collection of 15 other businesses by 1958: grocer Piggly Wiggly (second largest in the center), Billet Doux Card Shop, Stevens Bakery, Dr. Harold S. Doubleday, optometrist, Pribbles Jewelry, Searstown Beauty Salon, Chat-N-Nibble Sandwich Shop, Deluxe Barber Shop, Monty’s 5 & 10, Gift Box, Broward Drug and Surgical Supply, the Religious Shop, Dr. William Migden, physician and surgeon, and Town Properties Realty.

By 1958, Searstown was upgraded in the Sears roster of highest revenue producers to number 75 out of its top 122 stores. I wonder how it ranks today … 



Sources:
Fort Lauderdale News, Jan. 6, 1937
Fort Lauderdale News, Jan. 7, 1937
Fort Lauderdale News, Aug. 10, 1958

Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Florida retail history, South Florida history, Broward County history,

Jane Feehan

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