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Rich's, Columbia Mall: 6 March 2005   5 comments

Posted at 10:59 pm in historic,stores

When Rich's came to Columbia with the opening of Columbia Mall it was kind of a big deal. Up until that point, Rich's was an Atlanta name and had the kind of cachet that exotic brands tend to accumulate. I was given to understand that at one point special shopping busses were charterted to run from SC to Atlanta mostly just to shop at Rich's.

Even The State got into the act, running several puff pieces on the store. I can recall one in particular which made the claim that the store was so famous for its customer service and ease of return that a woman once "returned" her husband to Rich's which took him "despite having no record of the sale".

Given that I was almost completely indifferent to style, I was never overwhelmed by the idea (or actuality) of having a Rich's in town, but I liked the odd "pipey" outside architecture of the store, and the quirky way it had an almost patio on the first floor and an interesting elevator which boarded there.

Rich's wasn't all about fashion. It opened during the tail end of the "a department store should have everything" era and so had a full selection of electronics and cookware like a Sears.

It also had a book department at the bottom of the escalator, and that was one of my regular spots to hit when visiting the mall. It tended to best-sellers and remainders so you never knew quite what you would find there. I know I got two volumes of Richard Burton's unexpurgated translation of The Arabian Nights there which I still have, though I never saw the other 15 or so.

At some point Rich's ran into trouble. Wikipedia suggests it started with the death of Richard Rich in 1975. I suspect over expansion and Richway may have contributed. Whatever the case, the chain was sold to Federated which also owned the Macy's name, and the Rich's brand was retired on 6 March 2005.

The old Columbia Mall Rich's store continues to operate as Macy's to this day, and if you consider things just in terms of continuous operation, is one of the last original stores in the mall (along with Sears and Radio Shack) -- there are no books or stereos though.

UPDATE 7 Feb 2010: Somehow I wrote "Frank Rich" above instead of "Richard Rich" (now there's a good comic book name..). I've fixed it (Thanks JT!). Check the comments for more info..

Written by ted on February 2nd, 2010

5 Responses to 'Rich's, Columbia Mall: 6 March 2005'

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  1. I found a news article saying it switched to Macy's on Feb 2nd 2003

    Mr Bill

    3 Feb 10 at 9:09 am

  2. I was going by Wikipedia, which is always dangerous..

    ted

    3 Feb 10 at 9:32 am

  3. I think Rich's was hurt by the recessions of the early 80s and late 90s, which were a bad time all around for department stores. I know they were still an independent company in the 1990s.

    Federated by the way, changed all the stores they owned to Macy's including Marshall Fields in Chicago, which caused a lot of controversy and anger in the Windy City.

    Tom

    3 Feb 10 at 11:09 am

  4. I created the initial Rich's article on Wikipedia since I was doing research on Rich's during the time of the changeover. The store became "Rich's-Macy's" in 2003 then Macy's in 2005. It never carried the level of frustration that Marshall Field's did, because the real deal was the fact that the downtown store was closed and partially demolished at the end of 1991. It was quite a frumpy store by the time that the change happened, and since FDS owned both Rich's and Macy's after 1994 the two stores were identical and cannibalizing each other.

    It was Richard Rich, not Frank, that died in 1975. I have heard the expansion to Birmingham coupled with the major recession of the mid-70's really dealt a blow on the chain, but more so that the children could not handle the store after he died. By 1977, FDS took over but remained managed locally up until 1987. In 1987 is when the full line department store format was dropped. I recall the major renovations to Cobb Center when that happened. Rich's was the real deal when I was a child...a truly incredible store...but once the tradition was destroyed with the closing of the store, nobody really felt the same.

    As to CP...I have long been frustrated I had no photos of the store as Rich's. I photographed every operating Rich's in Atlanta around the time of the final changeover, but never succeeded at the out-of-state stores. I know my mom was NOT impressed with the CP Rich's when she lived there...definitely thought it was downscale compared to Atlanta's stores.

    JT

    6 Feb 10 at 11:11 pm

  5. Thanks JT!

    ted

    7 Feb 10 at 1:16 am

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