There was an era in Spokane when women dressed fashionably to shop downtown. Suits, dresses, hats and smartly tailored coats, often trimmed in fur, were important accessories.
Benjamin Zukor, also spelled Zucker, Zuker and Zukovsky in some references, opened his first upscale women’s clothing store in New York City in 1916 and expanded the chain in the northeast and the west coast. Zukor opened a Spokane store inside the Mohawk building in 1929 and turned a profit during the Great Depression. In 1935, he moved his store to the Jamieson Building, where it would stay for 38 years. Zukor bought the building in 1936. Having the same surname of famous movie mogul Adolph Zukor might have helped sales at the Los Angeles stores, though there was no relation.
Bernard Brandt had worked 25 years in the women’s clothing business, including several years at the Zukor store, before buying the Altamae Shop in 1944 from Alta Mae Johnson. Brandt changed the name of the store to Bernards and opened it in the Hyde Building, across Wall Street from Zukor’s, at Riverside Avenue and Wall Street. With the help of his wife, Rose, Bernards became successful in post-World War II Spokane and expanded several times.
Competing for the affluent woman shopper in the 1950s and 1960s, alongside Bernards and Zukor’s, were shops like Mode O’Day, McBride’s and Rusan’s. These stylish stores were the mainstays of fashion shows at the Davenport Hotel and other society events.
But as the 20th century wore on, street clothing became more casual, with younger shoppers drawn to hipper boutiques, away from stodgy older stores. Large chain department stores, with the buying power to offer discounts and special sales, also pulled shoppers away.
Zukor’s folded into Taylor’s, a Zukor subsidiary aimed at youthful shoppers, in 1973 and closed the Riverside store. Bernard Brandt died in 1972 and the store moved to the Sherwood Mall for another decade.
The Zukor building burned down in 1980. The Hyde building was torn down to make room for the Seafirst Center, now the Bank of American Financial Center.
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