Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Death of Shepard's Department Store [Providence , RI]

My first job was as a teen sales clerk at the Shepard's Department Store, (built between 1880 and 1903) in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. This was in between my freshman and sophomore year at Rhode Island College. As I did not own a car, I rode the bus from home in Cranston into the city. As a young child, I'd spent many hours shopping with my mother and grandmother in the city. In those days, you could shop and have your purchases sent by delivery truck to your home if you lived near the city. My grandmother always had her packages sent and one of those boxes holds some of my Christmas ornaments. Every year, I smile at it when I go to decorate the tree.

My mother loved to shop and thought it was wonderful that I was going to work as a salesgirl. She took fashion design in college and knew one of the women who was a buyer in this store. Unfortunately for me, this woman signed me up for the Seventeen magazine fashion modeling for the store. I hated it; my mother thought it was glorious.

The city of Providence was filled with stores! The Outlet Co. was probably the largest. My grandfather opened a storefront for his laundry and dry cleaning business. I can still remember the line on the wall marking the spot where The Great Hurricane of 1938 flooded the city and all the stores. In the sixties, people still talked about the hurricane and still do now.

Not long after I spent that summer as a salesclerk, they built a mall near my home. Providence started to suffer. Shopping was more convenient and closer to home but somehow lacked the excitement. I miss the store where I used to buy stamps for my stamp collection and the hours spent at the wonderful Providence Public Library.

Writing this meme made me take a look at some of the articles on the Web that were about the city. So much has changed. Shepard's looks like this now, I guess. I haven't been to the city in thirty-six years.


Dr. James R. Pannozzi AP (ret) said...

My God what wonderful memories your blog brings. I can recall shopping at the Outlet as a child in the early 1950's and they had the most wonderful soda fountain at the front of the store. Years later, in 1970, fresh out of college, I worked there as a sales clerk while paying off some bills and stayed for a year. I too took the bus from Cranston to Providence, it was either the 21-B Pontiac or the 21-C Reservoir Ave. bus and the walk from the bus stop to our house on 19 Sabra St. was sometimes bone chilling, particularly when crossing the Frankfort St. overpass freeway bridge. Such great memories...will the people of the future have any idea of what it was like ?

Anonymous said...

The real Santa Clause was at the Outlet. My grandmother worked at Shepard's and I looked forward to visiting her and going to Child's restaurant.