Burdines: “The Florida Store”

 

Burdines building looking east along Flagler Street from the intersection with Miami Avenue. Photo courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida.

Burdines building looking east along Flagler Street from the intersection with Miami Avenue. Photo courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida.

Before the era of mega malls, there were department stores.  One of the most memorable local department stores in Florida was Burdines. The first store was opened by William Burdine, a retired Confederate army officer, and his partner, Henry Payne. Originally a dry goods store in Bartow, Florida, Burdines moved to its home in Miami on Flagler Street in 1912 and became a department store. As South Florida’s population grew, so did Burdines. William Burdine soon began expanding, with a third store opened inside the Roney Plaza Hotel in Miami Beach. Ultimately, a permanent store at the corner of Meridian Avenue and 17th Street was opened.

In the 1920s Burdine’s stores did have their share of hardships. The 1926 hurricane upset the enterprise, as did the Great Depression in 1929. But, by World War II, the store’s reputation grew, as soldiers training on Miami Beach enjoyed Burdines’ unique selection of tropical resort wear.

Clergy participate in sit-in at Burdines luncheonette in Miami. Photo courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida.

Clergy participate in sit-in at Burdines luncheonette in Miami. Photo courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida.

The downtown Burdines had a place of real significance during the civil rights movement. The sit-ins in 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina, were generally viewed as the beginning of the cause, but the civil rights activists of the Miami chapter of the “Coalition of Racial Equality” had staged sit-ins in downtown Miami a year earlier. There were a series of sit-ins at McCrory’s in 1959 across the street from Burdines, leading to the desegregation of the lunch counter at McCrory’s. Burdines would follow in 1962, with William Burdine announcing that his stores would no longer refuse service to black patrons in the dining facilities of the Miami and Miami Beach stores.

In 1956 Burdines merged with Federated Department Stores, which also owned Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and other major department stores across the country. At first, Burdines expanded, opening stores in Orlando, Tampa, Sarasota and St. Petersburg. Burdines reached the height of its popularity as malls became the place to shop. In 1971, the Burdines at Dadeland Mall became the biggest department store south of New York. But in 2003, with no relatives remaining in the company, Federated decided to bring all its stores under one brand name, Macy’s. On March 6, 2005, the Burdines name was officially obliterated.

 

 

This year, the Burdines building was bought by Aetna Realty Company. The real-estate group is still discussing the possibility of refurbishing the building. Aetna is also considering constructing two adjacent 50-story towers on either side of the former retail store. Their proposal is to incorporate the former department store into a mixed-use property with residences, a hotel, and office spaces. The Burdines building is not listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Depending on what developers decide to do with the property, the structure may not be there at all for very long.

-Ursa Gil

Sources

Cohen, Travis. “‘It Was the Store of Stores’: The Importance of Miami’s Burdines Flagship.” Miami New Times, 11 Jan. 2018, www.miaminewtimes.com/news/the-flagship-burdines-building-a-historic-essential-staple-in-downtown-miami-9966381.

Herrera, Chabeli. “It Was Once the Flagship Burdines Store. Now the Macy’s in Downtown Miami Is Closing.” Miami Herald, www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article192910309.html.

 

 

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