It’s no secret that downtown Jacksonville used to be a thriving center of retail activity before being derailed by several factors in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
We’ve previously chronicled some of the department store chains that took up residence downtown during its heyday, but there were so many other, smaller shops that contributed to the rise and growth of the once-active downtown shopping district. Some of them were larger, national chains, while some were based here in Jax. Together, along with the bigger department stores, they made up what amounted to an outdoor shopping mall in the urban core.
We’ve chosen a few of those smaller shops to briefly profile below. For those who have memories of these shops and others, we would love to hear your stories – especially if you feel that there are important shops that we’ve omitted. Check out our list below and see what sparks your memory!
Much like Kress, F.W. Woolworth Company was a thriving national chain of five-and-dime stores. It first opened in downtown Jax in 1917 in a building at the corner of Main and Forsyth streets.
They stayed in that building for a few decades before joining J.C. Penney in a larger building next to Hemming Park in the mid-‘50s. It was at that building where Woolworth’s lunch counter became the site of a non-violent civil rights protest that prompted a mob of white residents to violently attack those who were protesting.
The incident, known as Ax Handle Saturday, drew national attention and has arguably become the lasting memory of Woolworth’s time in Jacksonville. Still, the downtown store limped along until the early ‘90s.
The building that was home to Ax Handle Saturday has been demolished, but the original Woolworth’s building is now home to Perdue Office Interiors.