The J.W. Robinson Co., Los Angeles

Robinson's gleaming flagship store was located
on Seventh Street, slightly off the Broadway
retail corridor in Los Angeles

In 1934, the store's exterior was remodeled in an
Art-Deco style which retained some large-scale
classical features - a very unique 'look' for a
department store headquarters.

Robinson's - often mentioned by Johnny Carson on
his long-running late-night TV show - was a bastion
of luxury and good taste for the Southern
California's carriage trade.

The rippled effect displayed on the S. Hope St. facade
in this photograph betrays the presence of the
Broadway Plaza complex across the street,
more specifically, the reflective glass
on the Hyatt Regency Hotel tower.

In 1958, its 75th anniversary year, Robinson's invited
customers to "breeze on downtown" and avail
themselves of the convenience of its auto park,
a six-level garage directly adjacent to the store.

The J. W. Robinson Co.
Seventh, Grand and Hope
600 W. Seventh Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017

MAdison 8-0333

First Floor
Books • Candies • Fine Foods • Stationery • Luggage • Notions • Cameras • Fine Jewelry • Diamonds • Fine Fashion Jewelry • Art Gifts • Silverware • Fragrances • Cosmetics • Toiletries • Pharmacy • Drugs • Handbags • Purse Accessories • Small Leather Goods • Belts • Gloves • Hosiery • Hosiery Casuals • Fashion Accessories • Robinaire Sportswear • Robinaire Blouses • Robinaire Directions • Hat Bar • Modern Living Shoes • Sidewalk Coffee Corner
Men’s Accessories • Men’s Furnishings • Men’s Gifts • Men’s Sportswear • Men’s Sportswear Casuals • Collection Sportswear • Trend Shop • Men’s Shoes • Men’s Hats • Men’s Clothing • Alumni Shop

Second Floor
Children’s Center • Infants • Nursery Accessories • Toddlers • Babette • Hi-Shop • Girls 3-6 • Girls 7-14 • Girls’ Accessories • Girls’ Sleepwear • Boy’s Store • Campus Shop • Young World Shoes • Yardage • Art Needlework • Decorative Fabrics • Domestics • Bedding • Linens • Bath Shop • Books • Sportswear II • Antoine Salon • Robinaire Salon

Third Floor
Fur Salon • Bridal Salon • Millinery Salon • Designer Coats and Suits • Designer Dresses • Designer Sportswear • The Pink Room • Pacesetter • Shoe Salon • Sport Shop • Better Sportswear • Better Dresses • Better Coats • Occasion Dresses • Country Club Sportswear • New Arrivals • Portrait Photography • Page Boy Maternity Boutique

Fourth Floor
Young Californian Dresses • Young Californian Sportswear • Young Californian Coats and Suits • Young Californian Shoes • Robinaire Misses’ Dresses • Robinaire Women’s Dresses • Robinaire Coats and Suits • Career Dresses • Avantique Shoes • Robinaire Shoes • Deb-onaire • Sub-Deb Shop • Wild West Junction • Fashion Foundations • Lingerie • Daywear • Robes • Sleepwear • Loungewear • Young Californian Lingerie

Fifth Floor
Housewares • Home Appliances • China • Glassware • Gifts • Foreign Gifts • Television • Stereos • Radios •Records • Toyland • Hardware • Garden Shop • Outdoor Furniture • Art Gallery • Art Gifts

Sixth Floor
Galleries of Fine Furniture • Sleep Shop • Curtains • Draperies • Rugs • Carlin Shop Linens • Lamps

Seventh Floor
The California Room • The Round Robin • Customer Service

Beverly Hills
9900 Wilshire Blvd.
May, 1952
236,000 s.f.
The Pink Tent

Palm Springs
333 S. Palm Canyon Dr. at Baristo Rd.
January, 1958/1973
84,000 s.f.
Colorado Blvd. at Oak Knoll
May, 1958
167,000 s.f.
The Buffet

In the Valley
Panorama City
June, 1961
The Garden Room
The Round Robin

Anaheim Shopping Cneter
February, 1963
The Mission Room
Carousel Round Robin

Glendale Fashion Center
August, 1966
150,000 s.f.
The Buffet

Santa Barbara
La Cumbre Plaza
July, 1967
155,000 s.f.
The Patio Buffet

Fashion Island
Newport Beach
September, 1967
225,000 s.f.
The Lido Buffet

Fashion Valley
San Diego
September, 1969
172,000 s.f.
The California Room
Round Robin

Los Cerritos Center
September, 1971
146,000 s.f.
The California Room

Woodland Hills
The Promenade
March, 1973
194,000 s.f.
The California Room

Puente Hills Mall
City of Industry
March, 1974
153,000 s.f.

Westminster Mall
April, 1975
160,000 s.f.

Santa Anita Fashion Park
April, 1976
137,000 s.f.

The Oaks 
Thousand Oaks
127,000 sq. ft.

University Towne Center
La Jolla
147,000 sq. ft.

Mission Viejo
Mission Viejo Mall

Sherman Oaks Galleria
Octber, 1980

Joseph Winchester Robinson left Waltham, Massachusetts, where he had operated a dry goods business, for California in 1882.  Intending to develop orange groves in Riverside, California, the 36-year old Robinson instead took an interest in the retail business in the small, 13,000-strong community of Los Angeles.  Sensing that the area would grow, and that the rough-and-tumble general stores of the day were doing a poor job of serving the public, he quickly returned to the east coast, and used his contacts in the dry goods business to have merchandise shipped around Cape Horn to the new store he planned to open in Los Angeles.

The “Boston Dry Goods Store” began business in February of 1883 at the corner of N. Spring and Temple Streets. He advertised that his establishment was characterized by “fine stocks and refined ‘Boston’ service.” The arrival of railroads spurred the enormous and long-lived growth of Southern California, and Robinson’s store brought eastern goods and their attendant sophistication to a willing (and growing) public; in 1887 the store was forced to move to larger quarters at 69-73 N. Spring Street. After returning from a trip back east in 1891, Robinson became ill and passed away in his home at the age of 45. At the time of his death, his employees published a resolution stating that “We of the Boston Store sadly realize that a good man has gone – a man of sterling integrity, of great energy, and of large public spirit.” His father, H.W. Robinson came to Los Angeles for the funeral and to look after the business founded by his late son.

Boston Dry Goods Store on
S. Broadway in the early days
of the 20th Century.

Remaining under family control, the store was renamed J.W. Robinson Co. (but continued to trade as the “Boston Dry Goods Store” until after the turn of the century) and moved in 1896 to 239 S. Broadway, “opposite City Hall.” In the early days of the twentieth century, the Los Angeles area grew and grew, especially with the arrival of the film industry.  The store, which “catered to the most exclusive trade” according to the Los Angeles Times in 1911, expanded into adjacent properties, but it became apparent to management that the South Broadway location could not handle the store’s growth into the future.  Accordingly, land was acquired along Seventh Street between Grand and Hope streets, at the time beyond the limits of Los Angeles’ central business district.

By 1914, the site, with 333 feet of frontage on Seventh Street, and 135 feet each on Grand and Hope Streets, was being excavated for the J.W. Robinson Co.’s new store of 392,000 square feet.  When it opened in September of 1915, the seven-story building of beige pressed brick, trimmed in cream and polychrome terracotta, was described in the press as “a retail palace” with “all the conveniences and attractions of a great club and meeting place.” The distinctive building with its corner towers, deeply projecting cornices, and oculus windows featured 10 passenger elevators for vertical conveyance, and two roof gardens on either side of a seventh-floor dining room approached through a foyer “arranged as a palm room.”

The J. W. Robinson Co. not long after its
opening on Seventh Street in 1915.

When the new store was announced, some voices raised criticism over its out-of-the-way location, but by the time it opened, and as it became established along Seventh Street, it helped to establish a high-class shopping district. Robinson’s prosperity at Seventh and Grand was such that a seven-story addition to the south was constructed in 1923, bringing the store’s square footage up to 624,000 sq. ft.

1923 view of the Grand ave. ide of
Robinson's, showing the newer
addtion to the south.

Robinson’s modernized the interior of its flagship store in the depression years from 1931 to 1933, and the Los Angeles Times noted that the store’s plan to modernize its exterior coinciding with its 51st anniversary in 1934 “marked the third time in its history that the J.W. Robinson Co. expressed confidence by expanding in periods of world stress.”  The paper also noted the store’s growth in human terms – its two employees had grown to 1500 at the time.
The new exterior, unveiled on September 3rd, 1934, was a mixture of sleek art-deco design mixed with oversize classical detailing executed in reinforced concrete and stucco designed by the architect Edward L. Mayberry.  The Times called it “one of the outstanding beautiful structures of America,” and the store referred to it as a “restrained-modernistic design.”

In the ensuing years, the company resisted the outward expansion begun by competitor Bullock’s in the late 1920’s with its stunning Wilshire branch, and settled into its role as one of Los Angeles’ most exclusive and respected stores, which embodied the “fair dealing, honest values, and a stock of merchandise that was the best available” characteristic of J.W. Robinson’s philosophy for his store. For many customers, Robinson's distinctive "signature" logo, whether it appeared on bags, boxes, or on the later branch stores, itself indicated status, quality and distinction. While it was known as a sumptuous luxury store, Robinson's, like many similar retailers, carried merchandise in a variety of price ranges. It coined the name "Robinaire" for its lower price ladies' wear departments, and paid homage to its home state in its "Young California" shops for young women.

Robinson’s began postwar expansion somewhat tentatively, first opening a seasonal resort branch in Palm Springs’ Desert Inn in 1947. In 1952, Robinson’s unveiled its first major branch store in Beverly Hills, designed by Charles Luckman and William Pereira, with interiors by Raymond Loewy.  The mid-century modern store, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on a “California Patio” had adjacent parking and a rooftop restaurant, and was noted by the Los Angeles Times for its "striking architecture and sophisticated smartness."

Robinson's 1958 Palm Springs branch
which was doubled in size in 1973.

Further branch development followed, with two stores, in Pasadena and Palm Springs, opening in Robinson’s 75th anniversary year of 1958.  The latter store was a tiny jewel set in the desert, with a hovering folded-plate roof and extensive use of glass curtain walls. More conventional, but still top-of-the-line branch stores opened in the 1960s in the San Fernando Valley and Anaheim.

The trio of late 1960s stores located in Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, and San Diego took innovation even further, wholly rejecting the “department-store-as-box” concept, and housing Robinson’s in a highly sculptural composition of cantilevered masses, interspersed with tile-roofed colonnades and a bell-tower and carillon as a focal point.  Later branches were smaller and simpler versions of this quintessential Robinson’s style, although the 1974 Woodland Hills branch repeated the concept in totality.

Robinson’s food service in its flagship store included the aforementioned roof-top tearoom, which was remodeled in 1955 and renamed The California Room. In 1954, a quick-service restaurant was built on the seventh floor and named The Round Robin, playing on its circular design reminiscent of a birdcage, and the store’s name as well.  The California Room and Round Robin were exported to several of the branch stores as well.  The downtown store also had a “Sidewalk Coffee Corner” for light snacks.

Robinson's Round Robin, "Newest way to
lunch in a delightful, delicious hurry!"

Robinson’s became a part of  the Associated Dry Goods chain headquartered in New York.  The store was Associated’s first affiliate on the West Coast, and the store stated at the time of the takeover that the decision to sell to a national chain was done to protect the business (from estate taxation among other things) for the family which still ran it, and Associated made clear at the time that it had “no intention of interfering in any way with stores that have so completely endeared themselves to their public.”  Indeed, Robinson’s thrived in its role as a well-loved and respected carriage-trade retailer well through the 1970s.

Even when downtown Los Angeles declined as a retail magnet, Robinson’s did well enough to warrant a major remodeling of the flagship store in the early 1980s, and the company continued branch expansion, notably opening a store in downtown San Diego’s Horton Plaza.

The parent company, Associated Dry Goods, was, however, suffering, and was taken over by The May Co. in 1986.  May folded its Arizona-based Goldwater’s division into Robinson’s in 1989  and by 1992 decided to consolidate its Los Angeles May Co. stores with Robinson’s.  The resulting, awkwardly-named Robinson’s-May division was in reality more of a expanded May Company than a store which reflected the heritage of luxury of its older namesake.

Remnants of Robinson’s as a bastion of the retail trade had been obliterated by the time that May department stores was bought by rival Federated department stores; several of the original buildings do survive intact as current Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s stores; the great and beautiful flagship store at 600 W. Seventh Street in Los Angeles closed in 1991, and today houses offices and a drug store.


  1. The Glendale store actually opened in 1966.

  2. Thanks again, Randy for the correction; checking my information, I see it opened on August 29, 1966 to be exact.

  3. The Brea store was actually part of the late '80s expansion at the mall.

  4. It opened as May Co not Robinson's, it became Robinsons May with the merger.

  5. The Brea store opened in 1991, the last store to open before their "marriage" with May Co. It closed and is now JCPenney.

  6. I wonder if you can uncover more about Robinsons California and Robinsons Florida. I have always heard they were related and had very similar logos however I cant find out too many details.

  7. I plan to include a brief history of each store as "The Department Store Museum" develops. Robinson's of Florida was a new division created in the 1970s by Associated Dry Goods, to tap the Florida Market where they had no locations. Building on the reputation of Lord & Taylor and Robinson's, two of Associated's finest divisions, Robinson's of Florida built branches in several Gulf Coast Florida locations and in Orlando. There was no downtown location per se. Robinson's of Florida's first store, in Tyrone Square, opened in 1973, and served as headquarters for the division. While it was separate from the Los Angeles J.W. Robinson Co., it did use the name and similar department identifiers, like "Robinaire" for moderately-priced fashion.

    My criteria for inclusion in "The Department Store Museum," while loosely applied, is that a store should have a long-standing downtown store and at least one branch operation. Technically, Robinson's of Florida falls outside of this criteria, so I haven't included it (yet). However, it is clear that the store did impact the retail offerings on the Gulf Coast, until later years, when the May Company acquired it and sold the stores.

  8. Robinson's main competitor, Bullock's did a similar stint by establishing an offshoot chain in Northern California called Bullock's North, around the same time as Robinson's Florida establishment.

  9. I found a 1920's Pathex motion picture Roy Rogers film with a J.W. Robinson Co. original price tag that says $1.75. I found it in my parents attic. I think the price tag is as cool as the film.

  10. I found a 1920's Roy Rogers film in the original box with a J.W. Robinson co. price tag on it that says $1.75. The price sticker and Pathex box is as cool as the film. I had never heard of this department store till today.

  11. Please come visit our JW Robinson's/May Co group on Flickr...

  12. the Robinson's store in the Fshion Valley Center in San Diego was in the 1970's and 80's a very nice store, with great service and a fine selection of goods (all top quality). The store later became a Robinson's May and it just wasn;t the same...although store lay out remained the same. Today the building is a Bloomingdale's and I must say they have done a very nice job of restoring the inside of the building. It is fun having a Bloomingdale's. But I still miss Robinson's. Why must everything be the same thru-out this country?

  13. As a former Bullocks executive (24 years) and a former Robinsons/Robinsons-May executive (16 years) I enjoy looking into the Department store history.

  14. how could i find info on hanbags sold by jwrobinsons?

  15. The downtown Robinson's flagship actually closed on January 31, 1993, along with their branches in Glendale, Pasadena, Woodland Hills, Westminster, and Brea, along with the May Co. stores at Eastland (West Covina), San Bernardino (rather odd since the nearest JWR was either Palm Desert or Puente Hills) and their landmark Wilshire store. Would you care to add the exact dates for the branch openings? Do you need my help in providing those dates?


  17. This is fascinating. Would you happen to have in your possession the original Fashion Valley Robinsons image? I would be more than happy to pay for it. I've been looking for pre-May photos of this beautiful building for years.

  18. Boy does this bring back memories. Myself and some of my freinds work at that Robinsons in 1970's. I was a security agent and chased shoplifters up and down those streets. Up until 1970's they even still had a elevator with a operator inside to take you to your floor. And the sidwlk cafe was my break spot each day. Each month the would end the month with a month end sale, and people would line up outside the doors to get the best deals. We would have people fighting over bedding each month. Thanks for the memories

  19. The Robinson's bell towers on their later stores were just lovely! So unique.

  20. So Johnny Carson mentioned Robinson's in his opening monologues? Was that his favorite place to shop? Did he often mention the other three LA dept. stores as well?

  21. My Mother loved to shop and almost always took me with her so from a very early age I was in the downtown Los Angeles stores. I remember J. W. Robinson's had what they called a elevator starter or maybe it was Bullock's but I think it was Robinson's. This was a woman that stood outside the elevator and when the elevator car was full she would hold up a clear plastic wand to stop any one else from entering ,and then click her castanets for the car to take off. Robinson's also carried coins & stamps for collectors. That is the first time I ever saw a proof set.

  22. I worked in the Pasadena store in the mid sixties and moved into the management training program at the downtown Los Angeles store. I loved working at Robinsons,I have many wonderful memories from my years working for this great company. I spent a couple of years in the fashion jewerly department and later in the childrens accessory department. In 1968 I married another employee and at that time the store did not allow married people to work in the same store so my husband left Robinsons and went to work for one of their vendors.I left Robinsons when my daughter was born and moved to the suburbs.

  23. Working for Robinson's Store Planning was a great adventure!

  24. vonrollskyway1@yahoo.com22 September, 2012 16:35

    The Robinsons store in mission valley was way cool as a kid with my mom.the indoor glass elevator was fun to ride.Does anyone know if any of the other Robinsons had glass elevators in them?

  25. Many of the Robinson's stores opened in the 60's and 70's had a glass elevator in the escalator atrium in the middle of the store. As a kid, I loved riding them too. I know Santa Barbara, Woodland Hills, and Newport had glass elevators.

  26. I loved the Beverly Hills Robinson's. It was a branch classic department store in all its mid-century beauty. It's in a sad state now. Redevelopment pending.

  27. I found a picture that I had in my 7th floor and 5th floor offices on 7th and Grand.... It now is on display in my garage.... In 2001 & 2002 I worked in the building as it was converted into an internet hub.... The memories flashed before my eyes each time I went back in there.... I first worked in that marvelous building in 1979 as a systems technician for a communications vendor, in 1986 I was so proud to be hired by J. W. Robinson's, soon after that Robinsons May.... I saw the changes and sadly the demise of a Los Angeles icon.... For those who worked at 7th and Grand you know what a wonderful it was.... I remember many lunches at the Round Robin, my children in the back to school fashion shows and the Christmas displays in the windows on Hope, 7th and Grand....

  28. Wow - I had worked at the Fashion Valley store in San Diego in the summer of 1983 - I "floated" until I ended up in of all places Linens. But I liked the manager and I just wanted a "home". What I remember most is that even in the early '80s Robinsons was still considered the cream of dept stores and that many of the older women I had worked with then would tell me stories of how exclusive the store was in the 60s and that - and I quote - "we NEVER had "sale" tables".

  29. Amazing museum! I am researching and writing about one of my distant cousins, who worked for JW Robinson's 1898-1902, when it was at 239 Spring. Where did you find that photo, may I ask? Prior to Robinson's he worked for A. Hamburger & Sons and JJ O'Brien. My cousin's sister was married to John Panton (1862-1932), who founded the Glass Block Store in Duluth (Panton & White).

  30. My first job in 1969 was at the downtown store. It was called J.W. Robinson's then. During orientation we were told a story about a man who was living in the stockrooms at night. Apparently, the stockrooms were so convoluted because they had been rebuilt many many times over the years that the man was able to hide for months before they could find him.

  31. Anyone out there remember the name of the Panorama City store manager around 1970 or so? Was it Whittikin(d)?

    1. Ralph Trieman became store mgr for store 5/Van Nuys. Store became a clearance center and then was closed.

  32. Worked at: May Co summer of 1978
    Bullock's Westwood Christmas in 1980
    But my real start was at Robinson's Santa Monica Place from 1982-1986, then Bullock's Beverly Center Aug. of '86 to Nov. of '87 and finally Robinson's Beverly Hills (later Robinsons-May) up until 1995. Go there to the Devine Design event for the past 6 years, its kinda sad and erie seeing the Grand Ol Lady.

  33. I found a membership card and small felt patch for the Robinson's puppet Club in a scrapbook my dad made as a kid. This would have been from roughly 1933 or so. I scanned it and can share it with anyone interested. Email me with subject "Robinson Puppet Club" to

  34. I loved the Beverly Hills Robinsons all my life. As a little girl, I went to the Fashion Shows they would hold on the patios. Later, I loved their gigantic china department: It had the biggest and most elegant selection of any store in town. I remember row upon row of Cybis figurines in the 1960's, and elegant cobalt and gold German porcelain sets. As I entered college, I hung out in their makeup section. The service was incredible, and they carried brands you could find nowheres else.
    When I got married, my wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses all came from Robinsons, as well. I'll never forget the procession down to a service elevator with the gorgeous dresses on their hangers. Unfortunately, because we went through the service elevator, no alarm went off when the anti-theft device on my bridal gown passed by, and it wasn't until I got to the country club that I heard clunk, clunk clunk coming from under my gown's train as I walked down the hallway towards the ceremony...

  35. I just bought a curio cabinet in a antique store with a J.W. Robinson tag on the back.

  36. Newport Robinson's did not have glass elevators. It was too classy for that.

  37. Robinson's, Bullocks and S.Fifth Avenue will always remind me of my mother. I recently bought a strand of pearls in the original Robinson's velvet (greenish) necklace case. Reminded me....

  38. Robinson's in downtown LA was a very special store. From buying stockings to dresses to having lunch at the Round Robin it was heaven. In the 1960s I worked for the Southern California Gas Company at 8th & Flower and enjoyed many lunch hours there.

  39. In response to vonrollskyway1@yahoo.com22 (post Sep 2012):

    Robinson's Santa Anita (store #15) in Arcadia, CA had a glass elevator. I worked there, years ago.

    Melinda Baldwin

  40. Robinson's Anaheim was a beautiful mid century modern departmment store. The finest store in North Orange County for so many years.

  41. Interesting about the note on the Anaheim Store. When it was vacant, Bullock's(now Macy's)used it as a clearance center for a few months, my wife who was an HR Manager at the Bullock's DC in Industry, was responsible for the HR functions there. Got some great discounts there.

  42. The Robinsons (Robinsons-May) at the Glendale Galleria is now a Target. I believe the only 3 level Target in the country. I actually liked the Robinson's-May Co. merger because it brought the affordability of May Co and the nicer selections of Robinson's together in one place. I still miss the R-M at Glendale Galleria. I shop at the Target and always shake my head knowing what it used to be.

    1. That used to be Bullocks department store before. I really miss that place. I always enjoyed eating at the restaurant looking out the glass walls out to the streets. A beautiful view at night. I don't remember though, if Robinson- May kept the restaurant opened. In general I really miss Robinson's and Robinson's- May. I worked at the Northridge store from 2001 to 2004 as a secondary job. Great memories there and great employee discounts.

    2. Correction: It used to be Buffum's and not Bullocks. For some reason,I had Bullocks in my head. Loved Bullocks too.

  43. I live in Beverly Mass and I rember when I was I child down town Beverly had 3 department stores that are not here any more they were WT Grants Almys and Wolworths all on Cabot St at the time I rember being walked in carage with my mother in the 60s I sure would like the history of the stores back then

  44. My mother, Helen Karner, was one of the first female executives at Robinson's. I remember as a little girl, opening many stores. I loved the bells that tolled at the Fashion Island store the most. It was always a hoot to me and my sister, that when she entered a store for a visit, there were hushed tones, and many "Hello Mrs. Karner's" and almost bows and curtsies! We spent many, many days harassing the poor elevator operator in the 7th street LA store. He would take us up and down, keeping an eye on 'where are those karner girls' for my mother's secretary. Those were the days when they sat on a stool in the corner, closing the elevator grate across the doorway, then as we passed each floor, he would call out what was on the floor. "Ladies Wear, Bedding, Housewares". Our favorite place was the fur salon. So funny to think of how women would bring their furs in for storage every year. We would wade through the foxes, and chinchilla, and mink. We LOVED going to the 7th floor for ice cream sundaes and lunches. We had the best wardrobes any young girls could ask for. Does anyone know Ray Glickman? I think he was one of my mother's bosses. Or was he an attorney for the store? Anyway. If anyone out there knew my mother....she died very suddenly when I was 12, of a brain aneurism during a meeting at the store. I still, to this day, would love to know anyone who remembers here. Victoria Karner Higgins

  45. Hello there, I was wondering if you had a phone number I could contact someone to talk to about a piece of Robinson antique product I have. Please and thank you...

  46. Pleasant memories of mother, grandmother and myself taking the street car downtown and shopping, having lunch (delicious chicken salad sandwiches) and enjoying the outing. The most beautiful Christmas windows ever when we could still celebrate Christmas without a big fuss. This was in the 40's my favorite years of all.

  47. Great to find this wonderful website!

    I've recently started having interest in JW Robinson's after reading about author Thorne Smith (of TOPPER fame) doing a book signing there in late 1932 or early 1933. He wrote to his editor in NY that whoever was doing the promotional work for Doubleday on the west coast was doing a great job because there was a large turnout for his appearance at JW Robinson's.

    I'm hopeful that someone at Robinson's took photos that day. I'd love to hear from anyone who has photos of the store appearance. For that matter I'd love to even find photos of the store with the books on display. It would great to share on the Thorne Smith website and I'd gladly pay for copies and give due credit.

    Does anyone know if there is an archive anywhere of Robinson materials?

    On a fun side note, just last year I bought a first edition of "Rain in the Doorway" by Thorne Smith and attached to the inside back cover of the book is a neat little tag that says:

    "From the books of J.W. Robinson Co, Seventh & Grand, Los Angeles"

    Considering myself really fortunate to have this book with the tag. A neat little piece of history for those of us who have an appreciation for it.

  48. I worked in JW Robinson in 1955 . In th perfums deps I was a french girl and its was for me my first job Mrs Snyder was the buyer and her assistant was Cathy Franzén I was so scared when someone was askink me a question but everyone was so nice with the little frenchy as they said . I got very good memories of that time . I got married with an employee My gown was from JW Robinson . Il worked also for a while with Mrs Graham in the Boutique on the main floor . I came back to France in 1965 but I will always remember JW ROBINSON

  49. Robinson's was always famous for its wonderful "Month End" sales and many of us working at the branch stores were called downtown to work them periodically. I will never forget the first time I worked one. A fellow worker called me over to the escalator on the 6th floor and told me to listen after they rang the bell that the store was open. At first is sounded like a stampede of horses in the distance and then it got louder and louder as the customers ran up the escalators to the floor they were heading for. Once they hit the floor, they ran to the department they wanted and just started grabbing what they wanted to purchase. It was truly unbelievable! I worked at Robinson's Glendale from 1967 until 1984 and truly enjoyed it. We were treated very well in those days and we felt the store had our best interest at heart.

  50. AAAAAHHH and how could you forget the Robinsons in AZ for a short time that took the place of Goldwaters...

  51. Not listed above was the Robinson's in Oxnard at the Esplanade. When that center closed, they relocated to a new building in Ventura, at the Pacific View Mall.

  52. I worked downtown 1964-1969 assistant buyer for mary Dundas whom I loved and also Bea Reese. Helen Karner was mdse manager and her sudden death was startling. It was a grand old store and I made many friends. Went back to college and became teacher for at risk teenagers. This sight has brought back precious memories.

  53. Does anyone recall Helen Kumme, who was employed as a "Fashion Assistant" in 1936 and possibly in other years? She was living in Los Angeles at that time. Thanks

  54. Does anyone recall Helen Heath, who worked as a Fashion Assistant at Robinson's in 1936? She was a resident of Los Angeles.

  55. I was an assistant store manager in Anaheim when the MayCo merger was announced. I immediately saw the writing on the wall that the end was near. While there, we converted the 3rd floor to a clearance center which I was the manger of I got out as soon as I could after that happened. Every fixture and wall was torn out and it was just a warehouse of rolling racks.

  56. I have an Copper container that is an antique I believe. It is copper and silver. It has the JW Robinson Los Angeles logo on the bottom, a number #653 and then France. Is there a way to find our what this is, its value, etc?

    1. I've been reading through these posts to see if anyone is inquiring about antiques as well and finally, next to the last post, here is one.
      I'm wondering if you ever heard anything back from the owner of this site as I too have an inquiry regarding an item that I came across at a thrift store with a small plaque on the back of it dated of Aug 27, 1961, it appears it was presented to J.W. Robinson & Beverly Hilton from the Concours D' Elegance

  57. So many wonderful memories of the downtown Los Angeles Robinson's...especially the Round Robin Buffet on the seventh floor. At noon everyday one of the elevator operators would bring her car to the main (first) floor, open the car doors and announce, "express car to the seventh floor, seventh floor only please!" Then she'd load the car and take her passengers up to the seventh floor for lunch. Back in the sixties and seventies the more formal California Room on the seventh floor was still open, but I don't ever remember seeing anyone eating there; however, someone must've patronized the place or it wouldn't have remained open. When we were too late for lunch at the Round Robin, we'd stop in for an iced tea before starting home on the drive to Pasadena in rush hour traffic. (Pasadena had a branch of Robinson's almost from the year I was born and we shopped there often, but that's another story for another day. It was the downtown Robinson's that felt like a real department store.) I loved the iced tea at the Round Robin downtown, and the hamburgers, and also the squares of custard covered on top with a thick layer of graham cracker crumbs. I loved Robinson's book department on the second floor, at the top of the escalator. Robinson's downtown had a fairly heavy escalator installation that ran up through the building all the way to the seventh (top) floor and that may be why there were only four cars in the entire bank of customer elevators. It was kind of pitiful compared to the endless banks of elevators you had at Hudson's in Detroit Bruce, but it was the closest Los Angeles came to a big, eastern store. We seldom missed a month end sale at Robinson's downtown...they were always held on Saturday so my father went with us and we spent the day. We'd get there before the store opened and have breakfast at an old-fashioned coffee shop across from Robinson's on Grand called Blair's...they had the best coffee cake. On those month end Saturdays we'd hit the Round Robin twice, once for lunch and once again for iced tea! One other thing I loved about Robinson's was that of the four downtown L.A. department stores, Robinson's was the closest to my all time favorite library, the main branch of Los Angeles Public. I could combine a day at Robinson's with an afternoon at the library...I was in heaven. When the afternoon came to a close I'd walk back to Robinson's and meet my parents in the main floor men's store, right by the entrance to the multi-level garage shown above. One more thing, if you can find a copy of the 1947 movie "Possessed" you can see during the opening credits Joan Crawford walk down a deserted Seventh Street at dawn...if you look closely at one point you can see the crenelated Robinson's building looming up on the right. Just a bit of department store/Joan Crawford trivia! Thanks Bruce!!

  58. Danielle Pallas19 January, 2015 18:12

    Does anyone remember the ice cream parlor near the children's clothing section at the Woodland Hills, CA Robinsons?

  59. My mother adored JW Robinson's 7th & Olive store, and I feel that I grew up there. When I was old enough I remember taking the escalator to the third floor in particular and seeing the fabulous display of clothing to your right as the escalator got to that floor. They used to have a display of many items but in the same color family and I still recall with great fondness the "pink" display of suits and dresses, etc. It was wonderful and never to be seen again. It was an era when people truly had good taste in clothing. Neiman Marcus doesn't even come close to what once was JWR.

  60. Rachel Jackson23 March, 2015 00:31

    I moved to Los Angeles in 1979 and signed up with a temporary support firm. My first assignment was to substitute for the secretary for the Controller,Jerry Sullivan, of J W Robinson's at 7th and Grand downtown. Alfonso Schettini was the CFO and Redmond Largay was the President. I was told that if Mr. Schettini called for Mr.Sullivan that I was to get him immediately. Naturally, within my first 30 minutes when Mr. Sullivan was out of the office I answered the phone to hear this elegant sophisticated voice on the other end of the phone ask for Mr.Sullivan.When I said he wasn't there, this gentleman simply said, "Have him call me" and hung up the phone without identifying himself. I can still see myself wandering through Accounting, Sales Audit, Payroll and Accounts Payable looking for the elusive Mr.Sullivan! Robinson's was my first real job and they hired me permanently within the week. What a wonderful experience it was! The stores were beautiful and the merchandise managers always assured the merchandise was high-fashion. I worked with many, many wonderful people - the HQ store employees really were family. How I wish I knew where they are today. Thank you for putting this site together. I went to every branch store during my tenure and these buildings and JWR were very, very special.

  61. I have found a California Souvenir Plate made by Salen. It reads designed and made exclusively for .J.W. ROBINSON CO.
    Los Angeles

  62. When did J W Robinson stop using the western car?

  63. Thanks all for the comments. I thought, i was the ONLY one who had fond memories of department stores, such as Robinson's, particularly Robinson's Beverly. I completely agree, the service and the products were exceptional as well as the fellow patrons. Yes, I worked for May Co in the early 80s but not quite the same as a kid in the 60s version. Thanks for this blog and to all the contributors, I'm not completely alone in my sentimental nuttiness.

  64. I worked at Robinson's in the 1970's at the Fashion Valley location in San Diego. I had moved there from NYC where I had worked for an Italian Designer. They didn't quite know what to do with me as they kept saying I belong in L.A. or San Francisco. I ended up working in the Men's Designer Dept. You could not give the clothes away; it was after all San Diego. But they would have these special sales once a month and the would bring out these rolling racks of Sweat suits and Tennis wear and they would fly off the racks in 30 seconds. It was a very beautiful store; but not a fit for me, I stayed a couple years and ended up moving back East. Great Memories though.

  65. Loved reading everyone's comments. I worked for the Newport Beach/Fashion Island store from 1976 until 1993 with a couple of short breaks at Bullock's and Neiman-Marcus. Robinson's always seemed more like home. Always had great managers. Always could get flexible scheduling while in school. Just a note regarding the wind chimes..When installed they were dubbed the largest in the world! Don't know if that is true. When I first worked there it was NOT open on Sundays, only later to compete with the other stores did they succumb to being open seven days a week. Frankly, when taken over by May Department Stores, it really did spell the demise of what had been a pretty great store.

    1. Hi, I worked at Newport from 1983 to 1992 as the Aramis dude. Did you know me?

    2. Hi, were you a strawberry blonde? If so, I think I do remember you, but not your name!

  66. I have a large photo of myself as a four-year-old in October of 1939 at the Robinson's Doll Parade. This would have been at the downtown L.A. store. We little girls were given a decorated doll carriage and told to parade around in a circle so the judges could pick the cutest girl. I was terribly embarassed and stuck my tongue out at them, much to my mother's consternation. Wonder if anyone else remembers this event.

  67. Anonymous09 February, 2013 11:57

    Anyone out there remember the name of the Panorama City store manager around 1970 or so? Was it Whittikin(d)? NOTE# This is in response to the blog on the J W Robinson's site. I tried to reply but the link would not work. The store managers name was Ed Wittekind...... he's my dad.

  68. There was a Robinson's built at the Northridge Fashion Center during an expansion in the mid-80s (along with a May Company)...presumably to replace the Panorama City location. I remember it as a very classy store. After Robinson's combined with May Company, the Northridge mall tore the Robinson's wing down to make an outdoor movie theater plaza.

  69. Patty? What a wonderful surprise! Mike.

  70. Mike-I hope you don't mean MS. (she insisted on being called MS.) Patty Farmer....I think I still have welts where she used to hit me, or at least lung cancer from having been forced to sit directly across from her in meetings while she blew her vile cigarette smoke in my face......

  71. I was referring to Pat Wittekind daughter of Ed Wittekind. She was a very nice young lady when we were in our 20's. Mike

  72. Does anyone know how I can get copies of old modeling pictures and commercials from the mid 70's?

  73. FROM BRUCE (Depatrment Store Museum):
    I post requests for information about antique items because I understand that people are looking for help, but really, I have no way of identifying items or determining their value. It is especially problematic when someone posts these requests as "anonymous" since there is no way to contact them. Even if there is a Google profile, I cannot forard the request to someone meaningfully. The few that have included an e-mail address have gotten it right: at least a viewer on this blog can respond directly to them.

    This really is a site about the stores themselves, and not about the value of antiques. I often tell people to look on eBay rather than ask me for the only reason that it would probably bear more fruit. In the future, I plan to go through and cull most of these requests since they really don't add anything to the content of this stire,


  74. We are so very thankful for this delightful museum and discussion forum.When it comes to the coming together of May into JWR,we were wondering if anyone could offer some details on what happened to things like building floor plan redundancy & management overlap issues,restaurants (the food and beverage departments) in May and JWR. We understand that the May Company stores had in-store restaurants in addition to the J.W.Robinson stores,yet with the consolidation we were unsure how things moved forward in that regard. Also,if there are any details to offer about issues like what was discussed on topics like the one mentioned before about the third floor being turned into a clearance center in one of the stores,it would be very interesting to hear about those stories too. Thank you Mr.BAK for your beautiful site and as always & God Bless! Warm Regards !

    1. Thanks for your kind comments and God Bless you too! Perhaps someone can shed light on your questions.
      - Bruce

  75. Do you have interior images? I am looking for the JW Robinson's in Los Angeles room designed by Millard Sheets in 1932. I found an image in July 2016 that I would like to find again -- but I can't figure out where I found it!

  76. Hello there. I am so excited to find this site. I carry out a lot of official functions within the County of Bedfordshire in England. To find a small patent black handbag with the distinct Robinson California which is perfect for my engagements has been one of my greatest finds. I found it in a 'bargain bucket' in a charity shop for pennies. After a lot of TLC and polish I now find myself with a vintage handbag which always draws positive comments. Judging by your sight I think it is dated in the 1960s..... An amazing find, and your site has offered an insight of its origins. Thank you. I have made this anonymous as I couldn't work out how to include my email address (

  77. Re: questions about antiques. As a former Robinson's employee I can say for certain that in the early days the store did have buyers for the "Arts and Gifts" department that actually traveled to Europe on buying trips. So clearly, some items that people are inquiring about may very well be antiques. Bruce is correct in suggesting perhaps finding comparable items on eBay. Good luck to everyone!

  78. The Anaheim Robinson's (signage had dropped the J. W. by then) was architechurally UNIQUE amoung ANY other department store when it was built. I was told this, and shown the feature when my college Merchandise class was given a tour by the store manager. The second floor, where womens and childrens clothing was sold, had a corridor space between the backside of the departments and the exterior wall. As shown in the architectural drawing the structure featured arched WINDOWS above the four entrances and extending to the roofline. This hallway completely encircled the entire floor. It served two purposes we were told. 1. To permit new merchandise to be delivered from the underground loading dock, via freight only elevator, to the selling floor - but not in view of shoppers. Individual departments could be supplied to their stockrooms if they had one, or without racks or bins being rolled from one side of the floor to another. 2. It allowed salespeople to escort customers to the hallway, via one of the four doors that were adjacent to those windows. This allowed the customer to view the merchandise, that they were thinking about buying, in OTHER than fluorescent lighting which sometimes affects the color of clothing. Believe it or not, I still remember this from 1965 - clear as a bell. The building was also very handsome, inside and out. I thought it was a shame when it was torndown, and likewise The Broadway structure on the other end of the open mall.

    1. I was hired at the Anaheim (store 06 ) in june 1981 housekeeping dept had a great time working with mary Gloria and mr chen then I got transfer to the receiving dept then to the mailroom dept our receiving manager George demett was funny and some days he was in a bad mood but great guy the he did retired.I believe the manager from Puente hill randy came to our store. then I left Anaheim before they closed . then a year after I got hired at mainplace santa ana (store 28 ) at the gift wrap dept. had a great time working at the santa ana store.must of the employees came from the Anaheim store working for J W Robinsons was a great experience after the merger I got transfer to Lord & Taylor in Miami.

  79. Does anyone remember in the early 70's sharks swimming in the basement of the May Co in LA area I believe it was? I'd love to hear details concerning that. Would that have been in the news?

  80. My Great grandfather was the CEO of Robinson's

  81. I worked for Alfonso Schettini (Mr. Schettini to me!) when he was the CFO and Michael Gould, later of Bloomingdales, was the head of the Merchandising/Buying group. Redmond Largay was the President when I was there in the late 70's.

  82. Does anyone know anything about a stained glass window at the J.W. Robinson's downtown location that was created by artist Louis Boermeester? I know the window was created circa 1955, but I have nothing about the window's size or composition. Any information about it would be much appreciated. Boermeester was Dutch and was in California on a fellowship at the Huntington Hartford Foundation. In April 1957 the artist had a one-man show at the department store.

  83. Worked at Robinsons 10-77 till 12-87. Men’s buyer reporting to Eric Hanson. Such fond memories. Our vendor magic “men’s apparel and gift show in California” parties in Beverly Hills store were the cream of the crop. The store manager, Jim Madden, was so proud of his store, great times.

  84. I worked Men's Furnishings (Newport/Fashion Island) approx. 1978-1984. I remember meeting in the parking lot early a.m. for several of us to drive up to the L.A. area in time for the "Magic" show which we all enjoyed... Especially the goodies everyone received! I seem to recall the dress shirt buyer's first name being Rich, and for some reason I think the Men's Shoe buyer was a Bob Jones. Your comment really takes me back!

  85. I worked in Price Change department of Robinson’s in the Cerritos Mall and then was transferred downtown to the central Price Change division. Great times !! Before the days of bar codes each piece of merchandise was hand counted and the tags were printed individually. I had a great time at Robinson’s before the merge. I will never forget those days!

  86. My father worked third floor ladies shoes in Downtown L.A. I also remember coins and stamps being sold on the first floor.

  87. Thank-you for the detailed comments about the Anaheim Robinson's architecture. I could have easily been in the SAME "Merchandising" class, from FJC, during YOUR class field trip tour. Because of that totally unique srchitectural feature of the Anaheim store, I suppose THAT is the only aspect of that several-store tour that I remember from (YES!) 1965. The third aspect of this semi-exterior corridor was that plainclothes security personnel, when observing potential shoplifters, could "disappear" via one of the four public access doors (or through an individual department's storage area) and then re-appear ANYWHERE else on the selling floor.

  88. The other unique aspect to the Anaheim Robinson's architecture was the location of a VERY large sculpture/fountain located at the southwestern corner exterior of the store property. That fountain was the "constant" ( ? ) victim of vandals/pranksters! I don't know how MANY (one might have been more than enough) BOXES of Tide laundry detergent it might have taken, but very often that corner of the parking lot would be covered with floating soap bubbles. And, the fountain itself would be overflowing with soap suds. Pumping out the fountain, and flushing all remnants of the soap suds, was a tremedous and costly job and an eyesore during the process. The Robinson's manager expressed how much this irritated him on a regular basis.

  89. I have a old school womens mink fur and leather jacket that my mom passed down to me that she got there she paid about 1100 for back then this bad boy is still in great condition can anyone give me an idea of what it might be worth today?

  90. yes the Anaheim store was a delight. I remember going to the 2nd floor hallway that will start from the freight elevator/kids stockroom then you all the way then you make a left turn then right turn then left turn and you pass the restrooms (closed) then visual dept then you pass the alteration room then at your left the fur/ fancy dresses stockroom then it was the operator room or switch board room then it was the electrical room at the end was the beauty salon restroom then left and it was the beauty salon next at the left side was dresses stockroom the right side was the selling floor and the end of the hallway was the jr dept stockroom. then on the third floor the hallway will start from freight elevator/ houseware stockroom then half way you turn left it was the emmployees restroom the ladies had an nap room then the employee breakroom at the end of the hallway was the restaurant kitchen but they used it as a domestics stockroom. then you go to the main restaurant and you had a nice view to the parking lot plus Euclid ave of course later on the restaurant was used as a stock room. yes I had a great time at the Anaheim store people said that the Anaheim store and the panorama city stores where twins stores also santa ana store and northridge store as well.

  91. I wonder what happen with all the jw robinson stores can someone give an updates so far as I know is santa Barbara, newport beach, Puente hills are macys fashion valley is bloomindales. wesminster, and brea are jc penney Pasadena and Glendale are target santa ana is a Ashely furniture and 24hrs fitness. Beverly hills Cerritos, woodland hill, Horton plaza, and northridge are gone( demolished ) but I don't know what happen to santa anita , the oaks, utc, mission Viejo, Sherman oaks, palm desert, Escondido, cristal court (south coast plaza)and downtown.also the old stores like Glendale (Glendale fashion center ) and panorama city (in the valley ) did they get demolished after they open northridge and Glendale at the galleria?. it will be interesting to find out. thanks

  92. also what happen with the santa monica store and del amo store?

  93. Just found this site. Wow! I was the Women's Designer Shoe buyer from 1985-1990. I fondly remember my spacious office on the third floor behind the selling floor. I was lucky enough to have the fire scape balcony off my office. Anyone else buy for them during this time period??


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