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AS ROBINSONS-MAY FADES AWAY, WE RECALL OTHER LONG-ESTABLISHED STORES THAT WENT OUT OF BUSINESS FOREVER.

Byline: Evan Pondel Staff Writer

Buffums, Alpha Beta, Fedco, Kinney Shoes - these are iconic retail names that once dotted the San Fernando Valley and elsewhere in Los Angeles but eventually met their demise.

Their varied business models staved off competition. Their specialties attracted shoppers from far and wide.

But the retail industry's revolving door swallowed each of these icons, one by one.

And the cycle is once again repeating itself as Cincinnati-based Federated Department Stores Inc. plans to convert 330 Robinsons-May stores to its Macy's nameplate next year as part of a broader consolidation plan.

``There's an evolution to everything, including retail,'' said Aubie Goldenberg, a partner with Ernst & Young's retail and consumer products group in Los Angeles. ``Names typically disappear with each acquisition and every failure of a company.''

But the names still live on for Isabel Griffin, a buyer for Bullocks department stores in the 1970s. She remembers a time when shopping was sophisticated, when the front door to a department store greeted the customer with class, not a surge of perfume.

``You felt good when you walked in and the business gave us a lot of pride in ourselves,'' said Griffin, 77, who returns to the art deco Bullocks Wilshire building for occasional tours. ``We are still young in our heads from those days in the business. We don't look like old ladies.''

But the formula has changed.

The retailers of yesteryear didn't offer the options that consumers encounter today. Specialized music stores such as Licorice Pizza wouldn't be able to compete with the price breaks offered by a big-box competitor.

Whole generations who recognize the brands live among whole other generations that don't know what a Fotomat booth was.

``Many stores ignored the fact that the world was moving on and they were being left behind,'' said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Forecasting in Nutley, N.J. ``They did not keep pace with the changes in society, with the changes in people's lifestyles, with the changes in the way people shop.''

And yet some didn't want to change at all.

Denice Doumitt, 39, craves Pup 'n' Taco to this day. ``I miss their grape slushies,'' said the Woodland Hills resident. ``It's sad to say goodbye to places that we once valued.''

Former employees of Gemco No. 803 in Northridge will host a 25th anniversary get-together for their beloved store this fall. (More details are available at www.gemco803.com.)

And with fresh changes afoot early next year, devotees of Robinsons-May, and its predecessors, Robinson's and The May Co., are bracing for another goodbye.

``I'm really upset about this, so I clipped all of the Robinsons-May coupons in the newspaper this morning to soothe my injured heart,'' said Sue Clark, 49, who had just arrived at the department store in Canoga Park.

Of course, some industry watchers are less sentimental about the demise of iconic retail names. And most consumers are more concerned about value, not ambience.

``People don't have the time to walk through an entire mall,'' said Malachy Kavanagh, a spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers in New York. ``And economies of scale are squeezing vendors and making it difficult for them to operate under so many different names.''

That's how Lucky disappeared in an acquisition by Albertsons and how Naugles folded into Del Taco. Companies are constantly buying out competitors, and names will change as long as acquirerers keep acquiring.

``As public companies continue to seek growth, they'll likely want to eliminate redundancies, so one flagship name is obviously easier than several,'' Kavanagh said.

Evan Pondel, (818) 713-3662

evan.pondel(at)dailynews.com

MEMORY LANE

Robinsons-May's disappearance next year from the retail landscape is the latest loss of an iconic brand name. (They were actually a merger of two other icons, Robinson's and The May Co.) In the course of just a couple of hours, we came up with a few other names that have disappeared over the years. If you remember some others, let us know by writing the business desk at P.O. Box 4200, Woodland Hills, CA 91365 or e-mailing dnbiz(at)dailynews.com. Be sure to include your name and a daytime telephone number. We may include your memories in a future story.

The Broadway

Buffums

Bullocks

I. Magnin

Joseph Magnin

Miller's Outpost

Mode-o-Day

Montgomery Ward

Orbach's

The Akron

BEST

Fedco

Gemco

J.J. Newberry

Pic 'N' Save

Price Club

Sprouse-Rietz

TG&Y

Thriftimart

White Front

Woolworth's

Zodys

Federated

Silo

Strouds

Fotomat

Kinney Shoe

Thom McCann

Licorice Pizza

Music+Plus

Builder's Emporium

Ole's

RB Furniture

First Interstate Bank

Great Western Savings

Thrifty's

Alpha Beta

Food Giant

Hughes Market

Lucky Stores

Market Basket

Mrs. Gooch's

Hungry Tiger

Naugles

Pup 'n' Taco

The Red Onion

Swensen's

Tiny Naylor's

Van de Kamp's Bakery restaurants

Velvet Turtle

- Daily News

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- color) (photo collage of department stores)

(2) The rapid, inevitable growth of retail outlets led them to swallow up smaller businesses, such as Licorice Pizza.

Roger W. Vargo/Staff Photographer

Box:

MEMORY LANE (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 30, 2005
Words:840
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