To celebrate the end of World War II, the women of Houston must have collectively decided to step out in style. They had been supportive as their husbands, brothers, sons and friends had developed the petrochemical industries along the Ship Channel during the war, and now it was time to get all dressed up and celebrate. So they did what women have been doing for centuries. They went shopping.
Last spring, J.R. Gonzales of the Houston Chronicle shared an old 1947 brochure on his “Bayou City History” blog. It listed five popular stores in its “Women’s Fashions” section. They were Ralph Rupley Furs, Town and Country, Barbour’s Professional Opticians, Battelsteins, and Jeanette Burke.
Located at 1005 Main Street in downtown Houston, this upscale furrier was located in an Art Deco Building that had been built in 1937. For a peek at the old storefront, click here. The business was started by Ralph Campbell Rupley (1892-1967) and moved to the Galleria area later. It had gone out of business by the late 1980s.
Town and Country
No, this isn’t the mall on the west side of town. It was located at 3603 South Main (which isn’t the same as today’s South Main), south of the Pierce Elevated, near where the Ensemble Theater is today. Details are scarce about this store, but we assume it is defunct now. They sold women’s fashions “typical of the taste of the well-dressed woman”.
Barbour’s Professional Opticians
This advertisement says, “Smart optical wardrobes created for all occasions”. They were located on the first floor of the Mellie Esperson building downtown and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Carl and Lillian Barbour. Carl passed away in 1969 and we have no further record of the company.
Often misspelled, this is a family business started around 1900 by a Russian immigrant who left it to his three sons. The store was located at 812 Main and the family lived ten blocks away at 614 Chartres. It must’ve been an easy commute, because this venerable store remained popular for decades. Their tagline was “famous for famous labels”.
“Fulfillment of the splurge urge” was the catchy motto of this store, located in the River Oaks Theater center at 2005 West Gray. It was started in 1946 and faded into obscurity a few years later. Today, the space is occupied by the Twice New Boutique.
They say time marches on, and in the case of these five stores, it surely has. Not one of them survived into the 21st century. If you remember any of these places or have stories or updates, please feel free to jump right in and leave your comment.