All of the places featured in this issue are great, but they haven’t been around forever. In a city like this with such a long history, you have to wonder — what was #1 in the 904 back in the day? It would take forever to list everything, but there are a few that stand out.
One of the longest-running retail establishments in town was the Cohen Brothers department store, later known as May-Cohen’s, located in the St. James Building, which now serves as Jacksonville’s City Hall. Operating from 1912 to 1987, this place was one of the largest department stores in the country. It served as the ultimate one-stop shop for practically anything you wanted, such as clothing, housewares, jewelry and more. They also had an in-house candymaker who sold luxurious fresh-made candy and desserts, and even a “budget basement” for the more frugal shoppers, where you could get yourself a whole new outfit for under $10.
From 1954 to 1985, an upscale restaurant and piano bar called Le Chateau sat on the oceanfront at the end of 7th Street in Atlantic Beach. Formerly the private residence of eccentric millionaire Hayden Crosby, this was not your average restaurant. With a very pricey menu, elegantly decorated dining rooms overlooking the ocean, and a swanky poolside courtyard, Le Chateau was another level of fancy that you won’t find at the beaches anymore. For decades, it was a favorite for the wealthy and the wannabes to see and be seen. Rumor has it that Liberace used to hang out there whenever he came to town. It was also a popular spot for Fletcher High seniors to go and party after prom, dressed in their finest. In 1964, Hurricane Dora collapsed the dining room into the ocean leaving only the courtyard unscathed. But owner Preben Johansen wouldn’t let that be the end, he was determined to rebuild it bigger and better and a year later, it re-opened. Upon his death in 1982, the family decided to sell the restaurant shortly after, and a group of investors purchased the icon. It was then sold to a condo developer who built Le Chateau condos in its place, which remain there today.
Pic ‘N’ Save
Pic ‘N’ Save Drugs opened its first location in Jacksonville in 1955, and was an instant hit with its motto “Stack It High and Sell It Cheap.” It was the first of its kind in the area, a self-service retail store with low prices, pre-dating Walmart by a few years. You could buy pretty much anything you needed there without spending much money, and people loved it. They soon opened up new locations all over town, eventually totalling 40 stores across Florida and Georgia. Longtime Jacksonville residents have a lot of fond memories of the chain. Ask anyone who grew up here, and they’ll rave about it and likely tell you they still have items purchased from there. Even 20 years after bankruptcy ended the domination of Pic N’ Save, you will still hear people give directions around town based on “where the Pic N’ Save used to be.”
Hollywood Music Store
During the segregation era, a lot of places in town were off-limits to the city’s black residents, so they had their own shopping and entertainment destinations. The old LaVilla neighborhood used to be a thriving cultural hub known as the “Harlem of the South,” and the Hollywood Music Store on Ashley Street was at the center of it all. Opened in 1924, it was the cool place to be for black teenagers looking to buy their favorite records and discover new music. The store was also responsible for helping to bring popular black musicians to town. Lucky customers would often bump into their favorite artists there after a show. The shop was one of the last businesses in this area still operating before the whole neighborhood was demolished in the mid-90s.