J. W. Robinson's

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J. W. Robinson's flagship store on Seventh Street, Los Angeles at launch 1915
J.W. Robinson Co.
TypeDepartment store
FateMerged with May Company California
SuccessorRobinsons-May (1993–2006)
Macy's (2006-present)
HeadquartersLos Angeles, California
ProductsClothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and housewares.
ParentAssociated Dry Goods (1957–1986) The May Department Stores Company (1986–1993)

J. W. Robinson Co., Robinson's, was a chain of department stores operating in the Southern California and Arizona area, previously with headquarters in Los Angeles, California.


Joseph Winchester Robinson was a merchant from Waltham, Massachusetts who moved to Riverside, California in 1882 to develop orange groves. Robinson found the quality of goods and service from local merchants lacking, and reentered the retail business, utilizing his contacts on the East Coast to deliver superior merchandise.

Robinson opened the 1,440 sq ft (134 m2) Boston Dry Goods Store in 1883 at the Allen Block at the southwest corner of Spring and Temple Street,[1] stating that his store offered "fine stocks and refined 'Boston' service." In 1891, J. W. Robinson died at the age of 45 and his son, Henry Winchester Robinson, came from Boston to Los Angeles to take over the business, and the "Boston Dry Goods Store" was renamed the "J. W. Robinson Company" in honor of its late founder.

1886–1895: 171–173 Spring Street store[edit]

Boston Dry Goods (J. W. Robinson Co.) home from 1886 to 1895 at Jones Block, 171–173 N. Spring Street (post-1890 numbering)
Another view of the Spring Street store, c.1887

In 1887, J.W. Robinson Co.'s Boston Dry Goods Store moved to a new store of around 3,000 sq ft (280 m2) in the Jones Block[1] at 171–173 (post-1890 numbering) Spring Street, considered an adventurous move because at that time, the location was far from the central business district of that period.[2] When Robinson's moved again in 1895, Nathaniel Blackstone, brother-in-law of J.W. Robinson, moved into the vacated space and founded Blackstone's Dry Goods,[3] which would become a single-location downtown department store in its own right.

Mr. C. W. R. Ford, who had owned his own wholesale store at 522 Market Street in San Francisco,[4] married Robinson's widow and took over as president of the Robinson's company.

1895: Broadway, "across from City Hall"[edit]

Boston Dry Goods (J. W. Robinson Co.) New Store, 1895, 239 S. Broadway, Los Angeles

From 1880 to 1890, the population of Los Angeles doubled from 50,395 to 102,479 people. In January 1895 the J. W. Robinson Co., which by that time advertised simply as "The Boston Store", announced that after only eight years at Spring Street, more spacious quarters were necessary, and that a new four-story "Boston Dry Goods Store Building" was under construction at 239 S. Broadway (razed, currently site of a parking lot),[5] opposite the then City Hall. It was designed by Theodore Eisen and Sumner Hunt, designer of the Bradbury Building. On October 1, 1895, Robinson's opened the new store. The new building was promoted at the time as a sign that Los Angeles had come into its own as a "metropolitan center" and that it was no longer necessary to make "annual pilgrimages to San Francisco" to obtain a wide selection of fine merchandise.

The front was "Grecian" (Greek Revival) in style, of light cream brick and terra cotta. It featured an elaborate Corinthian-style cornice crowning the façade. Above it rose a high parapet broken by a high-relief entresol panel. All of this was surmounted by elaborate acroteria. 60-foot-long, 19.5-foot-high plate glass windows illuminated the ground floor. Just above the second floor the façade was Colonial style and above that Doric-style features. The building had passenger and freight elevators, and skylights illuminated through to the ground floor. The first/ground floor and part of the basement were devoted to retail with a central cashier's and wrapping desk, offices were also on the ground floor, receiving and shipping were also in the basement, while the two upper floors housed the main part of the manufacturing and wholesale departments, which moved down from Temple Street. The second floor housed various merchandise departments, areas to display delicate fabrics under gas light, a desk with stationery for customers to write, and the ladies' "parlors" (restrooms).[6][7]

In 1908 the store opened up a 5-story extension at the back, fronting on Hill Street. The architect was Theodore Eisen.[8]

1915: Seventh, Grand, and Hope[edit]

J. W. Robinson's Flagship 1915–1993 (façade from 1934), 600 W. 7th St.

As Los Angeles continued to grow, so did Robinson's business and in 1914 it announced its construction of a new $1,000,000, seven-story flagship store with over nine acres (400,000 square feet (37,000 m2)) of floor space, along the south side of West Seventh Street stretching alone the complete block between Grand and Hope streets. Frederick Noonan and William Richards of Dodd & Richards were the architects.[9] The store opened on September 7, 1915.[10] The building was expanded to the south in 1923 at a cost of $900,000, Dodd and Richard, architects, for a total of 623,700 square feet (57,940 m2).[11] In 1934, the building was remodeled for between $100,000–200,000 to a "restrained Modernistic" exterior, shedding some its more exuberant Art Deco features and adding more parking facilities. Robinson's was the largest store of what became a new upscale Seventh Street shopping district to the southwest of the concentration of department stores along Broadway, with Ville de Paris (later B. H. Dyas), Coulter's, Haggarty's, and Desmond's opening stores nearby.[12] The Robinson's store closed in 1993 and the building, 600 W. Seventh St., currently houses telecommunications (voice, data and internet servers), offices and ground-floor retail.

The store contained the following departments:

  • First (ground) floor: ribbons, parasols, umbrellas, laces and trimmings, lace neckwear, feather boas, ceilings, gloves, handkerchiefs, fancy boas, fancy hairpins and combs, jewelry, leather goods, stationery, men's furnishings, boy's furnishings and clothing, "bargain square"
  • Second floor: art needlework, linens, sheetings, wash goods, linings, silk dress good patterns, ladies' restrooms, design room, beauty parlors and shoe shining dept.
  • Third floor: cloak and suit for misses and ladies, French room for imported gowns and hats, baby shop for fine layette materials and outfitting, mourning goods, children's dresses, petticoats, blouses, millinery, sweaters, bathing suits, kimono, bathrobes, house dresses, corsets, knit underwear, muslin underwear and aprons
  • Fourth floor: Rugs, draperies, pictures, brasses, statuary, cut glass, art porcelains and toys
  • Fifth floor: offices, auditorium, alteration dept. and workrooms
  • Sixth floor: hospital and rerserve stockroom
  • Seventh floor. employee cafeteria, two outdoor "courts", women's employee restroom, large "court" and lounge for men
  • Seventh/top floor: Roof garden and café


Associated Dry Goods (ADG) bought Robinson's in 1955 (the term used by CEO Edward R. Valentine in the press was that Robinson's "affiliated with" ADG.) At that time the chain's sales were $32.5 million annually, with $12 million coming from the Beverly Hills branch.[13][14][15]

California Branch buildout[edit]

Unlike competitors Bullock's, Desmond's, I. Magnin and Silverwoods, in the 1930s and 1940s, Robinson's did not establish branches in the outlying upscale retail districts such as Wilshire Boulevard, Pasadena, or Westwood, except for a small Palm Springs shop at the Desert Inn that was originally a Bullock's.[13] Only starting in 1952 did it open its first of what would become about 30 branches, in Beverly Hills (see below).

Robinson's in Palm Springs, opened 1958

The second Robinson's store was opened in Beverly Hills in 1952 on a triangular plot at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard at Santa Monica Boulevard, across a courtyard from the Beverly Hilton Hotel (1953). A small Mid-Century modern style "open in winter only" store followed in Palm Springs. A store on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena followed. The store in Pasadena was the last free standing store as the concept of the shopping mall began to take off. The first stores adjacent or connected to shopping malls opened in Panorama City in the San Fernando Valley (late 1950s), Anaheim Plaza, on upper State Street in Santa Barbara (1960s), and Glendale. By the time J.W. Robinson's was dissolved into Robinson's-May there were almost 30 stores across Southern California from San Diego to Palm Desert to Santa Barbara.

ADG and May[edit]

Associated Dry Goods (ADG), a group of independently operated department store chains, bought Robinson's in 1957.

May Department Stores bought Associated Dry Goods and with it, Robinson's, in 1986. In 1989, May dissolved its Scottsdale, Arizona-based Goldwaters division, folding it into Robinson's, and its Phoenix-area stores were rebranded as Robinson's.

Consolidation and epilogue[edit]

In 1992, May combined Robinson's and May Company California into a single brand, Robinsons-May.[16] The Robinson's stores became, like the former May Co. locations, a midrange department store, which market research firm NPD Group characterized as having an "identity crisis" because "they tried to be something for everyone and ended up being nothing for anyone". Federated Department Stores (which had bought Macy's in 1994 and changed its name in 2007 to Macy's, Inc.) bought May Department Stores in 2005. Robinson's-May was dissolved in 2005–6, and the former Robinson's stores were closed, sold, or turned into Macy's or Bloomingdale's branches.[17]

Store list[edit]

California and Arizona Robinson's stores at merger with May Co. into Robinsons-May, 1992-3[18][19]

Community Mall or address Opened Closed Square footage Notes
1 Downtown Los Angeles (1915 store) Seventh, Hope & Grand September 7, 1915[10] February 1993 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2) at opening,[9][10] after 1923 expansion, 623,700 square feet (57,940 m2).[11] Frederick Noonan and William Richards of Dodd & Richards, architects.[9]
2 Beverly Hills 9900 Wilshire Bl. in a complex with the Beverly Hilton February 13, 1952[20] 2006[20] 236,000[21] Demolished 2014. Architects William Pereira and Charles Luckman. Interiors by Raymond Loewy.[22] Site of One Beverly Hills (Richard Meier & Partners, architects).[23]
3 Palm Springs 333 S. Palm Canyon Dr. January 10, 1958[24] 1987[25] Architects William Pereira and Charles Luckman. Interiors by Raymond Loewy.[24] Expanded 1973. Currently used as "CAMP Community and Meeting Place".[26]
4 Pasadena 777 E. Colorado Blvd. May 12, 1958[27] February 1993 Architects William Pereira and Charles Luckman. Interiors by Raymond Loewy. Interiors by Had a parking structure for 700 cars.[27] Is now a Target[28]
5 Panorama City Van Nuys at Chase, Panorama City Shopping Center June 27, 1961[29] 169,000 sq. ft.[29]
6 Anaheim Anaheim Plaza February 1963[21] January 1988 Closed six months after the one at MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana, California opened.
7 Glendale Glendale Fashion Center[30] August 1966[21] February 1993 150,000[21]
8 Santa Barbara La Cumbre Plaza July 1967[21] 155,000[21]
9 Newport Beach Fashion Island September 1967 225,000[21]
10 San Diego Fashion Valley Mall September 1969[21] 172,000[21]
11 Cerritos Los Cerritos Center September 1971[21] 146,000 sq. ft.[21] to Robinsons-May in 1993, closed 2006, became Nordstrom in 2010
12 Woodland Hills Woodland Hills Promenade March 1973[21] February 1993 194,000[21] became Bullock's, later Macy's
13 Puente Hills Puente Hills Mall March 1974[21] 153,000[21] Location seen in the “Twin Pines Mall” scenes of Back to the Future.
14 Westminster Westminster Mall April 1975[21] February 1993 160,000[21] became JCPenney
15 Santa Anita Santa Anita Fashion Park, Arcadia April 19, 1976[31] 137,000;[21] to Robinsons-May in 1993, closed 2006, became Forever 21 in Nov. 2012
16 Thousand Oaks The Oaks 1978[21] 127,000[21]
17 UTC University Towne Center, La Jolla, San Diego 1978[21] 147,000[21]
18 Mission Viejo Mission Viejo Mall 1979[21]
19 Santa Monica Santa Monica Place
20 Sherman Oaks Sherman Oaks Galleria 1980[21]
21 Del Amo Del Amo Fashion Center
23 Horton Plaza Horton Plaza, San Diego
24 Escondido North County Fair
25 South Coast Plaza South Coast Plaza (Crystal Court), Costa Mesa
26 Palm Desert Westfield Palm Desert to Robinsons-May in 1993, moved, became Sears in Nov. 2004
27 Santa Ana MainPlace
28 Brea Brea Mall May 1991[32] February 1993 became JCPenney
Arizona (All formerly Goldwater's)
Mesa Fiesta Mall
Phoenix Metrocenter Mall
Phoenix Paradise Valley Mall
Phoenix Park Central Mall 1990
Scottsdale Scottsdale Fashion Square

Outside California[edit]


In addition, just before the acquisition by May, it had also cooperated with Ito-Yokado to form Robinson's Japan, with one location in Kasukabe, Saitama. In 2009, Robinson's Japan was acquired by Seven & I Holdings Co.

Robinson's Florida[edit]

Starting in 1972 ADG borrowed the Robinson's name to open a separate division of department stores, Robinson's of Florida, on Florida's Gulf Coast and Orlando, based in St. Petersburg, Florida. It had been founded in the 1970s as an attempt by ADG to emulate its upscale J. W. Robinson's' stores on the fast-growing Florida Gulf Coast. This newly created division grew to 10 locations. May sold this division in 1987 to Maison Blanche.[33][34] Seven of the former Robinson's of Florida locations were subsequently sold by Maison Blanche to Dillard's* in 1991 while the other three became Gayfers** (which in turn was bought out by Dillard's in 1998).


  1. ^ a b "Nine Acres Space in Robinson Store". Los Angeles Evening Express. May 30, 1914.
  2. ^ "Advertisement by J. W. Robinson Co". Los Angeles Times. 12 March 1933. p. 35. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Advertisement by N. B. Blackstone Co". Los Angeles Times. 8 May 1898. p. 17. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Left All Some Money: A San Francisco Merchant Who Remembered His Employees: The Late C.W.R. Ford, Who Died at Los Angeles, Bequeaths $200 to Each of His Former Clerks". San Francisco Examiner. 10 April 1896. p. 7. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  5. ^ "239 S Broadway · 239 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012".
  6. ^ "The Boston Dry Goods Store". Los Angeles Times. 1 January 1895. p. 29. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  7. ^ "The New Boston Store:Los Angeles' Finest Commercial Structure Is Complete". Los Angeles Herald. 4 October 1895. p. 5.
  8. ^ "Advertisement for J. W. Robinson Company Boston Dry Goods Store". Los Angeles Evening Post-Record. September 30, 1908.
  9. ^ a b c "Steam Shovels Scooping Out Dirt At Site Of Big Store", Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1914
  10. ^ a b c "Great Palace For Commerce: Robinson's Mammoth Store Opens Tuesday". Los Angeles Times. 5 September 1915. p. 55 (part V p.1 ). Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Department Store Addition Now Rising Into Space", Los Angeles Times, 11 January 1923
  12. ^ "Store Building To Be Changed", Los Angeles Times, 4 February 1934
  13. ^ a b "Robinson's to Join N.Y. Store Group". Los Angeles. 6 July 1955. p. 1. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  14. ^ J. W. Robinson's advertisement in the Los Angeles Times, 6 July 1955, p.27
  15. ^ Hinshilwood; C. Milton Hinshilwood; Elena Irish Zimmerman (2001). Old Los Angeles and Pasadena. Arcadia Publishing. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-7385-0809-2.
  16. ^ White, George (October 17, 1992). "Robinson's, May Co. to Merge Stores: Economy: Twelve Southland locations will close and 550 people will be laid off in the cost-cutting move". Los Angeles Times.
  17. ^ Herman, Valli (6 August 2005). "With Robinsons-May stores closing, few midrange department stores are left. Is shopping becoming polarized? Yes, and no". Los Angeles Times.
  18. ^ "Department stores and apparel speciality store sales", 1982
  19. ^ "18 Oct 1992, Page 48 - Los Angeles Times at". Newspapers.com. 1992-10-18. Retrieved 2022-06-05.
  20. ^ a b Watters, Sam (March 14, 2009). "Robinsons-May Beverly Hills: A shopping icon that may drop". Los Angeles Times.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "The J.W. Robinson Co., Los Angeles", The Department Store Museum"
  22. ^ Nichols, Chris (July 23, 2014). "A Look Back at Robinson's as the Glamorous Beverly Hills Store is Demolished". Los Angeles magazine.
  23. ^ Stevens, Matt (July 23, 2014). "Demolition of famed Beverly Hills department store begins". Los Angeles Times.
  24. ^ a b "Robinson's celebrating 75th anniversary", Desert Sun(Palm Springs, CA), January 9, 1958
  25. ^ Murphy, Gavin (October 28, 1988). "World Market Plan Dies". Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA).
  26. ^ "Where to CAMP Out at Modernism Week in Palm Springs". 11 February 2020.
  27. ^ a b "Robinson's Pasadena Store to Open Today". Los Angeles Times. May 12, 1958.
  28. ^ "Pasadena". Target. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  29. ^ a b "Panorama City Store Opened by Robinson's", Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1961
  30. ^ "Glendale Fashion Center Has Anniversary". Los Angeles Times. May 18, 1975.
  31. ^ "Robinson's to Open on Monday in Santa Anita Fashion Park".
  32. ^ "Robinson's Brea opening". The Los Angeles Times. 16 May 1991. p. 233.
  33. ^ "Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Google News Archive Search".
  34. ^ "Miami Herald: Search Results".