At 86, Marvel Cummings doesn’t do much shopping. She certainly doesn’t do any online shopping.
“I have a computer room in my house, but I don’t have a computer,” she said.
The Everett woman spent her working life in retail. For 37 years, she was a friendly and bustling presence at the downtown Everett Bon Marche. She and others of her generation remember department stores as refined places. A shopper wasn’t overdressed in a chic suit, gloves and high heels.
Cummings and more than a half-dozen former co-workers from the Bon in Everett — they call themselves “Bonnettes” — get together once a month for lunch.
“We’re a bunch of nice ladies,” said Everett’s Edythe Pavish, who worked at the downtown Bon after retiring from the Everett School District. She said she remembers thinking “how glamorous to be in retail.”
Pavish, 82, remembers shopping with her mother at downtown Everett’s Rumbaugh-MacLain Department Store, the original occupant of the Bon Marche building at 2804 Wetmore Ave. “Rumbaugh-MacLain had a magnificent staircase,” said Pavish, adding that her mother told her she took her first steps in the old store.
The Bon was also an impressive place, with terrazzo floors, fine woodwork, elevators and a restaurant, she said.
By the 1970s, that world was fading into history as downtown stores moved to malls. The Bon Marche, which opened a store in the new Everett Mall in 1974, also stayed in downtown Everett until 1991. By 2004, all Bon stores had become Macy’s.
Now, Snohomish County malls are about to lose two big department stores. This month’s announcements that Macy’s at Everett Mall and the Sears at Alderwood will shut down are close-to-home evidence of big shifts in the retail industry.
Along with internet shopping, buyers turn to big-box stores and off-price chains. According to The New York Times, T.J. Maxx owner TJX, which also has Marshalls and Home Goods, posted $29 billion in sales for the year ending Jan. 31, 2015; Macy’s revenue was $28 billion for that period.
If you call the Everett Mall Macy’s these days, you’ll hear a recording about a closing sale. “The entire store is on sale,” it says, with discounts of up to 30 percent off the lowest ticketed prices — excluding cosmetics and fragrances.
Cummings, Pavish and other Bonnettes remember downtown Everett as a shopping destination. Pavish recalled Chaffee’s, an upscale store on Colby Avenue. “That’s where you went to buy your wedding gown,” she said.
“We had Penney’s, Sears and Montgomery Ward. And there were three dime stores, Kress, Woolworth’s and Newberry’s. It would be nice to have them back,” said Cummings, recalling that on Fridays Bon workers would sometimes eat at the Manning’s cafeteria-style restaurant.
Mill Creek’s Kim Goebbert is 62, a generation younger than her elder Bonnettes. She worked 29 years for the Bon Marche, 16 of them as a store manager. Goebbert worked for the Bon Marche in Bozeman, Montana, downtown Everett, Burlington, and from 1993 until 2000 at the Everett Mall.
“I loved, loved, loved my job, no matter what position I held there. I loved the people I worked with and my customers,” said Goebbert, who is now retired.
She misses the days when customer service was a top priority for retailers. “Everybody recognizes Nordstrom, and we cannot forget the wonderful Frederick &Nelson,” she said. That elegant Seattle department store also had an Everett Mall outlet. Everett’s Frederick &Nelson, which had a Frango Cafe, closed in 1992.
For the Bonnettes, work in downtown Everett was almost a family affair.
“Every customer knew the salespeople, and the salespeople knew their customers,” Goebbert said. “It was like everybody was family. It was totally amazing to me how much people loved their jobs. It was delightful.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
1929 — Everett’s Rumbaugh-MacLain Department Store opens in new building on southwest corner of Wetmore Avenue and California Street
1944 — Seattle-based Bon Marche purchases the Rumbaugh-MacLain store at 2802 Wetmore Ave.
1974 — Everett Mall opens with 60 stores, including the Bon Marche and Sears as anchors
1979 — Grand reopening of Everett Mall with new wing that includes anchor Frederick &Nelson
1991 — Bon Marche closes downtown Everett store
1992 — Frederick &Nelson closes at Everett Mall
2004 — Bon Marche stores become Macy’s
2016 — Toymaker Funko announces move to former Everett Bon Marche and Trinity Lutheran College building
2017 — Closure of Everett Mall Macy’s and Alderwood Sears stores announced
Source: Herald archives