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Your Link to the Past

Your Link to the Past

T. S. Martin Department Store

42In 1880 Thomas S. Martin opened the T. S. Martin Company, a dry goods store, at 49 Fourth Street in Sioux City. He was joined by George Westcott, and later by his brother, James P. Martin. The business grew quickly – in 1883 the store expanded to 323-325 Fourth Street. The product line expanded as well: carpets, curtains, potions, and oil cloths were listed in addition to general dry goods on ads and receipts, but dry goods remained the mainstay of the business. Catalogues from this period prominently feature an array of clothing selections for men, women, and children. Other products like porcelain and food service items were added as the business grew.


SC59.1904.Martin Depatment Store.1To keep up with customer demands and to stay competitive, Martin moved his department store a few times to several locations on Fourth Street. In 1894, the store was located at 515-517 and 519 Fourth Street. It was remodeled by W. McLaughlin to repair the damage caused by a fire that occurred in 1888. The remodeled store was three stories high and had an elevator and plumbing.

In 1901, an annex in the rear of the store building (409-411 Nebraska Street) was added to the main store. The annex was designed by Henry Fischer in the Beaux Arts style. Three years later 521 Fourth Street was also added. A new, unified storefront designed by William L. Steele was put in place in 1911.

The business remained at that location until 1919, when a new, and final, store opened on the northeast corner of Fourth and Nebraska Streets. The new store's six stories and 135,000 square feet allowed the T. S. Martin Company to vastly expand their variety of products and services. Flowers, candies, home appliances, cookware, cosmetics, and stationery were all sold within the store. The store also boasted a bakery, hair salon, published its own fashion magazine ("Butterick Fashion News"), and even offered a few "educational" services such as cosmetic and fashion presentations, cooking classes, and art shows. In time, the store became a staple of Sioux City business, where locals and tourists alike could gather for retail and social purposes.

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The May Department Store Co. of St. Louis purchased the T. S. Martin Company in 1948, following a trend toward larger, regional department stores. Finally, in 1957, the Younker brothers of Des Moines bought the store and operated it as Younker-Martin. The store closed its doors for good on August 18, 1969 and the building was razed in 1970 as part of an urban renewal project.


Scan 2017 12 16 09 51 45 727 001Reasons for Prosperity:

The T. S. Martin Company proved to be a prosperous department store. In 1880, its sales totaled around $35,000; by 1902, they totaled over one million dollars. Though ads touted the fantastic prices, finest quality of goods, and courteousness of employees, there are several other reasons for why the store prospered for nearly seventy years.

One service the store offered from its early days was a mail order service. The company would send out free cloth samples to potential customers and paid for express shipping on orders of five dollars or more. This service helped to spread the name of Martin's across the Midwest. The variety of products and services, especially in its later history, also helped Martin's to prosper, making it a one-stop destination.

A final reason for the store's success was the competition with two other department stores in Sioux City: Davidson Brothers' and Pelletier's. To stay on top, Martin's had to attract more customers than its competitors, and it accomplished this by moving to better and bigger locations, selling a wide array of products, and offering a variety of services to its customers.


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Golden Jubilee—1930:
For the Golden Jubilee, Martin's featured many historical displays to celebrate fifty years of business. Displays included a replication of a train car from the North-West Railway, an old stage coach from Spearfish, South Dakota, the Gardener Cabin from Spirit Lake, and various artifacts from the late 1880s.


SC04.BE.Martin T.S. Department Store.09Diamond Jubilee—1940:
The T. S. Martin Company's 60th anniversary was dedicated to the year 1880, when T. S. Martin's first Sioux City store opened. The store windows presented various displays from the time, including a panorama of Sioux City as it was in that era, 1880s fashion displays, and other, national, historical displays. The inside of the store featured twenty-four water color paintings depicting Sioux City's early history and examples of merchandise sold in the first store. Special sales and promotions were also featured to celebrate the anniversary.


SC04.BE.Martin T.S. Department Store.07   SC120 Martin T. S. Co. Dept. Store Catalog 1906-1907   SC04.BI.Martin T.S. Department Store.13         SC120 Martin T. S. Co. Dept. Store Catalog 1911-1912 page 16   SC04.BI.Martin T.S. Department Store.08   SC04.BI.Martin T.S. Department Store.04   2001.051.4154 

 2001.051.1219 2001.051.0056   2001.051.0053

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