Past Treasure of the Month – May 2016
[image courtesy of Galveston Texas History Center, Rosenberg Library].
During the month of May, Rosenberg Library remembers the iconic Nathan’s department store in Galveston. Nathan’s operated on the 2200 block of Post Office Street from the 1920s through the 1970s.
Nathan’s was founded in 1927 by David (“Dave”) Nathan. Nathan was born in Kiev, Russia in 1903 and immigrated to the United States as a young child. His family settled in Galveston in 1906, and Nathan became interested in the retail industry at an early age. He opened his first clothing store, The Grand Leader, at 315 Tremont Street in 1922.
In 1927, 24-year-old Dave Nathan opened a new ready-to-wear shop for ladies in a single story, 1,200 square foot space at 2217 Post Office Street. He employed three workers. After a fire damaged the building in 1931, the store was re-built and modernized. The interior was outfitted with custom oak fixtures, marbleized tile, and colorful furniture.
In 1947, Nathan’s expanded into larger quarters on the north side of the street at 2216 – 2218 Post Office (later re-numbered 2214). The extensive build out of the space included state-of-the art lighting as well as lounges with original paintings, plush settees, writing desks, and telephones. With customers’ needs always a top priority, proprietor Dave Nathan summarized the firm’s vision for their female shoppers in an advertisement for the grand re-opening: “You are a queen — today and always — when you enter Nathan’s doors.”
Nathan’s was described as “the kind of woman’s dream-world that Galveston’s fashionable shoppers deserve” in a vintage brochure which is now preserved in the archives of Rosenberg Library. The remodeled shop included departments for shoes, accessories, cosmetics, and lingerie on the main level. The second floor housed sections for juniors, career apparel, a dress salon, and a gown room.
In 1955, the store added a men’s department for the first time.
Galveston’s business community suffered a great loss in 1965 when Dave Nathan died unexpectedly. At the time of his death, he not only served as President of Nathan’s, Inc. but was also chairman of the Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees. He headed the Galveston Merchants Association and was active with the Chamber of Commerce.
Nathan’s son, Neil, took over the family business and continued to expand its offerings. During the 1970s, Nathan’s opened a separate store across the street — Lad n’ Lassie — which carried clothes for babies and children, as well as maternity wear for expectant mothers. The company had grown to a staff of 60 employees in these two locations.
After serving Galvestonians for nearly five decades, Nathan’s closed its doors in 1975. A developer purchased the building in the 1990s, and today the former retail operation houses a 6-unit luxury condominium complex.