What is: A Hilton hotel and apartment building in the place of a once pioneering retail flagship store and HQ.
What was: Begun as a dry good shop by Mr. Miller and Mr. Rhoads in 1888, Miller and Rhoads became an iconic department store that once stretched an entire street block and left an indelible mark on not only the retail landscape of the city, but also on Richmond residents.
Miller & Rhoads offered customers one-stop convenience for goods and services ranging from stamps to clothing, sporting goods, to public telephones, but in a glamorous, cosmopolitan setting where exceptional customer service reigned supreme. That included: specialty hats made by the milners; the ever-popular Tea Room, which featured regular fashion shows, and signature menu; as well as pioneering “Santaland” attraction.
The Santa Land attraction included woodland scenes with lifelike, animated animals were strategically placed throughout the room. Fully decorated trees adorned a path leading to the beautiful stage. Onstage were a huge fireplace, a Christmas tree, and a golden chair with a red velvet back and seat where Santa Claus sat. SantaLand was so popular, Miller and Rhoads aired commercials with the tagline “Miller & Rhoads – Where Christmas is a Legend.”
After being picketed in the early 1960s by African Americans, it fully desegregated in 1961.
The store also hosted famous writers, art exhibits and other community events that helped add a cosmopolitan flair to the city. Many a Richmonder met their friends at the store under its famous clock. As suburbs and malls came to the forefront, Miller and Rhoads moved into that space. However, faced with increasing competition from stores like Leggett and Hess’s and dwindling finances, Miller & Rhoads filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. By 1990, all Miller & Rhoads stores closed their doors for good.
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