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History of Vandervoorts Store (1951 -1969)

Library LTD (1992 - 1997)

Former Location: 7700 Forsyth Boulevard
Clayton, MO 63105
Source: Internet search; Mercantile Library Collection

Vandervoorts Department Store, Clayton MO "Since the automobile has become such a powerful source toward decentralization throughout the country, we feel that the beginning of Vandervoort's suburban store, as part of our modernization and expansion program, is a particularly appropriate feature of our centennial year, which begins a new century for us." Frank M. Mayfield, president of Scruggs Vandervoort Barney, Inc.

Vandervoort's was a St. Louis department store, with a flagship store at Tenth & Olive located in downtown St. Louis. Vandervoort's was considered the presumed better department store in St. Louis. The Clayton building by Harris Armstrong was built as the first suburban branch of Scruggs Vandervoort Barney Department Store. The store was located at Hanley Road and Forsyth Boulevard in Clayton and its grand opening celebration was on September 21, 1951. The employees, 300 at peak season, were hired from the surrounding area. The building cost the company $1.5 million to build. The plan for the new store stated that there would be a free parking area for customers at the south end of the building. Also planned was a restaurant, Forsyth Corner, on the upper mezzanine. Scruggs advertised the new store as offering "every convenience" in order to draw consumers to the suburban branch. By the end of the 1950s, the suburban branch had drawn sales away from the downtown store resulting in losses that eventually lead to the closing of the downtown and Clayton branches in 1967.

The original canopy extending out to Forsyth was removed years ago by a former owner. Architecturally though, most of the building's features are intact, including the cantilevered sun screen below and the tightly strung awnings that stretch from the parking garage to the rear entrance doors.

Since 1969 when the small department store known as Scruggs Vandervoort & Barney closed, the two-story brick box at Hanley and Forsyth had been occupied sporadically. Too large for a shop, too small for a store, the building later became known as Dolgin's, then Service Merchandise.

In 1992, Terry and Allen Mittelman built their business called Library Ltd. from a tiny bookstore to a $10-million enterprise with an uncompromising, all-out approach to retailing and life. The Mittelmans opened their 53,000 square foot store at the former Vandervoorts building without fanfare at 5 p.m. on a Saturday in July 1992. They wanted to break in the equipment and the dozens of new booksellers slowly before launching an advertising campaign the following week. By 6 p.m., the store was packed not only with book buyers, but gawkers. The Library, Ltd., wasn't just a bookstore. With two huge floors and seven themed reading rooms, it's a literary feast for the senses. For its collection of whodunits: a room with a fireplace, an Oriental rug, mahogany paneling, and wingback chairs. For its children's section: a 14-foot-tall, turreted castle with a goldfishstocked miniature moat. For nature and gardening volames: a gazebo with a 240gallon, saltwater aquarium. And for cookbooks: a French bistro. Customers kept telling Allen and Terry that they had never seen any store so imaginative and yet so comfortable and inviting. To keep people coming, Library Ltd. hosted two or three book signings every week. Political luminaries from Newt Gingrich, to Dan Quayle to Colin Powell to Hillary Clinton. Celebs from Martha Stewart to Gloria Steinem to Christopher Darden. Literati from Frank McCourt to Annie Proulx to Richard Ford. The Mittelmans fought to get publishers to send every important author to their store. And they were sore losers. When Charlton Heston went elsewhere to promote his autobiography, they blamed the publisher's rep and told him they would no longer do business with him. Later they let him come back, having gotten their message across. Stacks, the coffee bar and restaurant opened in 1995. By July 1, 1997, when they sold their store to Borders Group, it was among the largest independents in the nation.

Centene Corporation is the current owner and demolished the building in Fall 2008 to erect its new headquarters in its place.



PERSONAL STORY:
March 25, 2010 Email From Brandt W. Pryor

I have many good memories of Vandervoort’s in Clayton (no one I knew ever called it Scrugg’s). My mom probably shopped there, though I didn’t until one Christmas vacation in the early 1960’s when I worked there as a sales clerk in men’s clothing.
I was in my first or second year of college, and Vandervoort’s still sold some high quality men’s sport jackets. Using my employee discount and sale prices, I outfitted myself with a wardrobe of beautiful jackets that I never could have afforded otherwise.
Due to a busy holiday season, my sales record looked better than my work deserved, and my boss took me out for a drink at Krueger’s one night, and asked if I had considered a career in retail sales. I was flattered, but returning to college seemed more attractive!




PERSONAL STORY:
January 23, 2010 Email From Ellen Ross

As a child I loved going to this store and as you entered from the parking lot you would go down several steps and see the goldfish in the pond in front of the store. I always tried to take some crackers to feed them. After shopping we would often have lunch upstairs and I loved sitting by the railing and watching the customers shop below.