Miller & Rhoads: Birth, Life, and Death in a Community
From its humble beginnings in 1885, the department store of Miller & Rhoads, in Richmond, Virginia, expanded to encompass an entire city block eight stories tall. For over a century, until its closing in 1990, Miller & Rhoads provided a veritable "palace of consumption" for central Virginians. While the merchandise was indeed unique and varied, it was the broad community the store fostered that I find so interesting. The store did mirror the nationwide development of the department store, and it did play a role in retail, yet these are stories I will leave for someone else to write. In this project, I aim to convey how Miller & Rhoads existed as a multi-tiered community that continues to exist to a certain degree today. The store left an indelible mark on Richmonders, Virginians, and people further afield, and it became a Richmond institution. Miller & Rhoads fostered a tight, familial employee community based on loyalty and equality, as well as a faithful consumer community based on shared experiences. The store itself facilitated the constant merging and development of these interdependent groups, and the store, with its community, its innovations, and its activities, served as a microcosm of the larger, ever-changing Richmond community.
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