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 examine and to convey how Miller & Rhoads existed as a multi-tiered community that incorporated employees, consumers, and Richmond itself. The store left an indelible mark on Richmonders, Virginians, and people further afield, and it became an institution. Miller & Rhoads fostered a tight-knit, familial employee community based on loyalty and equality, as well as a faithful consumer community forged by 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, reflected and influenced the larger, ever-changing Richmond community.

Table of Contents:

Miller & Rhoads' Employee Community

Miller & Rhoads' Consumer Community

Miller & Rhoads in the Richmond Community


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University of Virginia

American Studies Program

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