The iconic clock on the front of the Downtown Rich’s store.

By Collin Kelley
INtown Editor

For Atlanta natives, Rich’s is a sorely-missed department store with fond memories of shopping trips, Christmas wonder and tasty food.

The late, great journalist and humorist Celestine Sibley wrote a book about Rich’s called Dear Store back in 1967, a testament to how much the retail mecca meant to the city. While Rich’s would eventually branch out to mall stores, be gobbled up by a conglomerate and then disappear altogether, the Downtown flagship store on Broad Street was always the beating heart of the company.

Thanksgiving night meant crowding onto Forsyth Street under the Crystal Bridge that connected Rich’s two buildings for the lighting of the Great Christmas Tree. Children eagerly sat on Santa’s lap then went to the roof of the building to ride the Pink Pig monorail. Lunch at the Magnolia Room was always a special outing for generations of families.

On Nov. 17, the Breman Museum will open the exhibition, “Return to Rich’s: The Story Behind the Store” that will bring all the memories back for those who remember the store and educate those who never got to visit.

“Rich’s was a Jewish-owned department store that created Atlanta traditions like the Pink Pig, the Magnolia Room and Fashionata” said Breman Museum executive director Aaron Berger. “It is the largest exhibition in our history and will encompass two-thirds of our gallery space.”

Riding the Pink Pig at Rich’s was a holiday tradition for kids.

The “Return to Rich’s” will contine through May 27 and feature artifacts from the store on loan from Delta Airlines, The Coca-Cola Company, the Atlanta History Center, The Rich Foundation and dozens of private collectors.

Also coming up at the Breman is the Molly Blank Jewish Concert Series, which marks a new direction for the museum by expanding its cultural offerings, Berger said.

The first concert in series will be “Music of the Holocaust: Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht” on Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. The evening, led by Maestro Arthur Fagen, whose parents were saved by Oskar Schindler, will feature chamber music interwoven with a selection of visual images and readings prepared by the Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education at the Breman Museum. Selected pieces include: Gideon Klein’s String Trio from 1944; Hans Krása’s Passacaglia and Fugue for string trio from 1944 as well as songs by Isle Weber, Adolf Strauss and Martin Roman.

The second concert will be held Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. with the theme “Jewish Composers of the 19th & 20th Centuries.” Conductor Fagen will provide a 100-year journey through music featuring work by Felix Mendelssohn, Gustav Mahler and Leonard Bernstein.

The Breman Museum is located at 1440 Spring St. For more about the Rich’s exhibit and concert series, visit thebreman.org.

 

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.