When Baker had a J.C. Penney store

Today, if Fallon County residents think about going to a J.C. Penney department store, they naturally plan on driving to places like Rimrock Mall, Prairie Hills Mall, or Rushmore Mall. However, there once was a time when J.C. Penney had department stores not only in Miles City and Glendive, but downtown Baker.

 

 

Photo courtesy of DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
Photo courtesy of DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

 

 

1927 Fallon County Times ad
1927 Fallon County Times ad

 

 

1927 Fallon County Times ad
1927 Fallon County Times ad

Posted Friday, July 4, 2014

By David D. Kruger

Today, if Fallon County residents think about going to a J.C. Penney department store, they naturally plan on driving to places like Rimrock Mall, Prairie Hills Mall, or Rushmore Mall. However, there once was a time when J.C. Penney had department stores not only in Miles City and Glendive, but downtown Baker.

The first J.C. Penney store in Baker originated as part of the F.S. Jones Golden Rule chain, as did J.C. Penney locations in Bowman, Beach, Glendive, and Hettinger. When retailer Frank S. Jones wished to retire in 1927, he sold the entire chain to his longtime friend James Cash Penney, a former Golden Rule merchant who had created his own popular chain out of Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Baker’s J.C. Penney store originally opened inside the Lake Theatre building in the summer of 1927. Sales were so high after its first year that in 1929 the store leased a new, larger building next to the former Ford garage (see photograph), where it would remain for the next 43 years. The new J.C. Penney building, constructed and designed specifically for the company’s store, featured the trademark mezzanine balcony above the back of the sales floor, as well as an office balcony in front. Most notable was J.C. Penney’s use of black and bright yellow colors in its signage and the mosaic tile storefront of its apron, the latter of which is still visible on the building today, across the street from Russell’s Clothing.

J.C. Penney successfully operated its location in Baker for nearly five decades. However, as rural populations declined and improved roads made it easier to shop out of town, J.C. Penney stores began to disappear across small-town main streets. In 1972, J.C. Penney closed its Baker store for good. Several businesses later operated out of its former location, but over time the building ceased to be a retail establishment. While many Baker residents continued shopping J.C. Penney stores in downtown Glendive and Miles City, those stores were also permanently closed in 1986 and 2000, respectively. Today, the company is primarily a shopping mall tenant, though it continues to operate department stores in downtown Sidney, Williston, ND, and Sheridan, WY.

David Kruger, agricultural research librarian at the University of Wyoming, has chronicled the history of J.C. Penney’s main street stores throughout the region, and his work will be featured in the Autumn 2012 issue of “Montana: the Magazine of Western History”. David is a Baker native and a 1986 graduate of Baker High School.

      



GAMES