Main Street beckoned as stylish destination for shopping, key market for designers

Hidden Memphis feature for The Commercial Appeal

Aug. 14, 2011

In the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, if a Mid-Southerner wanted to see a movie, dine out or shop, she would visit Downtown Memphis. There, she would have her choice of the Warner Theatre, Loews Palace Theater or Majestic; lunch at Anderton’s or Britling Cafeteria. And she would want to look her best — Downtown was as much an ideal of sophistication as a destination — and for that, she would shop at Goldsmith’s, Levy’s, Lowenstein’s, Gerber’s, Bry’s or Julius Lewis.

Babbie Lovett was typical of the era, a small-town girl from Arkansas whose father had business to be taken care of in Memphis. The trip to the city — three hours to travel 60 miles — was like journeying a world away.

“When Daddy would bring us to town to sell cotton, he would say to Mother, ‘Do you want to get out on big heaven or little heaven?’ Big heaven was Goldsmith’s, and little heaven was Levy’s,” Lovett explained.

As a young woman, Lovett came back to Memphis for college. Main Street, the main artery for fashion and shopping, never lost its luster. The evolution and cycles of couture became a focal point of her life and career, beginning with modeling for Goldsmith’s.

“I came to Southwestern to go to school, and when we would go Downtown, we’d put on high heels and wear gloves, but that was a different era, and I’ve seen it (fashion cycles) happen about every 10 or 20 years: Lifestyle dictates fashion,” Lovett said. “But Memphis was such a melting pot for people from Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and Middle Tennessee, which was totally different from Memphis.” … (read more)