Long Beach Lost: The Buffums’ Department Store in DTLB • Long Beach Post

Our ongoing series, Long Beach Lost, was launched to examine buildings, places, and things that have either been demolished, are set to be demolished, or are in motion to possibly be demolished—or were never even in existence. This is not a preservationist series but rather an historical series that will help keep a record of our architectural, cultural, and spatial history. To keep up with previous postings, click here.

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Once standing tall at the southwest corner of Broadway and Pine in DTLB, this particular Buffums store was one of its most important because it launched the empire of westward-bound brothers Charles and Edwin Buffum.

Originally the Schilling Bros. Mercantile Store at 100 W Broadway—now home to the WeWork Building–the pair of Illinois siblings purchased it in 1904. Transitioning from a dry goods store After that, Buffums boomed into an 87-year-long empire.

“In it’s heyday, Buffums was among the most expensive major department stores in the west,” said local John Taylor. “It was called the ‘Grand Dame’ of department stores, in that it catered to a mostly mature, conservative clientele. It wasn’t until its final years that it began to cater to younger customers.”

In just under two decades, a six-story addition to the south of the original building was built in 1925. The street level held everything from its jewelry to handbags to the launch of its men’s store. The second floor catered to children’s clothes while the third floor catered to designer clothing and lingerie. The fourth floor was bed and bath, the fifth floor filled with its offices, and the sixth floor acting the terrace to the Four Seasons Restaurant.

Come 1941, they built an autoport that is now an historic landmark off of 1st & Pine, saving it from destruction. However, the building was not designated as such and was demolished in 1985 to make way for the office building and restaurant space currently there, home to WeWork and the Downtown Long Beach Alliance.

Buffums commercial for women’s activewear in 1983.

Come the decade of the 1970s, Australia-based investor David Jones Ltd bought the Buffums empire and just a decade later, was searching to sell the struggling chain as times hit hard. By the time of the sale, Buffums had become part of Adelaide Steamship, an Australian conglomerate, who never found a buyer. In a last-ditch effort to modernize and keep up with more successful stores like Macy’s and JCPenney, Buffums installed new point-of-sale registers in all stores in 1990, only to enter liquidation following the 1990 Christmas shopping season, according to the Los Angeles Times.

By March of 1991, there were signs posted at all 16 Southern California locations: “All Sales Final. No Returns. No Exchanges.” At the time of the closing, there were losses of $4.2M on sales estimated at $110M in its last fiscal year.

Buffums’ lineage didn’t stop at the store: Edwin is the father of the late Dorothy Buffum Chandler, who helped establish her famous namesake, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Music Center that was home to the Academy Awards for years, in DTLA.

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