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Kamien's ~ Since 1904
by Dr. Macklyn Hubbell

(Information contributed by Rosebud Givens Davis and Eva Kamien)

    For nearly a century, "your favorite store sine 1904" has been doing business on Sharpe Avenue in Cleveland, Mississippi. Actually, Leon W. Kamien had a store on Sharpe in 1898 before he and his son (I. A. Kamien, Sr.) formed a partnership at Kamien's present site -- buying the land from C. R. Smith and constructing the existing building.

    Like other Delta merchants, the Kamiens often heard from customers by posted mail when a payment was due:

    Dear Sir:
    I am sorry. I was not send any payment in. But I got
    and a tough spot. But please give me one more week to
    send in a payment. Because I do not Wont to part from
    your beautiful store because injoy shopping there.
    And I need beautiful thing there for Christmas.
    Thank you,
    (Customer' name)

    (The above letter would have too many sics, detracting from the simple, honest content.)

    Often Delta ladies came in twice a year to buy their fall and spring clothes. Home domestics cost 10 cents a yard, while calico cost only 5 cents. Saturdays were the big sale days. People swarmed the streets on the seventh day of the week; and Kamien's accomodated them by remaining open till midnight or later.

    The clerks who worked at Kamien's committed themselves to the business. For example, Ruth Hunt finished high school and began her sales career there immediately thereafter. Blanch Beach, Geneva Outz, Nell Turnipseed, Luzelle McNeil, Elizabeth Passmore, and Effie Steed totaled more than a century of service -- closer to two centuries.

    Fond memories of Kamien's in the 1960s involved casual, non-buying-intentions of mine upon entering the store. An hour later Ruth or Blanch had insisted that I take home two or three suits for my wife Bet's selection.

    By the time I took up residency in Cleveland (1962), I. A., Jr. and his brother, Leon, were the owners of the 1904 establishment. In 1996, upon I. A.'s death, Eva (his wife) became the proprietor along with Artie, their son.

    The Kamien tradition was perpetuated by the quiet insistence and possibly persistence of Eva. When I. A., Sr. moved toward the end of his sales days, Eva persuaded her husband, I. A., Jr., to leave his law practice in Memphis to take up the gauntlet at the family store. Later, she used the same persuasion with Artie to convince him that it was his turn to maintain the Kamien tradition.

    And the motto of Kamien's lives on today: "Your favorite store since 1904."


    Janie G. Miller writes: "My mother, Rosebud, added another little tidbit about Kamien's store. She remembers how I.A., Sr. used to give the kids that came in the store a quarter. He was such a sweet, sweet man. Also, there is a little funny tale about Rose Kamien, Leon and I.A.'s mother. There was somebody in Cleveland (can't remember who it was) who thought Aunt Rose did not have any legs because she always stayed behind the cash register and you couldn't see her legs!"

    And Don Drane comments:
    "I remember Miz Hunt and Miz Beach. Those ladies must have worked 24 hours a day. They were always there, never seemed to take breaks or be off somewhere for lunch; and they 'scurried' everywhere they went, always smiling and moving. Rev. Hubbell's story reminds me of the care the ladies and gentlemen at Kamien's and Jay's took with us, always being sure we were fitted properly and never letting us charge too much to our momma's accounts. And the stores had ladies who could handle alterations by later that afternoon, never three days or a week later like the stores nowadays. And alterations were simply part of the service and part of the sale. The new shoe-leather smell lingers in the back of my mind. Thanks, Macklyn."


    Macklyn Hubbell, Southern Baptist minister, has worn many different hats for his church--from pastor to professor to worldwide counselor. He and his delightful wife Bet have traveled many a mile around the globe, assisting with Godís work wherever they are called. Meanwhile, folks back in Cleveland, Mississippi, selfishly claim them as their own.

    Dr. Hubbell writes as a guest columnist for the Cleveland Bolivar Commercial. Click here to read another of his stories at USADS: Kidnapped -- a tale of attending Sunday School in Plains, Georgia, with Jimmy Carter.

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