Originally created 02/16/99

Workers remove last signs of JB White



The last vestiges of JB White, a name local shoppers have known since 1874, will be removed in Augusta by the department store's new owners this week.

On Monday, workers began converting JB White signs at Augusta Mall to Dillard's, the Arkansas retailer that purchased JB White's parent company last summer.

By week's end, all Augusta, Aiken and Savannah JB White stores will bear the new company name, according to Ray Peters, supervisor for AAA Sign Co., the Augusta contractor handling the area conversions.

JB White was founded in Augusta 125 years ago by an Irish immigrant who ran away at age 16 to search for adventure and fortune.

The store was an institution for many locals, including the Terry family of Augusta, who watched workers remove the 8-foot letters from the wall of Augusta Mall.

"It will always be JB White to me," said Juanita Terry.

"It's going to take awhile to get used to," Terrence Terry added.

Changes at the old JB White stores have been gradual during the seven months since Dillard's Inc. finalized its $2.9 billion purchase of Mercantile Stores Co.

The old name gradually disappeared from employee name tags, advertisements and charge card applications so as not to cause confusion during busy holiday shopping.

But the passing of the JB White name is not necessarily a bad thing to some people.

"It's time for a change," said Katherine Kennedy of Augusta, who has shopped Dillard's stores in North Carolina. "What's in a name anyway?"

Dillard's Augusta manager, Nick Amato, said the stores have been operated as a new company despite the old name hanging on the wall.

"We've been Dillard's since August. Now I guess this makes it official to everyone else," he said. "Everybody is ready for the change."

The chain is primarily in the Midwest and Southwest but operates several stores in the Carolinas, as well as locations in Alpharetta, Ga., and Macon.

Although Dillard's shies away from storewide sales and other promotions that endeared JB White to loyal shoppers, several customers interviewed Monday said they don't see much difference between the two.

"I can see how some people around here would feel strongly (about JB White no longer existing). I think all of these big department stores are pretty much the same," said Billy Rogers of North Augusta.

Damon Cline covers business for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3486.

"We've been Dillard's since August. Now I guess this makes it official to everyone else. Everybody is ready for the change."

-- Nick Amato, Dillard's Augusta manager, on JB White becoming Dillard's department store