By Marcy Thompson
Picturing The Past 

Brevard Department Stores Were Popular


Last updated 3/13/2017 at 4:47pm

Patterson's children's shoe department was cheery and colorful.

This week Picturing the Past will look inside a few of Brevard's former department stores. General stores had been popular in most communities in the 1800s. They were normally small structures and carried a wide array of goods. Department stores developed as consumerism grew. These larger retail stores also carried a variety of items but were organized by department.

Trantham's was one of Brevard's earliest department stores. T.E. England opened it as a general store in 1885. In 1915 his son-in-law, B.W. Trantham, became a partner in the business and soon transformed it into a department store. Beverly English Trantham had begun working with her father as a teenager. Their sons, Tony and Jack, followed in the family business. They sold toys, notions, piece goods, clothing and shoes. Later they would specialize in men's clothing and shoes. In 1939 the store relocated from W. Main to the corner of E. Main and Gaston streets, beside the new Belk's. Tony retired in 1970 and Jack closed the store when he retired in 1976.

Another early department store in Brevard was Plummer's on W. Main St. Henry Plummer opened the store as Johnson and Plummer; later it became Plummer and Cobble, and then The Plummer Company. In 1932 his son, Robert, took over the business. It operated until 1970.

Alex and Bessie Patterson had worked in various department stores before opening their own store in 1940. Mrs. Patterson was from Brevard and they thought the growth of the town with the opening of Ecusta would provide their business plenty of customers. When Alex died in 1952 the Patterson's son, Ben, took over management. Over the years the store expanded until it consisted of about 7,500 square feet. They had separate entrances for the men's department (on S. Broad St.) and the women's department (on W. Main St.) but it was all one store. Patterson's closed in 1989.

Brevard's first Belk Department Store was located on W. Main St. in what would become Patterson's. After just a couple of years they built and opened a new store on East Main St. The new store had a mezzanine level in both the front and the back. The women's department was located on the upper level in the back and Ruth's Beauty Shop was on the upper level in the front. There were two sets of double doors to enter on the front of the building. On the interior, wide open stairs went up from the center in both the back and front. In 1993 Belks moved out of downtown to the new Walmart plaza at the intersection of highways 64, 276, and 280 in Pisgah Forest.

Next week Picturing the Past will reveal the downtown Brevard store that currently has the longest run in the same location.

(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the N.C. Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at or (828) 884-1820.)

The women's department at Belk offered chairs and even an ashtray for customers.


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