Blach's

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Blach's logo.jpg

Blach's (formerly J. Blach & Sons) was a family-owned department store chain founded in 1855 by German immigrant Julius Blach in Vevay, Indiana. The logo Blach's used was the image of a calla lily and a layman's square which stood for the store's motto: "Blach's treats you fair and square".

After coming to Birmingham in 1885, Blach housed his shop in a modest downtown space at 1910 1st Avenue North. The store moved into a larger three-story building at 1912-1914 3rd Avenue North in 1905. In 1935-1936 the former Bencor Hotel building at 3rd Avenue and 20th Street was completely remodeled in a modernist style by Warren, Knight and Davis for Blach's. The arched windows were squared off, the cornice and window trim were stripped away and the brickwork was stuccoed over and painted off-white. The store moved into its new location in 1936 and remained there until closing. The previous store at 3rd and 19th was torn down and an S. H. Kress store built there in 1937, which still stands.

During the 1945 printers' strike, which stopped the publication of all three of Birmingham's daily newspapers, WAPI-AM posted news stories in two of Blach's windows, organized by various categories. The resulting crowds, according to Time magazine, "all but blocked traffic past the store."

In May 1959 Julius' great-grandson Harold Blach Jr took over the company following the death of his father, Harold Sr. That year the store completed a $100,000 remodeling of the "women's fashion floor". The sleek interior design removed all floor racks in favor of built-in wall coves. A "designer's circle" highlighted a single mannequin in a living room-styled space. Pale green carpet stretched from wall to wall, a shade darker than the "seed pearl" white paint. Olive, red and white leather furniture and brass chandeliers completed the elegant look. The 23 dressing rooms were painted in a flattering sunrise pink and had access to windows for examining garments by natural light.

By the late 1970s, Blach's had five locations, including the downtown store and ones at Eastwood Mall and Brookwood Village. Eastwood, which opened in February 1967 after an addition was made to the east end of the mall, was the largest location at that time. The Eastwood location also handled merchandise processing for the entire chain.

In 1983 the company announced that it would relocate its downtown store from Birmingham Green to "The Atrium", a planned redevelopment of several adjoining buildings on the 1900 block of 2nd Avenue North. The store would occupy the ground floor of the 1937 S. H. Kress & Company Building, on the site previously occupied by Blach's from 1905 to 1936. The move never took place.

In January 1987, Blach's filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the time, the store had $1.85 in liabilities against $1.3 million in inventory and $1.26 million in accounts receivable. The store's reorganization was unsuccessful and its closing was announced in December of that year, with doors closing in early 1988.

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