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Ivers Agrees to Sell Store in La Canada to Buffums Chain

August 21, 1986|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

The Ivers family has agreed to sell its La Canada Flintridge department store--the last of two outlets--to Buffums for an undisclosed price. The original Ivers Department Store, opened in 1913 in Highland Park, closed in 1984.

Under a purchase agreement signed last week, Buffums plans to retain most of the 175 Ivers employees, some of whom have worked at the store since it opened in 1969, said Robert J. Hampson, Buffums' president. The Ivers inventory eventually will be replaced with Buffums stock, Hampson said, and he expects the store to be converted completely by spring.

Jesse William Ivers, the store's 65-year-old president, said his family decided to sell the La Canada Flintridge store because he and his five siblings are past retirement age and their children have no interest in taking over the business.

Sales of $5 Million in 1985

Ivers said sales at the 40,000-square-foot La Canada Flintridge store topped $5 million in 1985. He said the store is profitable, but declined to give figures. Terms of the sale call for Ivers to remain as general manager for two years, both parties said.

Hampson said the Long Beach-based Buffums chain was attracted to Ivers because it has a similar merchandise mixture that "fits in naturally with our 15 stores," all of which are in Southern California. Buffums has a store in the Glendale Galleria.

Hampson said he plans to introduce more upscale brands, especially in women's wear, and to expand the cosmetics and fragrance departments.

Ivers has been geared to middle-class customers, Jesse Ivers said. It stocks clothing, cosmetics, housewares and furniture.

Don Otterman, La Canada Flintridge city manager, said the city may benefit from the arrival of a more upscale and high-profile department store through increased sales taxes.

"Buffums may have more drawing power. Some of the people up here would rather shop at Buffums than Ivers," Otterman said.

But, he added, "It's kind of a shame to lose something that's been there for so long."

Other Ivers Closed in 1984

The Ivers family closed its 71-year-old Highland Park store on North Figueroa Street two years ago after attempts to revitalize the neighborhood and attract new shoppers were unsuccessful.

Ivers helped form the Highland Park Improvement Assn. in 1980, but North Figueroa Street, the main shopping district, continued on an economic decline that started in the 1960s. Ivers blamed dwindling sales on increased competition from shopping malls in Glendale and Pasadena and changing demographics as the area changed from middle-class white to poorer Latinos.

The Ivers stores began in 1913 when Catherine and Jesse William Ivers Sr.--the current president's parents--opened a small shop on North Figueroa Street that sold notions and ribbons. Ivers' father, a traveling salesman for a large Chicago department store, used his samples to provide an opening inventory for the Highland Park emporium.

Started in Store at 13

In 1921, the family moved to a larger location on Figueroa Street and Avenue 58. Jesse Ivers Jr. began working in the family business at 13, when he sold menswear on weekends and after school for 5% commission.

Over the years, the Ivers store evolved into the chief purveyor of fashionable clothing and cosmetics in the Highland Park area, selling expensive goods but retaining a homespun, family quality. When the area's demographics changed, the store began to suffer.

The family built a second Ivers in La Canada Flintridge in 1969 but found it difficult to coordinate advertising and merchandising between the two stores because of changing markets, Ivers said.

Sales at the Highland Park store peaked in 1974 at $3.1 million but then began a long slump until the store was closed. A small mall now occupies the site.

With the sale of the La Canada Flintridge store, "It's time to throw in the towel," Ivers said.

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