Store Without a Name
In the spring of 1912, George M. Black was touring western Minnesota to check out potential sites for a new store. He was working with his father, who had already opened a Black’s store in Little Falls, Minnesota. While changing trains in Fargo, he took time to visit some the businesses near the train station, including Moody’s, Herbst’s , and deLendrecie’s, and found there to be lots of women shopping and the prices were good. They had never considered Fargo, because of stories of it being too cold. He brought his father to Fargo, and it met his approval. George moved to Fargo and got financing to open a store at 112 Broadway. He opened for business on June 12, 1912, and it proved to be a very prosperous venture. He soon expanded the operation by buying the properties at 110 and 114 Broadway.
In the late 1920s retailers were starting to sell on credit and national chain stores were gaining significance. In 1929, the stock market collapsed, and George was contacted by Sears Roebuck to see if he would sell his store. George Black agreed, and he used the profits to construct the tallest building in the state which he called the Black Building. Black-Sears opened in the basement, first and second floors of the building.
In 1934, George Black decided he no longer wanted to be affiliated with Sears, and resigned from the business. He was planned to taking a few years off, but when he heard that Sears had lain off some of his long time employees, he decided to start a new store so that he could provide those with jobs. On September 1, 1934, he opened a new store located in the Walker Building at 621-623 1st Avenue North. However, when he had not only sold the Black Building to sears, he also sold the rights to the name Black.
Since he could not use his own name, Mr. Black had a contest to name the new store, calling it the Store Without a Name in the meantime. Mrs. Al (Jean) Fagerwick, Fargo, put the first letters of Store Without a Name together and suggested SWAN as the new name, and it won the contest. Some people began referring to the store as the SWAN. But apparently more called it the Store Without a Name, so George gave up the SWAN idea. He'd offered $100 to the winner of the contest. But he wrote in his biography that he sent $5 to each of the 40 people who suggested he stick with Store Without a Name.
According to John Caron, who compiled information for this site, a visitor recalled “several cases of Store Without a Name advertising which included a dominant picture of a swan. Most memorable of these were billboard ads starting many miles out of town which also indicated the number of miles to Fargo from these coincidental spots on the highway through the prairie. A swan motif would, of course, have no meaning if the story were not true.”
In 1961, the department store changed its name to Black's and moved to 110 Broadway. It was placed under the management of George Black’s nephew, William Bunce, with the focus on women’s apparel. The store opened branch operation at West Acres Shopping Center, which was started by. George Black's son-in-law and business partner, William Schlossman.
The store is no longer listed in the Fargo city directories after 1981, and the downtown store was replace by City Center, Inc. which opened at 110 Broadway in October of 1981.
Fargo and Moorhead City Directory. Fargo, 1881-1927.
Polk’s Fargo and Moorhead City Directories. St. Paul, MN: R.L. Polk and Company
“Black’s newest Broadway store, open for business” Fargo Forum & Daily Republican (23 Sept. 1961)
“Business was good at Herbst., Moody’s and deLendrecie’s …so George M. Black opened dry goods store here in 1912” Howard Binford’s Guide. Moorhead: Howard Binford, Vol. 8, No. 10 (April 1976), p. 18.
“City Center, Inc., New women’s fashion store, locates in Downtown Fargo” Howard Binford’s Guide. Moorhead: Howard Binford, Vol. 14, No. 5 (November 1981), p. 61.