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The History of Von Maur Over 150 Years

Through two world wars, the Great Depression, recessions, massive retail consolidation and the rise of the internet and alternative shopping, the 150-year-old Von Maur has managed to survive and slowly grow through its 150-year history. The key to its longevity: operating pleasant, stress-free, easy-to-shop department stores; selectively opening and closing stores; maintaining a relatively large payroll to provide service on the selling floors; never assuming too much debt; taking a long-term view to growth; staying independent; and, perhaps most important of all, having a loyal customer base.

1872: J.H.C. Petersen & Sons Co. is founded on West Second Street in Davenport, Iowa.

1887: Charles Jacob “C.J.” von Maur, R.H. Harned and E.C. Pursel establish the Boston Store on the corner of Second Brady Streets in Davenport.

1889: Pursel dies and Boston Store becomes Harned & Von Maur.

1916: Harned and von Maur purchase J.H.C. Petersen & Sons and continue to operate the stores separately.

1928: Harned, Von Maur and J.H.C. Petersen & Sons merge and becomes Petersen Harned Von Maur, which customers dub “Petersen’s.”

1929: Petersen’s purchases the Fisk and Loosley department store in Moline, Ill., and closes it three years later.

Von Maur store  1887 downtown Davenport Iowa
The first store opened by Charles Jacob “C.J.” von Maur and his business partners in 1887 in downtown Davenport, Iowa.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Von Maur

1961: Petersen’s returns to Moline through the purchase of a furniture store in the Orchard Center Shopping Plaza; the store closes in 1982.

1968: Petersen’s purchases the Van Allen department store in Clinton, Iowa.

1970: Petersen’s purchases the M.L. Parker department store at Second and Brady Streets in Davenport; the store closes in 1971.

1972: Petersen’s celebrates a century in business and opens its first mall store in Duck Creek Plaza in Bettendorf, Iowa; the store closes in 1999.

1974: Petersen’s opens in Moline, Ill.

1975: Petersen’s expands to West Des Moines.

1979: Petersen’s opens in Muscatine, Iowa; the store closes in 1994.

1980: Petersen’s opens in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; the store closes in 2007.

1981: Petersen’s opens three stores in Iowa.

1986: Petersen’s downtown Davenport store closes.

1987: Petersen’s opens in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

1989: Petersen’s buys two stores in Illinois, in Decatur’s Hickory Point Mall and in the College Hills Mall in Normal. Jack Arth becomes the first person outside the von Maur family to be named president.

1989: The company shortens its name from Petersen Harned Von Maur to Von Maur.

1990: Company headquarters relocates from the former Petersen’s downtown Davenport store to the north side of Davenport on Interstate 80.

1994: Von Maur enters the Chicago market with a flagship in Yorktown Center in Lombard, Ill.

1995-2005: The Von Maur expansion continues into Omaha and Lincoln, Neb.; Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Ind.; Eden Prairie, Minn.; St. Charles and Glenview, Ill.; Wichita, Kan.; Ann Arbor and Livonia, Mich.; Louisville, Ky.; and Columbus, Ohio.

2007: Von Maur launches online shopping.

2008-2010: Von Maur department stores open in Dayton, Ohio; Overland Park, Kan.; and Lake St. Louis, Mo.

2010: Von Maur’s first Dry Goods store opens in Aurora, Ill.; an e-commerce fulfillment center opens near company headquarters.

2011-2012: Von Maur enters the Atlanta market, opening first in Alpharetta, Ga., and in Dunwoody, Ga.

Von Maur Perimeter Mall Atlanta
Von Maur at Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody, Ga.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Von Maur

2013: Von Maur enters the Northeast, opening a store just outside Rochester, N.Y. That same week, a store opens in the suburbs of Birmingham, Ala. The Iowa City store relocates to Coralville.

2014: Von Maur’s first store in the Southwest opens in Oklahoma City.

2016: Von Maur opens its third Atlanta store, in the Mall of Georgia, one the nation’s largest malls.

2017: Von Maur enters the Milwaukee market with a unit in Brookfield, Wis.

2022: Von Maur opens in Detroit; Madison, Wis.; and Des Moines, Iowa.

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