Join department store historian Bruce Allen Kopytek in this history of Jacobson’s, a beloved Michigan institution for over 100 years. Winner of the Michigan Notable Book Award for 2012.


Reenter these marvelous stores and meet the personalities who transformed Jacobson’s from its humble Reed City origins to a staple of sophistication throughout Michigan and into the rest of the country. The brainchild of a retail genius, this deluxe specialty store gave customers a peerless social, shopping and dining destination. Experience anew the refined beauty of its Williamsburg-style Grosse Pointe store, the chic designer world of its Birmingham ensemble, or the charm and allure of its original Florida branch in Sarasota, revealing the secrets which made Jake’s the dazzling store it was, and why it remains so profoundly missed by anyone who entered through its solid wooden doors.

Chapter 1

Jacobson’s Ladder


Jacobson’s origins in Reed City, arguably more humble than those of the eponymous Greenville establishment, are actually traceable with some acuity. The “real” Jacobson store was located at 102 East Upton Avenue, in the heart of this small lumber community in Michigan’s northern forests. Its proprietor, Abraham Jacobson, was a Jewish immigrant to the United States from Poland—since the partitions of the eighteenth century—a part of the colossal Russian Empire. It is not known how or why he chose Reed City to begin his retailing venture, but records show that he married the former Esther Meister of Bay City, Michigan, and that the couple had three sons: Moses, William and Benjamin.

Abraham Jacobson threw open the doors to his “Fancy Goods” establishment in 1868 (although some sources claim 1869 or even 1870), and from the beginning, one of his strategies was to bring high-quality merchandise to the residents of Michigan’s sparsely populated northland. Jacobson felt that women, in particular, would readily buy the same merchandise on display in New York’s Fifth Avenue stores if they only hadthe chance. Reed City itself had only been settled in 1840, and received its charter as a village in 1872, but its population had grown to almost twenty-seven hundred by the last decade of the nineteenth century.

At the very height of this growth, in 1892, Abraham passed away and left the business, still occupying its original 50- by 100-foot premises, to his sons. Moses Jacobson, who regularly traveled across Michigan with ten trunks full of merchandise for customers who were unable to visit the store, clearly witnessed the potential of the business while on these trips and longed to set up shop in a larger, more dynamic market than Reed City. Specifically,
the prospects seemed bright, indeed, farther south, along the main line of what would become the Michigan Central Railroad connecting Detroit with Chicago via many of the Wolverine State’s most prosperous cities: Ann Arbor, Jackson, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.

Accordingly, in 1904, Moses moved to Jackson, Michigan, taking his brother William along with him. The youngest of Abraham’s sons, Benjamin, remained in Reed City and ran the store there as a separate enterprise until the 1930s.

In Jackson, an announcement appeared in the Jackson Citizen-Press on January 14, 1904, stating that “Mr. M. I. Jacobson has purchased the stock of the Faulkner-Porter Co., 105 E. Main Street, and will continue the business…Mr. Jacobson has had considerable experience in this business [and] designs opening branch stores in adjoining cities, which will give him special facilities in purchasing.”

Overview & Preview

21 Chapters

208 Pages – 6″ X 9″ X 3/8″







Chapter 1             Jacobson’s Ladder

Chapter 2             Sovereign Nathan

Chapter 3             You Don’t Know Jackson

Chapter 4             A [Squared]

Chapter 5             Cereal Number

Chapter 6             A Capital Idea

Chapter 7             Isn’t That just Grand?

Chapter 8             Saginaw, Superstore

Chapter 9             In the Hudson Dining Rooms

Chapter 10          Get to the Pointe

Chapter 11           Flagship Enterprise

Chapter 12           I’ve Got a Store in Kalamazoo

Chapter 13           Triple Crown

Chapter 14           Snowbird Store

Chapter 15           Never on Sunday

Chapter 16           Rochester, Bring the Car!

Chapter 17           Omnibus Jacobson’s

Chapter 18          We All Fall Down

Chapter 19           Let’s Do Lunch

Chapter 20           Finding Jacobson’s

Chapter 21            The Gifts of the Spirit


About the Author

Sample Pages

"There’s a great future in retailing for those of us who give our business a certain personality."

Nathan Rosenfeld

"We just opened a store in a mall, and they had to meet our standards or we would not have gone in there. Among other things, the stores in there will not be allowed to use gimmicks, store prizes, doorbusters or premiums of any kind. We just don’t believe in that."

Nathan Rosenfeld

"I think women look their best when they are interested in being proud of the way they look. There are some people, especially young people, who look so sloppy that they can’t possibly look good because they have no pride in the way they look."

Nathan Rosenfeld




Click on the picture to shop.

Hudson's: detroit's world-famous department store




Signed by the Author