Sunday, December 18, 2011


For decades, the holiday season in East Lansing always brought thousands of shoppers into town to buy items at Jacobson's, the elegant department store and centerpiece of the city's commercial district.

A new book by architect and historian Bruce Allen Kopytek revisits those days, carefully examining the early beginnings, growth and sad demise of a memorable retail organization.

"Jacobson's: I Miss It So! - The Story of a Michigan Fashion Institution" (History Press, $19.99) is a well organized, detailed account of a major retailer who began business as a small store selling "Fancy Goods" in Reed City in 1868.

Moses Jacobson bought a similar business in Jackson, and renamed it; the store thrived and later expanded to Ann Arbor and Battle Creek.

Nathan Rosenfeld, a Cincinnati department store executive, bought the stores in 1939; joined by his brother Zola, they continued to remodel and expand.

The East Lansing store opened in 1941 at 115 E. Grand River Ave. and grew regularly through the 1950s, eventually taking space around the corner on Abbot Road.

Rosenfeld purchased properties in East Lansing, constructing and opening a deluxe, fashionable 117,000-square-foot building there in 1970.

"Let's Do Lunch" is a chapter that includes information about the fine East Room Restaurant on the top floor of the East Lansing location; recipes and menus are also provided.

Although the East Lansing store is prominently depicted on the cover, most of the book is devoted to the growth of the company into a major business enterprise spanning 30 stores in five states.

Many chapters examine the wide variety of other expansions to the Detroit suburban area and Florida, but there's always a sense of respect for the exceptional business sense, foresight and humor of Nathan Rosenfeld.

This entertaining book includes numerous detailed photographs and drawings of storefronts; there are interior shots of many wonderful retail display areas.

Kopytek has done diligent research, using material from Rosenfeld's son Mark, who was the president of the company until 1997. Other information and photos also came from the Ella Sharp Museum of Art and History in Jackson, where the corporate records are located.

This is a great book that's likely to bring back many fond memories of shopping at Jacobson's, where exceptional customer service reigned and high quality merchandise prevailed.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, December 18, 2011. 


  1. I miss Jacobsen's too. I remember my mother taking me there at the beginning of every school year to buy clothes. Later, when they had turned the old store into the furniture store, my friends and I used to stop there after school to ride in the furnished elevator.

  2. This book brings back great memories and sadness that it is gone.