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A trip back to Jacobson’s department store kicks off lecture series

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 12, 2019


BIRMINGHAM — Sure, the scene in downtown Detroit was hopping a generation ago as shoppers dashed between famous department stores like J.L. Hudson’s, Ernst Kern Co. and R.H. Fyfe & Co.

But Birmingham was certainly not to be outdone, and the Jacobson’s department store drew customers to the city’s downtown in the mid-to-late 1900s, setting the stage for what would become one of the state’s busiest shopping districts.

The Birmingham Museum and the Baldwin Public Library will look back at the store’s time in the city during the first installment of a three-part joint lecture series called “Birmingham: What was and What Is” beginning this week.

Bruce Kopytek is a department store historian — yep, that’s a thing — and he will present “Jacobson’s: THE Birmingham department store” on Thursday, March 14. The  lecture will feature items taken from Kopytek’s 2012 book, “Jacobson’s, I Miss It So!: The Story of a Michigan Fashion Institution.”

Guests can remember a time in the not-so-distant past when “Jake’s” was the place to be.

“People love to remember Jake’s. I look forward to sharing the history of the store and why it was so important to Birmingham,” Kopytek said in a press release.

He donated a number of Jacobson’s artifacts from his own collection to the museum, including catalogs, ads, photos and other memorabilia.

“People in the community look forward to learning more about some of their favorite Birmingham haunts and sharing stories about them, whether it’s Jacobson’s, the neighborhoods or downtown,” said Birmingham Museum Director Leslie Pielack. “We’re getting a lot of interest in all three of our spring lecture topics.”

The series will continue Thursday, April 11, with a presentation from local historians Pam DeWeese and George Getschman on Birmingham’s individual neighborhoods — from Birmingham Villas to Eco City to Quarton Estates and beyond — during “Birmingham Neighborhoods and Their Stories.”

The final presentation will be held Thursday, May 9, with Pielack and Birmingham Shopping District Executive Director Ingrid Tighe discussing the unique character of the city’s downtown, its history and its future.

All three lectures will begin at 7 p.m. on their respective dates at the Baldwin Public Library.

For more information, call the Birmingham Museum at (248) 530-1928 or visit

The Baldwin Public Library is located at 300 W. Merrill St. in downtown Birmingham.