With the grand opening Wednesday of its new store on south Iowa Street, JC Penney will be bringing all its latest bells and whistles to Lawrence.
But the company is far from new here. It opened its first downtown store in 1924.
"JC Penney is a 73-year tradition in Lawrence," said Steve Wyss, manager of the store that opened last week at 3311 Iowa. "We've grown up with this community."
The retailer's Lawrence history goes all the way back to August 1924, when JC Penney opened its first Lawrence store at 807 Mass. The store was number 537 in the chain at the time, and one of about 20 in Kansas.
That first store, in a building now occupied by The Buckle, employed 20 associates and offered merchandise on three levels.
In those days, shoppers found fabrics, notions, home fashions and children's clothing in the basement, lingerie, shoes and men's fashions on the main floor and ready-to-wear clothing upstairs.
On Jan. 2, 1959, the store moved across the street to 830 Mass., a building now occupied by the Lawrence Antique Mall. The layout of the new store was the same, but women's fashions were added to the main floor. A balcony housed the layaway, catalog and credit offices.
In 1984, the store left downtown and moved to the building at 1801 W. 23rd. It employed about 100 associates.
The new store employs 175.
It has a new look and offers apparel for all ages, fine jewelry, home accessories and bath and body products. It has a full-service styling salon, catalog department and national gift registry.
"The new 34th Street Center store is part of a company-wide modernization initiative to give customers a significantly improved shopping experience," Wyss said.
Special appearances by former Kansas University basketball players Raef LaFrentz and Jacque Vaughn, Seventeen magazine cover model Lydia Hull, reigning Miss Kansas/USA Amanda Carraway and others will highlight the store's grand opening.