Breaking News
More () »

Maconites remember Neel's Department Store, Blair's Discount Furniture ahead of demolition plans

Developer Robbo Hatcher wanted to save the buildings for his $25M lofts, but held a goodbye event when he realized they couldn't save them.

MACON, Ga. — Neel's Department Store and Blair's Discount furniture will soon be demolished to make way for a $25 million lofts project.

Tuesday evening, folks in downtown Macon had the chance to say goodbye to the iconic stores. Developer Robbo Hatcher wanted to save the old buildings. When he realized they were beyond saving, he decided to hold a goodbye event.

Inside Neel's, walls are knocked out, wires hang and some ceiling tiles hang on by a thread. Being back in the space was enough reason for many to crack a smile and share some fond memories.

"Mr. Neel called me and said, 'Can you come in Wednesday?' 'Yes,'" Barbara Rodgers recalled about her interview process to be a seamstress in the late 1980s.

She did come to Neel's that Wednesday. She left with a job.

"We talked, and he said, 'Can you come to work Monday?' I said, 'I'll be here,'" she said.

Little did Rodgers know, she'd work in the store as a seamstress until the store closed in 1994. It was a good place to work she said.

"You didn't have the pressure. You had to do your work. But there was no pressure," Rodgers said.

Good people, good service and good benefits.

"And they gave us a discount!" she laughed.

It must have been pretty good too. When we asked how much, here's what she had to say: "Well, I ain't telling you that! There are just some things you don't tell."

In all her years working at Neel's, Rodgers says the service stuck out the most.

"When you walk in, someone is going to always get you, and if they can't help you, they'd send you to somewhere else. To another person that can. You don't have that much today," Rodgers said.

Hannah Allen says it was unparalleled.

"If you needed something special, and they knew it, they would hold it for you, for you to come and get it. It was all about service," Allen said.

For her growing up, it was all about the elevator.

"Operator would take you up and open -- slide the door open," she recalled.

No elevator memories for Rodgers, but the place left its mark. She has some advice for today's retail workers.

"Know how to treat your customers. They're always special. And we always said, 'The customer is always right,'" she said.

Rodgers says after the store closed. the store owner made sure to connect her with some of their clients. She ran her own alterations business in her home before retiring a few years ago.

Hatcher told us they plan to start demolition as soon as they have permits. They hope to open the lofts in 2025.

Before You Leave, Check This Out