Daytons vs. Donaldsons: Southdale Success

How Dayton’s and Donaldson’s joined forces in 1956.
Minneapolis shopping center rivals Dayton's and Donaldson's (pictured here) teamed up to anchor the new Southdale Mall in 1956.

For most of the 20th century, Dayton’s and Donaldson’s battled each other for Minneapolis shoppers as they faced each other across Nicollet Avenue at Seventh Street. So when the Dayton brothers invited their longtime rival to join them in anchoring the new Southdale mall in 1956, some questioned their business sense.

Turns out that having two strong retailers anchoring each end of the mall helped guarantee Southdale’s success. Shoppers walking from one department store to another made stops along the way at the smaller businesses. They lingered to enjoy the birds and flowers in the Garden Court and stayed for lunch. And then they shopped some more.

Having two anchors distinguished Southdale as a regional shopping center, compared with older local malls with small shops clustered around one large merchant. In 1972, Southdale added a third anchor, JCPenney, in a new wing of the mall.

While Dayton’s (renamed Marshall Fields in 1991 and then Macy’s in 1995) remains today, the south end of the mall has not fared as well. Donaldson’s went through different ownership and names—Carson Pirie Scott and then Mervyn’s—and finally went out of business in 2004, leaving Southdale with an empty space for nearly seven years.

Herberger’s department store remodeled the space and opened to great fanfare in November 2011. “This mall is going to be restored to its former glory,” Edina Mayor Jim Hovland predicted at opening ceremonies, to the applause of shoppers. “Between Herberger’s showing their faith and leading the way and Simon Development agreeing to put an extensive amount of remodeling into this mall, we will once again be the best mall in America.”


“History Happened Here,” an upcoming Edina Historical Society exhibit, will showcase historic photos in the places they were taken. The exhibit opens in June 2012 in honor of Edina’s quasquicentennial (125th anniversary).