In 1902 Samuel Proctor McRae founded a fifteen-hundred-square-foot store that sold clothes and home goods on Capital Street in downtown Jackson. The establishment of McRae’s coincided with the development of America’s modern consumer culture, which was best expressed at the time by the tremendous popularity of mail order catalogs such as those from Sears and J. C. Penney.
Primarily rural Mississippi had few department stores in the early twentieth century, and McRae’s quickly became a popular destination for residents with the financial means to travel and purchase manufactured consumer goods. Building on this success in 1916, McRae moved his store to a much larger building near the original location.
After World War II a new generation of McRae family members significantly enlarged the downtown store and opened a second location northeast of the city to serve residents of Jackson’s growing suburbs. McRae’s ultimately became the state’s largest department store chain and an icon of Mississippi business development.
McRae’s merged with rival Kennington’s department stores in 1970 and opened a Vicksburg location—the chain’s first outside of Jackson—the following year. Over the next several years McRae’s became common midpriced anchor stores in shopping malls throughout the Southeast. In 1986, the chain purchased the Alabama-based Pizitz department store chain, and by 1990 McRae’s operated twenty-seven stores throughout the Southeast. In 1994 the company merged with the Proffitt’s group, which assumed control of the stores but retained the independence of the McRae’s brand. Five years later this corporation merged with Saks Holdings, operator of Saks Fifth Avenue. In 2005 Saks sold the chain to Belk, which retired the McRae’s brand name the following year and converted most of the McRae’s stores into Belk stores.
- Jackson Clarion-Ledger (14 April 2002, 4 May 2005).