The History of Miss Jackson's
In the summer of 1907, Mrs. J. H. Evans (a pioneer Tulsan) went shopping in the McCreery and Company Department store in Pittsburgh, PA. As usual, the sky was dark with coal smoke and the sun was hidden from view. Mrs. Evans remarked to the personal shopper who was helping her, “You should come to Oklahoma.” The sales woman responded with a question, “Does the sun shine there?” “Not only does the sun shine all day long” Mrs. Evans answered. “but you should see our glorious sunsets!” The personal shopper was Nelle Shields Jackson, and that chance conversation was the beginning of a Tulsa legend.
Nelle Shields Jackson, born July 13, 1872 in western Pennsylvania, attended college in the east then returned home to live with her widowed mother, the late Mary Jane (Middleton) Jackson, in Beaver Falls, PA. The stores in Beaver Falls were far below caliber of those in Pittsburgh, so Nelle commuted to the larger city by train – a long and tiring ride for a young woman, especially at the turn of the century.
Nelle’s skill as a milliner and her insistence on serving patrons personally helped Miss Jackson build a loyal clientele at McCreery’s. Her sister Edna recalled, years later, that Nelle “never stood behind the counter, but stood with her patrons and told them what they should have and what would be the most becoming on them”. Nelle dreamed of opening her own shop – a fine shop that she could operate according to her own standards of beauty and excellence. So in 1907, at the age of 35, Pittsburgh had become so polluted and crowded Nelle Shields Jackson, acting against the advice of all her friends, came west to Tulsa accompanied by her mother. She began work as corsetiere at the Beane-Vandever Dry Goods Company, and late in 1909 announced her intention to start a shop of her own.
In 1910, Nelle opened the first Miss Jackson’s Shop (a lingerie shop) on the balcony of a jewelry store, and within a few months had done well enough to move into larger quarters – a building in the 300 block of South Main that she shared with Mrs. Dehaven’s Flower Shop. The added space allowed Miss Jackson’s to become a full-fledged millinery shop with hats, gloves, and some jewelry, as well as lingerie. During the early years, Nelle Jackson sold only the highest quality merchandise and quickly established a clientele that included all the wealthiest Tulsa families.
In 1916, Nelle Jackson moved her shop into the new Sinclair building at Fifth and Main. It was during the years in the Sinclair building that Miss Jackson was first able to fully implement the two ideals in which she believed most strongly: Miss Jackson’s shop exists for the sole purpose of making life more elegant, more enjoyable, and more relaxed for its patrons; and, in the world of real values, culture counts for more than a coin.
In 1927, long time friend and patron of Miss Jackson, Waite Phillips, decided to build a “Skyscraper” in downtown Tulsa. His Philtower building was 27 stories high and housed only the finest businesses and shops. Miss Jackson’s shop was the first tenant he sought – and the first one he signed up. The grand opening of Miss Jackson’s new Philtower shop was on the evening of April 2nd, 1928. The new shop was even more successful than its predecessor, further enhancing Miss Jackson’s already world-wide reputation.
Thirteen was always Nelle’s “lucky number”… possibly because she was born on the thirteenth of July. On April 13, 1941, to celebrate the thirteenth anniversary of the opening of her shop in the Philtower, Miss Jackson’s friends and patrons filled the shop with flowers and her employees gave her a surprise party. It was on that anniversary that one of the few existing photographs of Nelle Shields Jackson was made. In the photo, she is standing in front of a glass case in the silver department (silver being one of the things she loves most), holding a large calendar open to the “13” of April.
Until the Mid-fifties, when ill-health finally forced her to retire completely, Nelle Jackson remained active in the shop coming in everyday still wearing a stylish hat, and helping her loyal patrons. Miss Jackson’s younger sister, Mrs. Edna Wilson, had come to Tulsa to live with her, and Mrs. Wilson’s son, Leigh B. Wilson, took over the management of the shop on a part-time basis. Wilson maintained his own business interests in Detroit and hired Mae Golderman, a long-time Miss Jackson’s employee, to manage the shop on a day to day basis. In March of 1962, Miss Jackson’s shop was sold to Mr. A. Ray Smith, a prominent Tulsa businessman.
On October 5th, 1964 The Vandever Company purchased Miss Jackson’s and then described plans to move the shop to Utica Square the following spring. A champagne gala to rival Miss Jackson’s 1928 celebration was held on august 29, 1965 to mark the grand opening of the shop in Utica square. On June 30, 1966, Nelle Shields Jackson passed away at ninety-three years of age.
One Year Later on October 27, 1967, William F. Fisher, Sr., and others purchased Miss Jackson’s from the Vandevers with William F. Fisher, Jr. serving as President. In 1975, FISHERCORP, INC. became the sole owner of Miss Jackson’s with William F. Fisher, Sr. as Chairman and William F. Fisher, Jr. as President and CEO. William F. Fisher, Jr. remained steadfastly dedicated to preserving the most important retail philosophy of the shop’s successful founder: “The shop exists to serve its patrons, and they should be made to feel as a comfortable in the shop as in their own homes.”
On September 27, 2001, after serving as President and CEO since 1967, William F. Fisher, Jr. sold the now nationally renowned Miss Jackson’s to Utica Square Shopping Center, Inc., and was retained as Chairman. Ms. Deborah Palazzo was hired as Miss Jackson’s new President. In 2008, Mrs. Deborah Palazzo stepped down from her role as President after being diagnosed with skin cancer. Mrs. Judy White, a long time employee of Miss Jackson’s is the current President and continues the tradition of holding true to the ideals Nelle built this company upon a century ago.
The History of Miss Jackson's