387 Part 2: Fred P. Gattas and the Catalog

In Downtown by Rebecca Phillips0 Comments

FCcatalog

The catalog you see above resides at 387 South Main, currently the home of Stock & Belle, previously the warehouse of Fred P. Gattas Co., Inc. You’ll find it covers “a wide field of top-grade merchandise.”

Among the items are fans and coolers, picnic and barbeque equipment, flags, lawn games and furniture, gardening, leather goods, jewel boxes, clocks, men’s accessories, jewelry, watches, sterling and giftware, radios and phonographs, cameras, type-writers, binoculars, housewares, electric appliances, toys, baby goods, fishing, golf and sporting goods.

Catalog1

Yes, that all came from a single Commercial Appeal article in 1960, the same year lasers were invented and possibly one of the only things you couldn’t order from this catalog. Regardless, for Fred P. Gattas this wasn’t some average Victoria’s Secret “free panty with a purchase” mailer, this was a much bigger deal.

Commercial Appeal 9/20/59

Commercial Appeal 9/20/59. Courtesy of Memphis and Shelby County Room, Memphis Public Library & Information Center.

In 1945, Mr. Gattas purchased the candy manufacturer and jobber known as W.B. Dunagan & Co. which started in 1922. The firm became the largest of its kind in the South. And in September of 1959, Gattas held an Open House event at their “new and bigger location” 387 South Main at Huling.

Catalog2

For three days, people were invited to view the 15,000 sq. foot showroom and try their luck at winning something from the $2,500 stash of door prizes ( I can only hope the Vita-Master Custom Belt Massager was one of them). More importantly, each registrant would receive the company’s new 350-page catalog for 1960.

Catalog3

Yes, back to the catalog whose fame can be attributed to Montgomery Ward. Their catalog was considered the first of the “modern” mail order catalog system and was copied by Richard Warren Sears in 1894. The Sears catalog became so popular, they decided to produce two catalogs (Spring and Fall) often featuring coming models and celebrities. And then came competitor, Bloomingdale’s who launched a catalog in 1885 and eventually expanded their operations to include Bloomingdale’s By Mail. This meant they could market their products to customers across the country.

Bloomingdales

Well, as you can see, the catalog was a pretty big deal for retailers and consumers. So it makes absolute sense why Mr. Gattas would want to create this book for his business. In 1979, Fred Gattas spoke as an Entrepreneurial Fellow for Memphis State University’s College of Business Administration. He was quoted as saying, “My lifelong ambition was to publish my own catalog… After mailing it, my business boomed and my troubles began,” Mr. Gattas joked.

You may joke Mr. Gattas, but Dr. Frankenstein’s ambition was to create another human and it created all kinds of trouble. We understand it happens. Fortunately, unlike Frankenstein’s monster, you can fearlessly and presently view one of Gattas’ old catalogs at Stock & Belle, formally known as the warehouse and showroom of Fred P. Gattas Co., Inc.

Catalog2

Stay tuned for part 3 of 387… a strange kidnapping of one of the Gattas family members.

Rebecca Phillips

I am a female born in the United States though I generally fear the border patrol. Buy me an ice cream cone and maybe I'll paint you something.

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