Sears Crosstown chutes

Sears Crosstown Part 4: Down the Chute

In Midtown by Caitlin L. HortonLeave a Comment

In case you missed it, here’s where we’ve already been on out Sears Crosstown tour:

Sears Crosstown Part 1: An Intro to the Tour

Sears Crosstown Part 2: We’ve Entered the Building

Sears Crosstown Part 3: The Machinery Room


Today we’ll explore one of my favorite features of the Crosstown building – those giant chutes!

The top floors of the building were for retail and catalog distribution. Floors three through ten were packed with tall, massive shelves of merchandise. Employees ran around all day grabbing products and sending them down the chute, either to be given to customers in the store or put in the mail. Lisa explained exactly how it all went down, because we had a lot of questions!

Sears Crosstown Chute

It’s crazy to think now, but the entire process was manual – no computers! First, a manager received an order via pneumatic tube. It’s the same sort of technology you use at the bank’s drive up window. He would call his employees and tell them everything that needed to be pulled for the order. Everybody jumped into action, grabbing products from the shelves and sending them down a shoot. The products were packed up, tied up, and shipped out from the first and second floors. The employees knew which products had to go down which shoots to get on the right trains to ship out… pretty cool!

Sears Crosstown chutes

As part of the building’s renovations these chutes are going to be gutted. But there’s good news! They’ll be turned into light wells as part of the renovation. I’m looking forward to seeing them in their new form!

We’re working our way up the Crosstown building… any guesses as to where the next post will bring us?

Caitlin L. Horton

Author of Memphis Type History & Brand Strategist at Caitlin L. Horton Brand Strategy
Partner-in-crime for entrepreneurs and community builders getting their message out with thoughtful design and marketing.

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