Stop 34: The 1926 Coleman & Ferguson Mercantile (fourth building)
The brick building houses and you guessed it, this was the fourth and final building of burgeoning Coleman & Ferguson Department Store at 37837 Meridian Avenue.
Perhaps as significant as the 1909 courthouse, the chronicles of Coleman & Ferguson Mercantile parallel many major events in the development of early Dade City history. Here at the site, one can marvel at the lovely brick building that is occupied by three businesses in contemporary times. At the Lowman Law firm stop where you learned about the third building that housed Coleman and Ferguson which went on to serve as a major funeral home for the east Pasco area, you were introduced to Henry W. Coleman and William N. Ferguson. These two marketing geniuses had the wherewithal to bargain with the county commission to provide a temporary courthouse with the intent that they might influence Dade City being in a good position to win the special election for county seat. Later they worked with the railroad to place the Seaboard Coastline Depot right in front of their very store so that visitors and travelers would disembark the train and mosey over to the Coleman & Ferguson.
At this stop you see the fourth and final building that came from this industrious partnership. This mercantile business stocked every conceivable object for early frontier families and evolved to clothe and feed the many classes that occupied Dade City. The Dade City Banner wrote a description of the opening of the 1926 building:
The new building of pressed brick, facing on three streets, with its broad show windows is an imposing structure and standing, as it does, where it can be seen by Seaboard trains, as well as automobile travelers passing through the city… The building is modern in all respects. Two stories, and a mezzanine floor, it towers high above the street. The smooth concrete floors afford easy footing for customers and a modern sprinkling system which automatically goes into action in an emergency gives almost absolute protection in case of fire. The large show windows are well lighted, permitting of an attractive display at night. These lights are automatically turned on at such hours as desired being connected with a clock which operated in a manner similar to a time lock on a safe.
Entering the store, one finds the dry goods and ladies’ ready to wear on the left, while the men’s furnishings are on the right. Both departments are supplied with trying on and fitting rooms, conveniently located and arranged. Back of the dry goods, department is the hardware section while the grocery department comes nest to the men’s furnishing, aa most proper arrangement as the way to a man’s heart is through his appetite.”
In the back of the grocery department is a large space which will be occupied by a meat market and a mammoth refrigerating plant. The mezzanine floor is occupied by the offices and later other departments. (Several photos show the interior and advertisements and announcements of openings reveal some of the charm as well as entrepreneurship of this location.)
The previous building moved to 7th Street was remodeled and converted into show rooms, chapel, storehouse, and other conveniences for the undertaking department of Coleman & Ferguson. Their signature marketing logo was similar to the slogan “If You Build It, They Will Come,” from Field of Dreams as the sentiment was very similar. Coleman & Ferguson largely through Coleman’s daughter, Essie, coined a phrase, “And they Came Back Again,” with a powerful black cat. With four buildings and a stock of produce, tools, clothing, and equipment that was unmatched, Coleman and Ferguson counted on their faithful clientele to be there as they moved from one to another location and restocked.
Cross the street of Meridian and be sure to peruse the beautiful structures which we will learn about. We are going to travel on the west side of the buildings north.