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June 11, 2004
Nick Coleman Eulogizes ... Corporate Logos

I normally don't read Nick Coleman, either for elucidation or for unintentional humor, until I see him get fisked by the guys at Fraters Libertas, especially St. Paul's terrific pieces. However, for some reason, I decided to take a look at Coleman's piece today, entitled "It'll always be Dayton's to us." Unbelievably, the man of the little people spent his column space shedding tears for the demise of a corporate image!

We're still not over Dayton's.

Dayton's dropped its century-old name in 2001, switching to Marshall Field's after parent company Target Corp. bought Chicago-based Field's. The new owner, May Department Stores Co., says it'll keep the Marshall Field's name, but who cares?

It's still Dayton's to us.

See, this is the problem with people who want to imbue business concerns with all sorts of emotional baggage. They never understand that business has little to do with emotions; they either succeed or fail to meet customer expectations. In fact, in any other context, Coleman likely would rail against the meat-grinder of corporate greed and unfettered capitalism that Dayton's would represent to Coleman and his audience. After all, the hundred-year history of Dayton's propelled the family to a fabulous fortune (borne on the backs of their workers, right, Nick?) and floated the scion of the empire to the US Senate.

So why is Dayton's preferable to Marshall Fields, or (heaven forbid) May Co.? Because it started in Minnesota rather than Chicago or St. Louis, which Coleman describes graciously as a place "where bales of muskrat pelts still sit on the docks," while mourning the loss of the Dayton's logo as "classy".

Obviously, that Dayton's classiness never rubbed off on Coleman.

However, Coleman reaches a nadir of rhetoric when he compares the rebranding of a too-damn-expensive-for-the-common-man department store to the loss of picturesque wilderness. No, unfortunately, I'm not joking:

I feel like I did when I used to go fishing with a friend named Howard, who was 50 years older than me. Howard liked to tell me about all the great hunting and fishing that existed when he was young. The giant flocks of geese and ducks, the huge stringers of fish and bulging creels of trout.

He was talking of a vanished world, one I would never know. Someday, we can tell young whippersnappers about Dayton's. It is gone, with the wind [emph mine].

[strike up Tara's Theme] RHETT COLEMAN: Frankly, my dear, I give way too much of a damn.

But why does Coleman have such a jones for the Dayton name and bitterness for the brand that replaced it, Marshall Fields? It turns out that their collection department has improved its efficiency, much to Coleman's chagrin:

I have had a Dayton's/Marshall Field's credit card for 30 years. There were times I owed more than I made in a month. And times I was a month or two late with my payments. But "Dayton's" always waited patiently for me. Until last month.

Last month, I was late with a $32 payment, in part because my wife was unsuccessful in returning a jacket I had purchased. It still had the tags attached, but she would have had to undergo DNA testing to be allowed to return it for me. She gave up.

The next week, every night, I got a phone call during dinnertime demanding my $32.

No wonder Nick has such a problem with Marshall Fields! Bring back Dayton's, where business decisions like carrying debt for customers who paid late fits Coleman's style. It may also explain why management, and the logo, changed.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 11, 2004 10:01 AM

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