Then & Now – Sears

In 1964, after nearly 35 years in downtown Riverside, Sears Roebuck & Co. opened a new, larger “suburban-style” store about 5 miles southwest of its former Main Street store.

Riverside Sears: 1964 - 2008
Riverside Sears: 1964 – 2008

Located on 19 acres at the northeast corner of Arlington and Streeter avenues, the 93,000 sq. ft., $3 million store was Sears’ largest store in Inland Southern California when it opened. As a “Class A” store, it offered the retailers’ complete line of merchandise — both hard and soft goods. It also included a full-service automotive fueling and repair station. And, according to a Press-Enterprise article from November 1963, there was a 76-seat restaurant. (Can anyone confirm whether the restaurant opened, and if so, how long it remained?)

1965 - Poly H.S. yearbook
1965 – Poly H.S. yearbook

Though the iconic green Sears script logo, the gas station, the restaurant and the aroma of freshly-popped popcorn so many of us remember as kids are all long gone, the store itself remains much as it did in 1964, with a ground-level sales floor and full basement.

Outside, the exterior sports the classic Mid-Century motif with sleek metal facade, flagstone veneer and palm trees sprouting up through the overhangs. This design, seen in several west coast* stores built during the 1960s, was a product of Los Angeles-based Charles Luckman** & Associates (who also designed the former Broadway*** store at Riverside’s Galleria at Tyler). For those interested, Lindgren & Swinnerton was the general contractor for the new Sears store.

2008 - Mid-century designs
2008 – Mid-century designs

Riverside’s first Sears store opened in February 1929 at the northwest corner of Fifth and Main streets (near today’s Marriott Hotel).

Nine years later, on June 2, 1938, a newly-relocated Sears opened at 3700 Main Street (where Mission Galleria antiques is today). The new building, which cost nearly $200,000 and included two floors plus a mezzanine and basement, replaced the 1890 Rubidoux Building. It also provided “drive-up” auto service at the rear, which would eventually relocate into an adjacent building**** behind the store (where Mario’s Place restaurant is today). Enclosed skybridges provided access between the two buildings.

2009 - Aerial view (Bing Maps)
2009 – Aerial view (Bing Maps)

It’s interesting to note the Arlington Avenue Sears is a bit of an anomaly in Southern California in that it is not located at or near a mall, but in fact is a full-size, stand-alone store. Most SoCal Sears stores built after 1960 are mall anchors, including nearby stores in San Bernardino, Montclair and Moreno Valley. But with the recent announcement of Gottschalks’ bankruptcy and liquidation — which will create a vacancy at the Riverside Plaza — will Riverside’s Sears make the move to a mall?


Photos courtesy of: *Malls of America, **Loyola Marymount UniversityCharles Luckman Collection, ***Jim Van Schaak, ****RPD Remembers

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, “Colony for California” (Tom Patterson)

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  1. Thanks for the comment! Unfortunately, we do not have any old photos of the Sears auto care center. If anyone else has any, please share them!

  2. Yes there was a restaurant just inside and to the right as you entered the west door. Not sure how long it lasted. But it seems to me that it was still operating in the ’70’s.

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