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Buffum’s was a chain of upscale department stores, headquartered in Long Beach, California. The Buffums chain began in 1904, when two brothers from Illinois, Charles A. and Edwin E. Buffum, bought the Schilling Bros. Mercantile Store in Long Beach. The chain started as an old-fashioned general store and it grew slowly over the years to a total of 16 stores in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties at the time of its closure in 1990.
Over the years, the stores gained a reputation as the “Grand Dame” of department stores in the area. The stores’ interiors were known for large chandeliers and other upscale touches. The chain marketed itself as “Buffums Specialty Store,” in an attempt to differentiate itself from other local chains, including The Broadway and Bullock's, and the national stores such as May Co. and Robinson’s. Its most famous advertising line, “I’ve been to Buffum’s,” was used in newspaper and television advertisements during the 1970s and 80s. It was also known for its “Bag-A-Bargain” promotion that placed actual shopping bags (printed with a discount offer) in local newspapers. Shoppers were to take the bag to a Buffum’s location and were given a discount on merchandise that would “fit” into the bag. Many of the stores had restaurants with famous recipes and bars.
Like other local department stores of the era, Buffum’s was challenged by old-fashioned business models, changing consumer tastes, and the arrival of Seattle-based retailer Nordstrom. The chain was bought in the 1970s by the Australian-based Adelaide Steamship Company, which looked to sell the struggling chain in the 1980s. AdSteam never found a buyer, however. In a last-ditch effort to modernize, Buffum’s installed new point-of-sale registers in all stores in 1990, only to enter liquidation following the 1990 holiday shopping season.
The Los Angeles Times’ article says at the time of closing, the chain had 16 locations.
The La Canada-Flintridge store was originally an IVERS, a popular local department store, located in the Plaza de La Canada. Buffum’s purchased the store, celebrated the merger, and changed the store identity to Buffum’s brand on October 1, 1986.
Buffum’s also had a branch on Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach, California. The location was originally built for and housed a branch of the San Diego-based department store Walker Scott. The store served the northern San Diego County area with particular attention to the very exclusive suburb of Rancho Santa Fe. It was modeled on the La Canada-Flintridge store plan. Since its closure, the Solana Beach location has housed a Ross Dress for Less closeout store. Buffum's also had a location at Grossmont Center Mall in La Mesa, California. The location has since been an Oshman's Super Sports, and currently The Sports Authority.