Walker Scott Department Store.
The Walker Scott Department Store was founded in downtown San Diego in 1935. The store's original owner, Ralf M. Walker, who already owned and ran Walker's Department Store in Los Angeles, passed away in New York six weeks before the San Diego store's opening. A former stock boy at the Los Angeles store, George A Scott, whom Mr. Walker had sent to the New York University of Retailing (1930) opened the San Diego store with Mr. Walker's widow, Eliza Fitzgerald Walker. Eliza Walker became president of the company while Scott held the title of vice president. Walker’s Downtown store opened on October 3, 1935, situated on 5th and Broadway. It eventually expanded to eight stories, and held San Diego County’s first escalators.
Upon the death of Eliza Walker in 1951, Scott became the president, director, chief executive and principle stockholder of the company. Three years later, the board of directors changed the company’s name to Walker Scott Department Store. In 1955, the company established a Service Center for additional accounting and shipping operations. In 1959, they purchased Stevenson’s in La Jolla, a store that continued operation under its original name. In 1960, the company opened what was the largest Walker Scott Department Store in the College Grove Shopping Center – San Diego's first suburban shopping center. It was situated on the north side of State Highway 94 at College Avenue with direct access from all major traffic roads in the area. The shopping center was surrounded by a parking area capable of accommodating 5,000 cars at one time.
Walker Scott’s Department Stores opened in the Linda Vista Shopping Center in 1963, the Escondido Village Shopping Center in 1964 and Oceanside in 1976. In 1970, the company added a fabric store in Lakeside, Ocean Beach and El Cajon. In 1968, Walker Scott purchased the Whitney’s Department Stores and operated two stores ran by that firm in Claremont and El Cajon. The company also operated branch stores in Palm Springs (1970), San Carlos (1973), Mission Valley (1973), Mira Mesa (1975) National City (1982) and Pacific Beach (1983). Each department store featured women’s men’s, children’s apparel and accessories and sold yardage, bedding, appliances, radios, televisions, house wares, draperies, floor coverings, China, silverware, jewelry, furs, cameras, gifts, books, cosmetics, notions lingerie, millinery and toys.
In 1975, Robert J. Dicker and Boyd E. Alvord bought controlling interests of the company. The Board of Directors named Dicker as president and chief executive officer of Walker Scott Co. and Alvord as company vice president and secretary. Although sales peaked at $45.5 million in 1983, profitability declined. On January 5, 1989 the downtown store officially closed because it had lost its lease. The combination of a population shift to the suburbs and a new shopping center, Horton Plaza, with four major department stores, opening across the street from Walker Scott’s Department Store had pushed the company out of business. Dicker sold the chain to Harold Kapelovitz. He and his investors concluded that substantial loss for the company was imminent due to increased competition in the San Diego retail environment. Kapelovitz decided to close the remaining stores when the leases expired in 1986.
In addition to business affairs, George A. Scott was involved in numerous civic organizations such as the Boys Club, Salvation Army, USO Advisory Council, Community Chest, Fiesta de Pacifico, YMCA, San Diego Transit, San Diego Council of Churches, San Diego Hospital Association and many other committees. Scott was named “Mr. San Diego” by the Grant Club in
1954 and was the 1964 winner of the Golden Man and Boy Award of the Boys Club of San Diego. In 1976, the Central City Association named Scott “Man of the Century.” Scott wrote his book Your Future in Retailing in 1961 and donated all proceeds from the book to the National Distributive Education Clubs of America Program. Scott lectured extensively on retailing and merchandising as chairman of the committee on careers in retailing of the National Retail Merchants Association. During his lifetime, he raised over $75 million dollars for local causes and received more than 200 civic and service awards.
Scott was born in Scotland in 1907, lived in Canada briefly and came to the United Sates and became a citizen in 1931. In 1952, he married Evelyn Hjelm. Their two children are George Walker Scott born in 1953 and Andrea Cox born in 1955. He died at the age of 86 in 1993.From the finding aid for Walker Scott Department Store Records 1915-1993 1960-1969 (Special Collections & University Archives: Finding Aid Database)