. — BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Tim Hollis distinctly recalls going to the old Loveman's department store in downtown Birmingham when he was a kid.
But it's not sitting on Santa's knee or meeting friends under the iconic Loveman's clock that Hollis remembers most.
It is the smell.
"The thing that most people seem to recall, and I do, too, is how good it smelled in there," the 49-year-old Hollis says. "There was a scent about the store that was just wonderful.
"When you went in Sears, you smelled their candy counter with the chocolate-covered peanuts. In Pizitz, you smelled the bake shop, with all of the cookies and cakes.
"But Loveman's had a different smell. I guess it was the higher-end perfume and cologne that they sold."
After 93 years in business in Birmingham, Loveman's closed its doors for good after a final clearance sale on May 29, 1980.
However, memories of the department store that Hungarian immigrant A.B. Loveman founded in Greensboro in 1870 and relocated to the Magic City in 1887 live on in Hollis' latest Birmingham history book, "Loveman's: Meet Me Under the Clock."
A historian and collector of all things Birmingham, Hollis is the curator of the Birmingham Rewound website and has written several other books about the Magic City's past, from its old movie theaters to its vintage advertising signs.
His most recent Birmingham book was a history of the Pizitz department store, Loveman's downtown neighbor and fiercest competitor.
As Hollis writes in his new book, "The two stores would be the Gimbels and Macy's of Birmingham, each delighting the shopping public with its attempts to outshine the other."
Located on the corner of 19th Street and Third Avenue North in what is now McWane Science Center, Loveman's was a downtown fixture for almost a century. (The original A.B. Loveman's Dry Goods Emporium, which opened in 1887, was on Second Avenue North.)
In its early days, the department store went by the name of Loveman, Joseph & Loeb — after its founder and his two business partners, Moses V. Joseph and Emil Loeb — but that was later shortened to simply Loveman's.
"Somewhere in the 1920s, they started abbreviating it Loveman's," Hollis says. "Even though I don't have anything to prove this, I think that what happened is that the public started calling it Loveman's before the store started using that as their official name. It was just easier to say."
In 1923, the store's founding fathers sold the business to the Philadelphia-based City Stores Company, which also purchased B. Lowenstein and Bros. department store in Memphis and Maison Blanche in New Orleans about that same time.
The book chronicles several other significant events in the store's history, including the fire that gutted the building in 1934 and the desegregation of the Loveman's lunch counter in 1963.
After City Stores filed for bankruptcy, Loveman's closed in 1980 — one of several downtown stores, including Burger-Phillips and S.H. Kress & Co., that went out of business around that time. For the next 18 years, the building sat empty until McWane Science Center opened there in 1998.
"In the last chapter of the book, I go into some detail about what all it took for them (McWane) to fix the building up because it was in such a state of decay and disrepair," Hollis says. "It's amazing what McWane has done with it."
The book's "Meet Me Under the Clock" subtitle refers to the famous clock that became a popular landmark where generations of shoppers would gather to meet on their trips downtown.
While few visible reminders remain from Loveman's glory days, the clock has been preserved.
And thanks to Tim Hollis, so have the memories.