Joseph Benjamin Ivey, the handsome son of a Methodist preacher, opened a small store room in rented space near the Square on February 18, 1900. He belonged to a distinguished list of storekeepers who came to Charlotte at the turn of the century to take advantage of the booming cotton mill economy. Ivey's first day's sales totaled $33.18. "We had to study carefully and push the lines that the other merchants did not make a specialty," the enterprising merchant explained many years later. "For instance, at one time brass buttons were quite the rage. I was careful to keep in a supply all of the time while the other merchants were not noticing and allowed their stock to get low." Among Mr. Ivey's early employees was David Ovens, a Canadian who joined J. B. Ivey & Company in 1904. "I would probably have been satisfied with a moderate business that would make something over a living," said Ivey, "but Mr. Ovens was ambitious to make J. B. Ivey & Company a big store and the business grew rapidly under our combined efforts." Ovens Auditorium on East Independence Boulevard is named for David Ovens.
A devout Methodist, Ivey insisted that the curtains be drawn in his store windows on Sundays, so that the pedestrians would not be tempted to consider matters of this world on the Lord's day. Can you imagine a merchant doing such a thing today? Hardly. Our cultural values have undergone radical change since Ivey's day.
J. B. Ivey had a wide range of interests. He was an avid traveler. He also devoted great amounts of time and energy to growing flowers, especially tulips, dahlias, and gladiolas. Many people remember that the restaurant in Ivey's Department Store was named the Tulip Terrace. Ivey's home in Myers Park was surrounded by gorgeous tulip beds. There was even a miniature Dutch windmill in the yard.
This elegant building at Fifth and North Tryon Streets was designed by architect William H. Peeps and opened as the new home of J. B. Ivey & Company in 1924. The store was renovated and enlarged in 1939. On May 4, 1990, Ivey's was purchased by Dillard's, another department store chain. The building has recently been converted into luxury condominiums.
From the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission www.cmhpf.org.