J.W. Knapp Company, Lansing, Michigan

Looking like a yellow-and-blue ocean liner docked in the
middle of Michigan's capitol city, Knapps was housed
in one of the state's finest examples of art-deco design.

The store's striking exterior design was
often portrayed in advertising.

Knapp's interior as seen from the store's
extensive mezzanine.

In 1961, Knapps extended to Capitol Avenue by taking
over an exiting Pontiac dealership; the one-story
addition housed appliance, toy, and sporting
goods departments.

"Central Michigan's Store of Stores!"

J.W. Knapp Company
300 South Washington Avenue
Lansing, Michigan

IVanhoe 9-6551

Knapp's Luncheonette
Knapp's Downtairs Budget Store

Street Floor
Fine Jewelry • Costume Jewelry • Handbags • Small Leather Goods • Gloves • Neckwear • Hosiery • Accessories • Street Floor Lingerie • Street Floor Sportswear • Cosmetics • Toiletries • Notions • Stationery • Candle Shop • Candy • Service Desk
Store for Men Men's Furnishings • Men's Sportwear • Men's Clothing • Men's Shoes
Capitol Avenue
Cameras • Luggage • Home Appliance Center • Television and Audio Center • Housewares • Paint and Art Supplies • Santa Claus Toyland

The Book Corner • Radio and Records • China • Glasware • Gifts • Sterling • Gifts • Home Accesories • Gift Wrapping Center

Second Floor - The Fashion Floor
Smart Money Shop • Daytime DressesvHalf-Size Dresses • Dresses • Coats • Sportswear • Young Modern Shop • Better Dress Shop • Better Sportswear • Formal Dress Shop • Bridal Salon • Fur Salon • Millinery Salon • Wigs • Beauty Shop • Lingerie • Foundations • Sleepwear • Robes
Young America Shop Junior Dresses • Junior SportswearvJunior Coats

Third Floor - The Family Floor
Infants' Wear • Children's Wear • Boys' Wear • Girls' Wear • Teen's Wear • Children's Shoes • Toy Center • Fashion Fabrics • Art Needlework • Sewing Machines

Fourth  Floor - The Home Furnishings Floor
Draperies • Slipcovers • Lamps • Pictures and Mirrors • Linens • Domestics • Home Planning Center

Fifth Floor
Furniture • Sleep Shop • Carpeting • Rugs • Administrative Offices • Cash Office • Credit Office • Personnel Office
(208,000 s.f.)

East Lansing
M.A.C. Avenue and Albert St.
April, 1961
45,000 s.f.

Meridian Mall

Coming in due course.


  1. As I mentioned in another place on this site, I collect old credit cards from out of business stores as an extension of my interest in department store history. I have never found a Knapps credit card but I would like to find one. Can anyone tell me for sure if Knapps issued a credit card? Thanks Scott (nimmos@bellsouth.net)

    A note to Bruce: I love this site and visit it often. If you would ever like to add an exhibit of credit cards to this site as you expand it I would be happy to send you some scans of cards that I have for each store.

  2. Bravo! Thank you for including Knapp's! The awesome Deco streamline-moderne building is thankfully still standing. Great job!

    To nimmos@bellsouth, yes, Knapp's always had a store credit card (the largest department store in mid-Michigan, so most people had a Knapp's account.) First they were little silver carge-plates, then became plastic in the 60's. The last motif (before the store closed) was white lettering on a navy-blue background, outlined in white.

  3. I remember this store at Christmas, it was magical. There was a large gold talking Christmas tree in the kids dept. I would love to find a picture of this, but have found even interior shots of the store to be elusive. I saw the store in late 2010 and from the outside this store is still mesmerizing. The store has been placed on the historic registry due to it being an arrt deco period building. because of it's massive size they are trying to rent out office spaces inside. Rumors are they are trying to turn it into smaller interior shops, a plaza of sorts.

  4. Thanks for the info above about the Knapps credit card. If anyone still has a Knapps credit card I would love to see a scan of it.
    Thanks Scott (email nimmos@bellsouth.net)

  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbaScR_ORYk

    Mom would take us to Knapps, and other department stores downtown, for school clothes.

  6. I am the Great Great Grandson of the founder of Knapp's. My Grandfather used to tell stories of the store, he used stay with his Grandparents in Spring where he worked at the store under his uncles to learn the family business (he lived in Cincinnati and the family was not approving of his father leaving the family business) and would Summer in the Hampton's in NY for Summer at the family home. My Great Aunts had their Grand Mothers China and would serve high tea daily at 2pm. They would tell stories of this great store. They said it was the first department store to have a bridal department and registry. Wonderful memories they shared and I grew up with the families stories of how they loved their store.

    C Spicer
    Ft Lauderdale, FL

  7. I worked at Knapps from 1978 until 1980 when they went bankrupt and shut their doors. It was a sad time because I absolutely loved working there. I was a "floater" and loved working in every department. I also got to be the Talking Christmas Tree for two Christmases. What fun! I still live in the Lansing area and love seeing the building to this day. I hope the city of Lansing will preserve it and leave it standing.

  8. I am the G G Granddaughter of JW Knapp. My Grandfather was Wilson Knapp. He was married to Lela Maloney. My Grandfather since has passed and we don't know very much about the family as his Father never wanted into the business and was basically set aside from the family. He had married Henrietta Stokes. I believe his name was John. They had 4 children, Mae, Ruth, Helen and Wilson all passed. If anyone has any information please contact me at wiilieman@aol.com. Mitzi Gilliam

  9. shawn Marie......I also worked there as a floater in the late 70's I got to work the 'treasure chest' every time a customer bought something they would get a key then bring it to the treasure chest and I would try to see if it opened the chest, if it did, I would ring a bell lol........we used to go 'school clothes" shopping there when we were kids....we got to eat lunch in the cafeteria downstairs.

  10. I just came across this site as I was researching a beautiful vintage beaded clutch purse (Wolberg made in W. Germany) I bought at an estate sale with a Knapp's store tag. What quality! I wish that I would have known this store in its day!~kelly

  11. This truly brings back memories. From the time I was a little girl going shopping with mommy, the glove department, the hat department, etc. to the Christmas display windows, to the black elevator attendants, the escalators, the gift wrapping department, the mezzanine with beautiful china, luggage and book department the "bargain basement" with the cafeteria and the cobbler (shoe repair), to the day I worked there, this was my favorite store.

  12. As a child, I vaguely remember the Knapp's store that was in Jackson, Michigan. It was one of the anchor stores for the old Westwood Mall. I remember the big,blue "Knapp's" letters above the store entrance that could be seen almost all the way across the mall. (it was a small mall, but still very impressive for a pre-teen) Thanks for sharing more info on this historic store chain:))

  13. Wow, this is amazing, I miss the old department stores I recall my parents occasionally would take us shopping. My sisters attended the "Charm School" (don't know if did any good) and Knapp's was always the destination for school clothes and scout uniforms. The store windows at Christmas were always a delight. I never had a greater appreciation until I worked in Knapp's Advertising Department in the downtown store (1975-1979) after graduation from Kendall Art School in Grand Rapids. I was hired as one of 6 artist working on our almost daily newspaper advertising and promotions. There was always something going on to lure the Downtown Lansing workforce into the store, it was always busy, especially during the lunch hour. The employee comrodery was second to none, it was more like family. What fun!

  14. Great memories of Knapps in Lansing. Does anyone still have their Knapps 'charge card', I'd love to see a picture! Thank you.

  15. I started working at the Jackson Knapps in Westwood Mall as Christmas help. I got hired in the Sporting Goods & Camera dept full-time after the Holidays. After a move to Lansing I was later hired as a sales person in the Okemos store. After a year or so there I was made Dept. Manager. A couple of years later I was made Assistant Buyer of Sporting Goods in the Downtown store under Jim Pfister and Grame Dorn. Following Jim's retirement I was made buyer.

    As the Buyer for the Michigan part of the chain I bought for Lansing, Jackson and Battlecreek stores. Then in 1978 or so they closed the Sporting Goods dept in all the stores and I was out of a job.

    I got to know Larry and Sidney Good, the brothers that owned L.S. Good and Company. They owned Knapps and included it in their chain of dept stores in MIch, New York, Washington D.C. and West Virginia, which was the corporate HQs.

  16. There were definitely credit cards. The Historical Society of Greater Lansing will showcase one as an exhibit piece at their annual auction Sat Nov 15, 2014 www.lansinghistory.org

  17. I grew up with this store since a baby and I'm now a senior citizen. I loved every floor and the mezzanine as well as eating lunches in the basement, loved riding the escalators especially and elevators run by sweet nice black ladies sitting on a stool, loved the big display windows decorated inside them for Thanksgiving and Christmas season with moving figurines of fantasy land (like Arbaugh's Department Store also had), and all the familiarities that come to mind even decades later. My mother bought my bridal gown and veil here and I also registered for wedding gifts here. Prior to that, I would be outfitted with many dresses and coordinating accessories during my childhood and growing up years and to this very day, I still have a lovely apple green leather cloth-lined handbag from the main floor I bought for $3.00 when I was in the 9th grade which still looks fairly brand new. I remember those metal armed vinyl chairs arranged in the corner between the front door openings on the main floor of Knapp's and people simply resting or waiting there for their rides. Two of my family members worked there...my maternal grandmother's oldest sister Gertrude Riedel worked in the Ladies Department and my brother, Randy Gilman worked in the Stereo/Small Housewares Department. I really miss this great department store as I also do Arbaugh's and Federals (was in Frandor Shopping Center). I hope this historical art deco department store icon is never destroyed, but maintained and kept around for many more years to come. It's a part of many of our pasts and one of very few historical buildings remaining in Lansing. This wonderful family department store is to Lansing like the mother Macy's Store is to New York City.

  18. Shawn Marie, you said you played the talking Christmas Tree, was this at the Meirdan Mall location. Which I remember quite fondly from my childhood at Christmastime at Knapps. My Grandma, work at the Knapps location in Lansing from 1963-1980, on the second floor. Her name was Phyillis Hasty.

  19. I loved Knapps Department store in downtown Lansing from the time I was a child. I remember shopping there with my mother; it always seemed like the height of elegance. As an older pre-teen, my best friend and I would take the bus downtown and spend hours on the mezzanine looking at books. When I got older, I worked at the state capitol and would invariably eat in the basement cafeteria at least once a week for lunch. My grandma, who worked for the highway department, ate lunch at Knapps counter almost every day. It's nice to know that the beautiful building still stands. Lots of fond fond memories.

  20. https://youtu.be/xbaScR_ORYk

  21. I remember my mother bringing us kids to the store to buy shoes and clothes for school it was a real treat to go down to the coffee shop and get a piece of pie. Year's later after I was out of high school I had the opportunity to work in the display department under Mr Chipman and Alex McPherson I learned so much about visual merchandising under these two men the hours we would spend brainstorming about the window displays and displays within the store it was always exciting getting ready for Christmas and other holidays so much attention was spent on the details we always had A curtain pulled across the window and when the display was finished we would open the curtain and get to see the reaction of people walking by the store . The crew I worked with at that time were truly a remarkable bunch. I no longer live in lansing but when I come back to vist family and have the opportunity to go downtown and see Knapps it may not be the department store it once was but the memories are there and this store was a great place to work and shop at. I'm really happy to see that this downtown landmark is being preserved for future generations

  22. Are there any old photographs of those serving on the young American Board representing area high schools back in the 1970s?

  23. I worked in the Data Processing Department above the Bridal Shop, Capitol Ave. store from 1971 to 1975. Loved being downtown during the Holidays. Kwast Bakery for great bagels in the morning, and the Capitol Ave. Lounge for drinks after work. Great memories!!!

  24. Boy were those the days , 1953 the whole family went to this wonderful place ,where dreams came true .as little boy at 4 going the elevator escalator was like trip to the moon . We had family members come to visit and first things my grandfather and grandmother would say let go to Knapp's ,now remember are family came from Habor Springs and Escanaba upp . Thy had never seen such wonders , farm folks we were . All we had was a one or maybe 2 story's in the whole village . After world war 2 we needed something to live for again . Knapp's was are starting place to have dinner and shop . Those were the days .

  25. They also had a branch store on Washington Ave. between Center and Fifth Sts. in Bay City, Michigan. My mother shopped there quite a lot when I was a child in the early 1960s.

  26. I worked at Knapp's in the late 1960's & early 1970's in their data processing department. I started out in sales audit, moved to key punch & computer operations, ending up as operations manager and traveling to the other Mott stores. Knapp's was one of the first companies to have a scanner for cash register tapes and I still remeber the day it was delivered - it was quite an operation! We shopped there from the time I was very, very young -- I loved the aroma of the store when you came in through either of the center doors. A great place to work and shop. I have an old velvet jewelry case for pearls with J. W. Knapp on the inside that I use everyday.

  27. When did they finally close their doors for good? I moved away from Lansing in 1978 and I believe they were still open then.

  28. I can check further but I believe Knapp's closed in 1980.

  29. My favorite memory of Knapp's was taking the bus from the s/w side of Lansing with my mom, sister, and brother during the great blizzard of '67. We were snowbound with cabin fever and came downtown to shop and eat cheeseburgers and chocolate milk in the basement restaurant at Knapp's. I must have been 8 years old and I feel that day changed my life. I live in Chicago today but my love for "city life" began that day. Being in Knapp's with the smell of roasted nuts and the crowds of shoppers while the suburbs were shut down will stay with me always. I used to think that Petula Clark's song Downtown was about Lansing, MI.

  30. Yes they did have a credit card. I worked in the Accounting Dept. in the early 70's. The store was magical!! Remember the restaurant downstairs!!

  31. I remember being in High School in the 60's , Knapp's would put on a table setting contest every year for all high school's . They would let us pick out our own china, silverware, glasses , and everything we needed to set up our table. I won first place one year. We would go after school a create our master piece. Loved every minute we spent at Knapps.

  32. I remember going down town and sitting on the rounded window sill in front of Knapps and people watch. Christmas was magical in that store. The clearance area was in the basement along with the cafe. My mom and I always had lunch there and a sweet lady named Verda Rudold would wait on us and she always had something nice to say to me. Later in life, my husband's cousin married her son so I was able to see her. It was a sad day for Lansing when these amazing stores closed due to malls. And ironically Malls are going under due to on line buying. Lansing still has much to offer in restaurants but I wish some retail stores would come back. All that is left is Kosichecks.

  33. My mother was a portrait artist here in Lansing. Several times a year she would have a spot at Knapp's and do portraits on the spot. Usually it was around holiday times. I have such fond and vivid memories of the Knapp's store.

  34. Mitzi Spicer Gilliam02 May, 2021 15:44

    My Grandfather was Wilson Knapp Joe's nephew, we were working with MI State on the lineage of the Knapp's, Im one of the few if any last survivors, My Grandfather use to tell stories of the Yacht club the race track how he would take him into the store as little boy and feed him at the lunch counter, First store with a toy dept and beauty shop, He was so good to his employees gave maternity leave to the man and woman with pay along with what a baby needs, he would feed the poor, cloth them as well, He was a good man, My Grandfather was the image of his wife, He was to be educated as all Knapp men at MI state but his father was disowned he was an inventor and wanted nothing to do with the family business, left to OH and married Henrietta Stokes of Cincinnati moving to Middletown OH, still having servants he was removed from the line, JW Knapp was a very loving caring man, Ive found no one wih a bad image or unkind thing to say, Ive tons of pictures on my FB page, personal pictures, you're most welcome to view,

  35. Anyone remember the Charm School pin? A what did the letters STT mean?


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