Betty Day is astounded at how many Ceres women still remember Florence’s Dress Shop that once graced Fourth Street. A number of glowing comments about the long-since-closed dress shop appeared on Facebook recently after her son posted a 1940s photo of the exterior of the shop with a period automobile parked in front.
Betty’s parents, Rudy and Florence Macedo, opened the shop sometime in the 1940s. Betty said she had no idea why her father wanted to open a dress shop but he came with the idea while driving a gasoline tanker truck for George Nunes of Keyes. He kept that delivery job while he got the shop going the first year. Betty worked in the store on weekends with her mom.
“It was a small store on the block where Alfonso’s is,” said Betty, who was 12 when the store opened. “Even the courthouse was on that block and there was a grocery store and I forget what else.”
The business remained there for a year or two until an unfortunate fire, which she said was possibly in 1947.
“In the back room was a heater and my mother accidentally left something on it and it caught fire so we had to move,” said Day, who lived in Keyes at the time and graduated from Turlock High School in 1952.
Florence’s Dress Shop relocated to the building on Fourth Street now occupied by Steps Dance Arts Center at 2959 Fourth Street. Three years into the operation, the Macedos purchased the building from Claude McKnight who had his Ceres Drug Store in the same building.
Downtown Ceres had more variety than it does today and Betty remembers it bustling with activity with the Greyhound station inside Mae’s Café, a nursery, grocery store, gas stations, an appliance shop and a bakery. She remembers the building now home to Delhart’s Home Furnishings was a grocery store.
Most of the attire was purchased by the women in San Francisco and brought back in the car. Other times the salesmen would set up sales of goods in Modesto motels.
Alterations were farmed out to a seamstress in town named Mrs. Cantrell.
As a Ceres businesswoman, Betty was active in the Ceres community, putting on fashion shows for the Persephone Guild and Ceres High School.
“I would judge the parades and I put on a beauty contest for the state of California. I was always doing fashion shows for clubs that they would make money on.”
Ceres residents and out-of-town shoppers were diligent about supporting the little shop.
The comments left on the Ceres, CA –Memories and Current Events Facebook page reflected on fond memories many Ceres women have of shopping there.
Jacque Mazzola Frusetta posted that she loved shopping at Florence’s with her mother, writing: “It was part of growing up in Ceres. They had the best line of clothes and the sales were crazy. We changed in the aisles. Fond memories of a wonderful place to shop.”
Peggy Lenz said the shop offered the “best sales” and remembered “ladies just trying on cloths in the middle of the store.”
According to Craig Barnhart, whose mother worked at the shop, during the big sales there was a lack of changing rooms which meant women would change in the aisles. He commented that that “ always grew a crowd of men looking through the front windows.”
Rudy died of a heart attack at age 49 in 1960. He was buried in the St. Stanislaus Catholic Cemetery in Modesto.
“He was so popular and so nice a man, a great man,” Betty said of her father. She was 25 at the time and remembered “most of the stores in town shut down to go to his funeral.”
After the death, Betty stepped in to help mom, then 46, manage the store.
“I took over. I think he had made most of the decisions and she was really kind of nervous about it all so I started going with her to market and started doing all the buying and all that. She was a good saleswoman and everybody liked her.”
Florence retired and Betty continued the shop until 1985. The last five years Betty also simultaneously operated a dress shop in Modesto.
After closing the shop Betty went through a divorce and moved from Ceres to Modesto where she lives today.
Florence passed away in 1994 at the age of 80 and was laid to rest next to her husband.