The Goldwaters department store had a very long history in Arizona. The first store was opened by the late Sen. Barry Goldwater’s grandfather in the 1860s. It had been a successful Phoenix establishment for years, but it wasn’t until 1978 that it opened a Tucson location.

The store name was now owned by Associated Dry Goods Corp. The Goldwater family had sold their active interest in the company in 1962. When the new store opened, the company president said they wanted Goldwaters to be located in El Con shopping center, the same center as another long-time Arizona store, Levy’s.

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1978 Star files

The interior of the new Goldwaters in El Con.

The new Goldwaters occupied 115 square-feet of space and employed about 200 full-time workers. The cost of the building and stock was estimated at $8 million. The store had hardwood parquet floors in all traffic areas. There were two 12-foot high windbell configurations, hanging 40-feet up over the escalator well. Paolo Soleri created the pieces.

According to Associated Dry Goods, their target customers had incomes averaging $22,000 to $30,000. Goldwaters set out “to attract customers by creating a feeling about the store through the clothing lines it carries.”

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1978 Star files

A Goldwaters ad from opening day, August 14, 1978.

Over 30,000 shoppers crammed the store on opening day, August 14, 1978. The manager said it was because they had offered such good deals. For example, on opening day in one of their ads, the plaid wool blazer was priced at $105 and the black flannel skirt for $52. The lambswool/angora/wool pullover sweater was $46.

The Goldwaters name disappeared from Arizona retailing in 1989 when the stores became Dillard’s.