In 1936, Frances and August Kahn opened the first Frances Kahn in Danville, VA. Since this was the height of the Depression and money was scarce, they were only able to take half of the downstairs of a two-story building located in the center of downtown. Their hard work, determination and fine taste brought them successfully through those lean and tough years.
It is said that Frances Kahn (always in a black dress and pearls) could be found holding court with her customers on a fainting couch on the second floor. She gave advice, approved selections and received orders for special customers to be selected on her next trip to New York.
In the late 1940’s, her daughter Lorraine and her husband Nathan Lester, became the new proprietors, maintaining the same elegant ambiance and impeccable customer service. By the 1950’s, their success demanded another expansion, doubling the size of the original space.
The Lester’s presented the first sportswear to their customers in the 1960’s. They were extremely avant-garde retailers and recognized the fast approaching change in modern fashion. Lorraine introduced the famous Frances Kahn “lying of clothes on the floor” that allowed the customer to see how her new sportswear worked together, and this has became a trademark of the store.
In 1974 the Lester’s son, Rusty, returned to the family business after “learning the ropes” at Rich’s Department store in Atlanta. He brought to the store the newest trends of the 1970’s; converting the basement into the “contemporary sportswear department” which was the largest growth area at the time. He also introduced Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Donna Karan and other great designers of the time.
In 1977, Rusty ventured out on his own with his parents’ blessing and well-respected name. The Lynchburg store was opened in August of 1977. The Roanoke store opened in August 1983, the same year the Danville store was sold.
An inner yearning for the experience of a larger city with a bigger audience lured Rusty to Richmond and the store was opened in September of 1988. In 2003, the shores of the Atlantic Ocean beckoned with an even bigger opportunity and audience wooing Rusty once again. The Virginia Beach Frances Kahn store opened with quite a flair in August of that year.
Frances Kahn is proud to have served our customers for over four decades. Stretching from the mountains to the sea with three destination boutiques, Frances Kahn serves Virginia as one of the leading specialty stores in the country. We pride ourselves in discovering new design talent. You can always find a little something unique and unexpected in our collections.
Our collections always feature a new approach to fashion that easily works within your wardrobe. The ambiance of our stores create a unique environment to appreciate the newest trends that fashion has to offer. Fashion adventure awaits every time you visit our stores..
Through three generations, the reputation of Frances Kahn has become a testament to quality, good taste, and first class customer service. A exceptional fashion experience is an integral part of the allure of Frances Kahn.
Since 1936, only the clothes and the styles have changed. Frances Kahn has always maintained a special camaraderie with its customers and the community. Today, Frances Kahn remains the same fine store always with a subtle fashion edge.