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George Ivey, who expanded his grandfather’s chain of department stores, dies at 91

DANIEL COSTON

George Melvin Ivey Jr., who expanded the chain of stores his grandfather founded from downtown centers into regional malls in the Carolinas and Florida, died on Thursday. He was 91.

George Ivey was a freshman at Duke University when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor during World War II. He joined the Naval ROTC and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters before returning to North Carolina and graduating from Duke in 1947.

He moved to Greenville, S.C., to begin his lifelong career in the family business. He ultimately rose to become director, president, and chairman of J.B. Ivey & Co. and Ivey Properties Co., according to his obituary. Shortly after returning from the war, he also met the woman who would become his wife of 63 years, Jean Barnhardt.

Their family was deeply involved in the Charlotte community. Ivey served on the local and national board of the YMCA. He was director of the Mint Museum, director of the Central Charlotte Association and director of the United Way of the Carolinas.

But during his tenure, Ivey’s Department stores were going through a tectonic shift.

Ivey’s was founded in 1900 by J.B. Ivey. At the chain’s height, Charlotte had three large department stores and was the Piedmont’s premier shopping district. Ivey’s was the grandest, and typically sold more upscale items than its biggest competitor, Belk. A large chandelier hung from the two-story ceiling near the entry of the Ivey’s uptown store. But department stores like Ivey’s were supplanted by suburban shopping malls in the 1970s and 1980s.

By 1981, the Ivey’s in the Midtown Square shopping center sold only clearance items. The final Ivey’s Department store closed in August 1990.

The Ivey’s chain was bought by Marshall Field in the 1980s and was ultimately sold to Dillard Department Stores, which gave staff at the uptown store 60 days’ notice that it would close.

He is survived by his wife, three daughters, seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and a sister.

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Twitter: @CleveWootson

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