Betty Gay: A slice of downtown Tucson for more than 70 years

Betty Gay: A slice of downtown Tucson for more than 70 years

Stroll around downtown and you'll see small reminders of long dead businesses, including Betty Gay, Kelly's, Daniel's and others. Who were they?


The space at 125 E. Congress that was the Betty Gay shop has been empty for years, but its name still lives in the terrazzo entry. The shop was around by at least 1946, selling women's apparel from slips to swimsuits. It was part of a chain of about 85 Betty Gay shops nationwide. I believe it closed circa 1960. Do you know if Betty Gay was real? Or was she just a fake friend of the fake Betty Crocker? I have been unable to answer that.

Kelly's opened on North Sixth Avenue in 1935. It also called itself "The Household Shop." It advertised heavily in the 1930s -- Maytag washing machines for $69.50, anyone? -- but then seemed to disappear. Did it go out of business? Change its name? It's hard to tell what this space is used for now -- there's no sign but it appears to be occupied.


The "credit" part was a big part of this jewelry store's advertising. Back in the 1930s it promised "no interest or carrying charges of any kind" and gave an example of a $10 purchase that could be paid off in weekly installments of 25 cents.

Elmer Present opened Daniel's on East Congress Street in 1926. Why he called it Daniel's, I do not know. The store became part of Gordon Jewelry out of Houston in 1962, but the Tucson location kept its name. The shop is best remembered for its tall pedestal clock, which stood on the sidewalk until the store closed in the 1980s. The city spent $18,000 to have the clock restored and moved to the sidewalk on the west side of Church Avenue between Broadway and Congress. Sadly, it stopped working years ago and the numbers on the face are in poor shape. But the clock is still there. (By the way, former Arizona Daily Star columnist Bonnie Henry told the definitive story of the clock in a September 1988 column.) 

In a nice twist, the space at 21 E. Congress is now Krikawa Jewelry Art Gallery.


Franklin's men's clothing shop started downtown in 1959 before moving to University Boulevard just west of the UA. It later expanded to malls and even to Phoenix. Franklin's is, alas, no more.


Ike's coffee at North Stone Avenue and Pennington is very much a going business. I don't recall when it opened, but it's been in the last 10 years or so. I love that Ike's has created a nod to downtown's past with this entry-floor. May Ike's still be there 70 years from now.

P.S.: McLellan's was a five-and-dime at Congress and Scott. It also had a popular lunch counter. It closed in the 1980s.

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