Only a few people knew who Morris McCollum was. To everyone else he was Mr. Mac, a shortened remnant of a name from the 1960’s when he was the owner and namesake of Mac the Knife (Cuts the Price) Men’s Wear. In those days he was in business with Bernie
Brotman at 1130 Broadway, selling off discounted, off-trend men’s cloths from a chain of stylish shops called Brotman’s Men’s Stores. In the late 60’s Mac’s tastes moved into “sharp colorful clothing” and snappy hats that sold well to the soldiers at Fort Lewis, anxious to escape the uniforms and cover their shaved heads. Sgt. Pepper and Marvin Gaye were on the radio.

When the Broadway Plaza project began its desperate effort to save the downtown from the all consuming Tacoma Mall by nudging out Mr. Mac BET InterNet Image.1the small time merchants, Morris and Bernie left and went their own ways. Bernie went into business with his son Jeffery and started a little company called Costco. Morris opened a fashion forward men’s shop at 11th and MLK (then known as the K Street business district) and never left the neighborhood. Mr. Mac was all about style, flash without glare and the business of selling people color and cut. He loved boxing and golf and the ring of his telephone.

****

In 2015 I was teaching a course called Doing Community History at the University of Washington Tacoma and a student in the class, Jay Robinson chose Mr. Mac for his oral history subject. Jay spent hours with Morris, sitting in the shop, talking about customers Mr. Mac served, about Tacoma and the Hilltop, about Ray Seals, George Foreman and the Tacoma Athletic Commission, about gangsters and ministers, about selling for less and investing in your community. Mr. Mac just left but the conversations he had with Jay are still here in the Tacoma Community History Project at the University of Washington Tacoma Library. Its part of an astounding collection of voices and sounds from Tacoma’s past. The link below will take you to the entire recording, a full transcript and a written biography of the inimitable Mr. Mac.

 

Interview/Document link:

http://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/tacomacomm/id/589/rec/7

Written by tacomahistory

This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.

One comment

  1. There were a number of men’s wear stores in downtown Tacoma in 50’s and 60’s but that changed after October, 1965 when the Tacoma Mall opened. Bernie and Pearl Brotman moved their Bernie’s Mens Wear store from Broadway to the new Tacoma Mall when the Bon March’e moved to the Mall. They also had a store in the U-District in Seattle and one in the new Southcenter Mall. Then, Joe Macaluso had the shoe department in Bernie’s store at the Tacoma Mall and Mac opened his store, Mac The Knife, at Bernie’s old store on Broadway. He had the tailor shop in the back room there with May, the best tailor in Tacoma, doing the alterations for both his and Bernie’s Tacoma stores. Jerry Koski was the buyer for Bernie and Mac and brought the British Carnaby Street styles to town with bell bottom pants along with Nehru jackets and turtleneck dress shirts.

    It was the City’s poorly planned Broadway Plaza development that ran Mac out of downtown and he reopened on Hilltop. He definitely had the market cornered for the disco styles of the 70’s. He was a real supporter of the local Boy’s Club boxers and was well respected in the Tacoma sports scene in the 60’s and 70’s.

    My older brother Ron worked for Bernie along with Mac on Broadway. I enjoyed working with Mac and the Brotmans in the late 60’s at the Mall.

    Like

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