Open since 1891, one of Idaho’s oldest businesses to close. Changes to downtown a reason, owner says

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The Alexander Davis Men’s store in Downtown Boise was a hub of activity Friday. Customers chatting. Employees answering questions. Folks browsing around.

The store, open for 131 years — the oldest in Boise, and one of the oldest men’s clothing stores in the country — won’t be bustling for much longer.

After all those decades, owner David Graves is ready for retirement. He’s worked in the store for more than 40 years, working his way up the ladder before taking over from the original owners. It’s a curtain call — both figuratively and literally.

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“The stars are our customers,” Graves said, extending the theatrical metaphor. “Directors don’t take curtain calls. For us, the curtains will come down bit by bit. We’ll lower them again next week, and we’ll close our doors on April 30th.”

Graves, ready to retire, starts on an upbeat tone.

“Thank you, Boise for a heck of a ride.”

Streetscape struggles

Construction crews replace a vault in front of Alexandar Davis last year. Photo courtesy CCDC

But Graves said — a significant change in front of his storefront on Bannock St. near 8th St. made continuing business tough. Last year, the Capital City Development Corp. undertook a large infrastructure project along Bannock, spending several million dollars to redo the streetscape and other projects. CCDC said it would “make the street a desirable location for retail and restaurants while expanding accessibility for the public.”

But Graves said — the changes weren’t desirable for his retail business.

“In 2021 we had a 7-month closure for infrastructure work. We survived that. The hardest thing to overcome is they removed the parking and extended the sidewalk into the street. Without consideration of this business being a two-stop shop.”

Graves means folks have to come to the store twice. Once to browse, and another after their garment is tailored. He said he relies on folks coming downtown, parking near the business and walking in for their men’s clothing needs.

Alexander Davis Boise
The curtains are coming down at Alexander Davis. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

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“After pleading and asking – I could see that the city wants to (boost) food and beverage with extended seating. The restaurants have an advocate, but there’s no advocacy for our plight.”

The streetscape in front of the store along Bannock St. had parking spaces that lined the block. Now, the parking in front of the store has been replaced by an extra wide cement sidewalk.

“It’s disrespectful for a legacy business,” Graves said. “So, it was time for me to control my own destiny.”

Graves, 60, said his lease is up next month. It didn’t make sense to sign a new long-term agreement.

He said many folks have asked why he decided not to sell. He said he didn’t think it was right to let a buyer come in, cash him out and step into a legacy that started in 1891.

“I decided to close down out of historical reverence and respect. I called the grandson (of the original owners) and expressed what I thought was the best thing to do, and he agreed.”

Tim Woodward first wrote of the closure.

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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