Following his service in the Spanish American War, Benjamin A. Rippe, a native New Yorker seeking his fortune in the reviving South, established with wife Annie the original Rippe’s Store in Danville, Virginia, in 1907.
Annie Allen was the daughter of a retail merchant in Hillsborough, NC, and the sister of a successful milliner in the town of Roxboro, NC, only 35 miles away.
They selected nearby Danville, Virginia, to begin their retail business. Danville was the center of the vast Piedmont geographical region, so suitable for farming the “Wondrous Gold Leaf Tobacco.” The city became the largest tobacco market in the world. Growers brought cured leaf there for sale in the numerous tobacco auction warehouses. Danville was also home of one of America's largest cotton mills—Dan River Mills.
Benjamin selected a store location in the heart of the warehouse district. It was in the era of the “Gibson Girl” fashion. Ladies apparel sales were brisk in neck high shirtwaists, floor length skirts underpinned with frilly petticoats, and the all-important fashion accent Ben and Annie knew about from her sister, Ida—the hat. The hat Rippe’s sold was priced up to $200 and sales were brisk.
The outfit was completed by the waist circling corselet, pointed toe, high-top lace-up shoes and the parasol—often to carry if not to inflate. Large volume was also done in piece goods by the yard for home sewing—plus items such as ribbon, buttons, and lace trims.
About 1919, business began a migration away from warehouses to “Uptown Main Street.” Rippe’s relocated there, this time with strictly apparel and accessories—no piece goods since the population was more sophisticated and affluent. Other uptown moves ensued to larger quarters.
Annie and Ben Rippe
Benjamin died in 1934, leaving the operation to his wife. Their son, Murray Rippe, joined his mother at Rippe’s after college graduation, but soon left to fight in WWII. After the war, he rejoined his mother, building in 1947 a modern, new-from-the-ground-up store. It created much excitement in the city and volume grew rapidly.
By 1965, an adjoining downtown building was acquired and incorporated as one, now providing almost 10,000 square feet. In 1978, Murray’s son Ben, following a career in Agronomy and Agricultural Economics, joined Rippe’s. To help further the business, Ben obtained an MBA at Duke University’s Fuqua School in 1987 while managing Rippe’s. In 1992, Murray and wife Esther sold all stock to Ben, completing the transition to a third generation.
Commencing Rippe’s 100th year, Ben opened Rippe’s Shoes in the adjoining building, with a lovely passageway between the two stores. The flowing art deco design of the new store makes shopping even more fun.
An upgrade to the storefront in late 2008 not only gave it a fresh, clean look, but also restored it to a more historically-correct appearance. The prominent 1970’s-era shadowbox feature in the display windows was removed to reveal a cleaner, more open display window typical of many 1950’s retail establishments. The terrazzo tile bulkhead and entry accent were also refurbished.
A décor renovation designed by Dewberry and interior design team leader Dodie Hudson followed in 2011. Key features included a Tuscan tile–themed walkway, new flooring, fixtures, furnishings and shadow box displays with design elements incorporated from the exterior window enhancement.
At any given time there are over 5,000 items in stock from over 250 manufacturers at Rippe’s. The buyers search for well-made clothes, furs and shoes that offer unique fashion and value. Selections change with each season along with turn-over of merchandise. Designer representation is constantly evolving to meet Rippe’s exacting criteria. Many brands are exclusive to the area.
Services include personal attention from professionals in a relaxed, no-pressure environment; custom alterations; cold storage fur vault, fur conditioning, repair and restyling; Rippe’s charge accounts, no fee layaway, major credit cards accepted; free gift wrapping; delivery in USA and Canada; and complimentary coffees and teas in our Coffee Bar.
Rippe’s and Rippe’s Shoes are located at 559/563 Main Street in Historic Downtown Danville. Open Monday thru Friday 10am to 6pm, Saturday 10am to 5:30pm (10am to 5pm in June, July, and August). Come see our exciting fashions and shoes at great value!