When Annie Milner was a teenager, she stopped at what was then Dayton’s in downtown Minneapolis to buy a blouse. One look at the bustling store convinced her that retailing was much more fun than high school, so she quit and became a cashier.

Eighty-four years later, Milner still works at that store, which is now called Marshall Field’s. “Everything I know, I learned at Marshall Field’s,” said Milner on the occasion of her 100th birthday, which she celebrated in June 2002. The oldest worker in Minnesota and perhaps the country, Milner spends four days a week at the store tracking down special-request merchandise for customers.

Milner’s presence is just one sign that the Marshall Field’s store in downtown Minneapolis is steeped in history and tradition. As old as Milner, the stone building occupies a full city block and measures 1.3 million square feet on 14 floors, five of which are selling floors.

The store began life as the Dayton Company, founded by George Draper Dayton in 1902. The location did business under the Dayton’s banner until 2001, when Dayton-Hudson Corp. (now Target Corp.) renamed all its department stores Marshall Field’s to capitalize on its 1990 acquisition of the well-known Chicago-based retailer.

While downtown Minneapolis draws some tourist and convention traffic, the store derives much of its customers from Twin Cities residents who live and work downtown. The store links to Minneapolis’ interconnecting skywalk system, which, during the winter, shelters downtown workers and shoppers from the city’s bitter cold.

Thanks to its longevity, the store offers much to residents and tourists in the way of traditions. One of its best-known features, the Oval Room, opened in 1948. Flaunting the height of the era’s trends in interior design, the salon sported cocoa-colored walls and furniture upholstered in black fabric shimmering with gold threads.

The Oval Room was designed “to give the customer the feeling that they were stepping into a small store reminiscent of the famous little couture shops of Paris,” said Field’s spokeswoman Heidi Weaver. “It was created to provide guests with a small-shop feel — one room to choose your clothes with unhurried personal attention.”Fashions from then-famous designers such as Davidow, Adele Simpson, Nettie Rosenstein, Adrian, Maurice Rentner, Phillip Mangone, Anna Miller, Hattie Carnegie, Eisenberg and Mollie Parnis hung on the Oval Room’s racks. The tag on the lowest-priced garment read $39.99.

Now, of course, modern favorites have taken the place of the designers of yesteryear. The Oval Room displays Prada, Michael Kors, Dusan, Armani, Max Mara, Etroi, Jil Sander, Celine, Marc Jacobs and the only selection of Yves Saint Laurent to be found in the Minneapolis market, Weaver said. And, needless to say, there are a few more digits on the price tags.

The Oval Room is unique to Minneapolis; however, other Field’s stores in the city carry designer lines, although not to the same extent, Weaver said.

Another Minneapolis classic at the store is the Oak Grill restaurant, situated on the 12th floor. There’s an odd bit of history associated with the paneled dining room, outfitted with deep red-leather chairs and white tablecloths: Until the 1960s, the restaurant — located in a department store named after a man who proclaimed “give the lady what she wants” — wouldn’t serve a woman unless she was accompanied by a man.

That quaint practice has fallen by the wayside. To the delight of Field’s shoppers, the room’s tradition of serving buttery popovers instead of bread has not. “Guests totally associate popovers with the Oak Grill,” Weaver said.

The grill’s menu includes signature dishes from the newly established Field’s Culinary Council. The group of nationally known chefs, among them Boston’s Ming Tsai and Chicago’s Gale Gand, conduct cooking demonstrations at the stores and share recipes with customers.

Yet another Twin Cities tradition is the twice-yearly Auditorium Show held in the store’s 12,000-square-foot auditorium. The themed annual holiday show, a Minneapolis fixture since the 1960s, attracts 300,000 to 400,000 viewers. This year’s edition: A collection of 27 animated vignettes depicting Roald Dahl’s classic story, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

The spring flower show, another theme event, featured “Provence in Bloom” and the displays of French flower designer Christian Tortu. Previous flower shows have shown viewers the delights of English, Viennese and Mexican gardens.It’s not all vintage and tradition in downtown Minneapolis, however. Following the lead of its State Street sister, the store offers customers goods from several locally famous restaurants and retailers. One of them is Izzy’s Ice Cream Café, a St. Paul institution known for the small dollop of ice cream plopped atop its single-scoop cones. The store also houses a Creative Kidstuff shop that offers toys by the award-winning Minneapolis retailer of the same name.

In November, the trend toward offering local brands will continue when Schmidty’s, a men’s spa, opens in the store. An offshoot of a Minneapolis day spa called Urban Retreat, Schmidty’s takes its name from Urban Retreat founder Tom Schmidt.

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