In 2019, Frances Kahn is celebrating our 42nd anniversary. Stretching from the mountains to the sea with three destination boutiques, Frances Kahn serves Virginia as one of the leading specialty stores in the country. We always are first at discovering new design talent and since their first deliveries have been featuring the industy’s top collections such as Armani Collezioni, Jason Wu and Lafayette 148. Not a season goes by without our introducing what’s next in Designer Fashion. This season we are featuring L’Agence and D.Exterior in our world class department. Frances Kahn also features fashion’s premier contemporary designers like Rag and Bone and Paige to name a few. Plus you can count on every season featuring new, emerging designers just like you’d find in New York’s finest specialty stores.
Passed down through three generations, the legacy of Frances Kahn is a testament to quality, good taste and an un-compromising standard of customer service with a distinct personality and unique customer base.
Since 1936, only the clothes on the shelves and the technological equipment have changed. Through the years, Frances Kahn maintains a special camaraderie and sisterhood as our employees have grown with us just as our customers have. Today, Frances Kahn remains the same fine old store always ahead of the times.
In 1936, Frances and August Kahn opened the first Frances Kahn in Danville, VA. Since this was the height of the Depression and money was scarce, they were only able to take half of the downstairs of a two-story building located in the center of downtown. Their hard work, determination and fine taste brought them successfully through those lean and tough years.
It is said that Frances Kahn (always in a black dress and pearls) could be found holding court with her customers on a fainting couch on the second floor. She gave advice, approved selections and received orders for special customers to be selected on her next trip to New York.
In the late 1940’s, her daughter Lorraine and her husband Nathan Lester, became the new proprietors, maintaining the same elegant ambiance and impeccable customer service. By the 1950’s, their success demanded another expansion, doubling the size of the original space.
The Lester’s presented the first sportswear to their customers in the 1960’s. They were extremely avant-garde retailers and recognized the fast approaching change in modern fashion. Lorraine introduced the famous Frances Kahn “lying of clothes on the floor” that allowed the customer to see how her new sportswear worked together, and this has became a trademark of the store.
In 1974 the Lester’s son, Rusty, returned to the family business after “learning the ropes” at Rich’s Department store in Atlanta. He brought to the store the newest trends of the 1970’s; converting the basement into the “contemporary sportswear department” which was the largest growth area at the time. He also introduced Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Donna Karan and other great designers of the time.
In 1977, Rusty ventured out on his own with his parents’ blessing and well-respected name. The Lynchburg store was opened in August of 1977. The Roanoke store opened in August 1983, the same year the Danville store was sold.
An inner yearning for the experience of a larger city with a bigger audience lured Rusty to Richmond and the store was opened in September of 1988. In 2003, the shores of the Atlantic Ocean beckoned with an even bigger opportunity and audience wooing Rusty once again. The Virginia Beach Frances Kahn store opened with quite a flair in August of that year.