Rippe's: Nearly a Century of Family Retailing

Gibson Girl and Beau

Rippe's supplied fashions in Danville beginning in the era when illustrator Charles Dana Gibson was setting fashion trends with his Gibson Girl images of his wife, Irene Langhorne of Danville.

Benjamin and Annie Rippe Arrive in Danville

In 1907 Benjamin A. Rippe, a native New Yorker seeking his fortune in the reviving South, established with his wife Anne the original Rippe's Store in Danville, Virginia.

This venture followed his service in the Spanish-American War of 1898. After the war he returned to the South where he had formerly met his wife-to-be, Annie Allen, the daughter of a retail merchant in Hillsborough, North Carolina and the sister of a successful milliner in the town of Roxboro, 35 miles from Hillsborough.

Following their marriage in the home of Ida, the milliner, Benjamin and Annie Rippe 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 perhaps the largest tobacco market in the world. Growers brought cured leaf to Danville for sale in the numerous tobacco auction warehouses. Danville was also home of one of America's largest textile manufacturers, Dan River Cotton Mills.

Benjamin Rippe selected a store location in the heart of the warehouse district. Success was immediate.

Rippe's Launches in the “Gibson Girl” Era

Gibson Girl and Dog

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. Rippe's hats were priced up to $200, and sales were brisk.

The Rippe's fashion outfit was completed by the waist-circling corselet; pointed toe, high-top lace-up shoes; and the parasol — often to carry if not to unfurl. Large sales volume was also obtained in piece goods by the yard for home sewing, plus related items such as ribbons, buttons, and lace trim.

About 1919, Danville business began a migration away from the warehouse district to “Uptown Main Street.” Rippe's relocated there, this time with strictly apparel and accessories — no piece goods, Danville's population and Rippe's clientele having become more sophisticated and affluent.

About 1928, Rippe's moved again, to larger quarters.

Benjamin died in 1934, leaving the operation to his wife Annie.

Murray Rippe, 1980's

Murray Rippe, seen here in the 1980's, joined his parents' firm after his college graduation.

New Growth with the Second Generation

Benjamin and Annie's son, Murray Rippe, after college graduation, joined his mother Annie at Rippe's. After four years' service in World War II, he rejoined the family business and a modern, new-from-the-ground-up store building was erected in 1947. It created much excitement in the city and sales volume grew rapidly.

By 1965 an adjoining downtown building was acquired and incorporated as one, now providing almost 12,000 square feet.

Three Rippes

Three of Rippe's four generations — Ben Rippe, third-generation president of Rippe's; his son Sam; and his father Murray — invite everyone to see Rippe's new fashion, shoes, and decor.

Ben Rippe and Rippe's Today

In 1978, Murray's son Ben, following college, joined Rippe's. In 1992, Murray and wife Esther sold all stock to Ben, completing the transition to the third generation.

At any given time there are over three thousand items in stock from over 150 manufacturers. The buyers search for well-made clothes and shoes that offer unique fashion and value.

Selections change with each season along with complete turnover of merchandise. Designer representation may change depending on Rippe's criteria. Many brands are world-renowned and their representation at Rippe's exclusive to the area.

Services include: expert alterations; cold storage fur vault; fur conditioning, repair, and restyling; Rippe's charge accounts; no-fee layaway; major credid cards accepted; and delivery in USA and Canada.

Enjoy complimentary coffees, teas, and biscotti in the Rippe's coffee bar.

Rippe's is located at 559 Main Street in Historic Downtown Danville. The store is open year-round, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Be sure to see Rippe's exciting fashions and great values, and experience their professional service and Southern hospitality.


Entrance, 2002

Rippe's front, winter 2002–03

Main floor, c. 1947

Rippe's main floor, after new construction in 1947.

Down the stairs, c. 1947

Looking down the staircase to Rippe's main floor, after 1947 construction.

Millinery department, c. 1947

Rippe's millinery department, after 1947 construction.

Skiwear department, 1967

Rippe's former skiwear department, 1967.