The history of department stores (2023)

Under the Clock: Let's Talk

The history of department stores (1)

Almost every town had a department store with a big clock on the corner where people would gather, perhaps to talk about the events of the day. Do you have opinions about department stores, shopping, about the "old days" or about today's stores? How has your city changed since the days when there were one, two, maybe three department stores downtown? Did they "meet under the clock" before?

Previously, authors Jan Whitaker (JW) and Michael Lisicky (ML) used this site to answer their questions about department stores. Unfortunately, Authors Guild no longer supports talk pages, but I'll leave this page open anyway.

In the meantime, you might want to check out The Golden Age of Department Stores Facebook group.

TO EVERYONE INTERESTED IN PURCHASING JAN'S BOOKS: THE WORLD OF DEPARTMENT STORES is out of print and all stock is gone as of April 2020. Jan has some copies of SERVICE AND STYLE available with a $15 postpaid registration to addresses on Just Us. Visit the JAN'S BOOKS page for more information.

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What department stores spun off in Raleigh, NC around the 1950s? - Department stores in Raleigh at the time included Boylan-Pierce, Efird's, Hudson-Belk, and Ivey-Taylor. I know that Hudson-Belk was picked up on by civil rights groups in the 1960s about desegregating food counters. There were also pickets at Woolworth's, McLellan's, Eckerd's, and Walgreen's, but I'm not sure about the other department stores. However, before the protests of the 1960s and even beyond until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was quite common not to serve black customers in department store restaurants and take-out counters. Other discriminatory practices included not hiring black people as employees, not allowing black customers to try on hats and some items of clothing, and not allowing returns. I'd be surprised if there were white-owned department stores that didn't adopt most of these practices. -JW
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In what year was The Bon Marché renamed "The Bon" and in what year was it renamed The Bon Marché? - I don't know - I always thought "The Bon" was just the nickname for the Bon Marche department store chain in Seattle. Since January 2005 it has been known as Macy's after it was briefly (2003-2004) renamed "Bon-Macy's". -JW

Yes, it has always been Bon Marche, but there was a time when the company tried to simplify its name. In 1988, the department store officially reverted to the Bon Marche name after operating primarily as Bon for 12 years. In early April 1988, the store's advertisement read: "We were Bon Marche from 1890 to 1976, now we are Bon Marche again, the leading fashion department store in the great Northwest." --ML
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Do you know of a Robell department store in Taunton, MA? What is its history and when did it close? I remember going there a couple of times. It wasn't a big store. It was on Main Street opposite Taunton Green. -- I don't know him and can't find any trace of him in Taunton, although there was a Robell's department store in Roxbury and in Somerville, MA, both of which closed in 1962 but later reopened in Roxbury. In a 1956 Taunton directory, the stores listed in the department store were Sears & Penney's, Enterprise Stores, Pober's, The Outlet, and The Shepard Co. - JW
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Does anyone remember the bells that rang in department stores at random times in the 1960s? Were they notifications to pick up the phone or do a price check or get help from a buyer? -- Ring tones in department stores, often referred to as pager bells, were used to summon or summon managers or security guards. Each shift manager had his own tone repeat, and bells were seen as a more convenient way to hit buttons than a loudspeaker announcement. --ML
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What was Columbia's Fifth Avenue? I have a compact there. Is it saxophone now? - As far as I know, Columbia Fifth Avenue was a compact brand, not a store. They sold for $1 between 1948 and 1950. - JW
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Hi how are you? My mom worked at the Ben Franklin 5 & 10 outside Boston in 1952. I did some research on the chain... I'm curious how she compares to Woolworth's. I read that Ben Franklin was the second largest chain with 2500 units at its peak. Where would I find more history on this topic? Thanks Jim. Although Ben Franklin assumes the role of a traditional general store, its structure and size were very different from those of the large Woolworth's, Kresge's, Grant's, and other national companies. Its Boston roots date back to 1877 as Butler Brothers, a wholesale business that began offering franchises in the 1930s. The owners purchased the rights to the Ben Franklin name and committed to using Butler as a supplier, especially for large events. of sales. There was no central marketing system apart from logo design etc. for member stores. The Ben Franklin name and logo helped give the largely independent downtown variety stores a nationally recognized name. Ben Franklin also helped set itself apart by focusing on craft items and notions. It celebrated a system-wide anniversary in 1977 and had 2,100 locations in all 50 states. Butler soon found itself struggling with ownership changes which led to liquidation in 1997. The number of branches had dwindled to 340. The naming rights were acquired by Promotions Unlimited, which charged a hefty naming license fee. This company dealt more with special purchasing events and was not acting as a wholesale supplier. Other longtime franchisees have dropped the affiliation, but the name persists in small towns to this day. It is not easy to find solid information about the history of the company. Computer searches using the names Butler Brothers, City Products Corporation, and Promotions Unlimited from 1977 and 1997 may be helpful. --ML
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What can you tell me about Wasson's department store in Indianapolis? It seems they are always outshone by LS Ayres and Blocks. I know they had a branch at Eastgate Mall and their flagship store downtown at 2 W. Washington Street. This building still stands and displays the elegant Art Deco conversion that Wasson undertook in the 1940s to give it a contemporary look. What kind of goods did they sell? High quality or lower quality. The stores were bought by Goldblatt's of Chicago and closed in the late 1970s? -- Founded in 1870 as the Bee Hive, Wasson's has always played the "third chair" among Indianapolis department stores. But that's not to say he wasn't a serious gamer or had a loyal clientele. After evolving into H.P. Wasson & Co., the business was operated under the leadership of the Wolf family from 1914 until its sale to Goldblatt's of Chicago in 10/67. In 1957, the Eastgate store claimed the title of Indiana's first suburban department store. Additional stores opened in downtown Eagledale and Meadows, as well as in Kokomo, Bloomington, and Anderson. Unlike Ayres and Block, Wasson's stores were too small for the suburban customer and were not located in the more advanced centers of the city. When Goldblatt's acquired Wasson's, its strong range of mid-range products, from basements to French rooms, became more of Goldblatt's budget products. The new mix and significant reduction in sales staff drove customers away, and sales plummeted in the early 1970s. Goldblatt pulled the plug on the downtown store in December 1979, and suburban stores followed in April 1980. -- ML
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What were the opening hours of department stores in 1950? -- There is no easy way to answer this question about store opening hours, because "preferred shopping nights" vary from city to city. In the 1950s, most downtown stores started their days around 9:15 or 9:30 am. A designated shopping night would keep a downtown store open until 8 or 9 p.m. m., maybe one or two nights a week. In Burdines in downtown Miami, the store was open until 9:30 p.m. m. on Mondays and Fridays, and until 6 p.m. m. the other nights; Read's in Bridgeport was only open until 9:00 p.m. m. on Thursdays; Hutzler's in Baltimore was open Mondays from 9:15 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., other nights at 6:00 p.m.; Hudson's in Detroit was open Monday and Thursday from 9:15 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., other nights until 6 p.m.; Wanamaker Town Center was Wednesday from 9:30 to 5:30, noon to 9; and Bullock's Los Angeles was 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. m. to 5:30 a.m. m. except Mondays until 9 a.m. m. So there's no standard answer, and most cities instituted a specific shopping night that lasted well into the '80s and '90s. Cities and stores were as different as their shopping tendencies. Best to go to Newspapers.com and search for a specific store, find an ad, and extract information from that hit. --ML

Just a footnote to what Michael wrote: Where I live in Massachusetts, it was common for downtown businesses to stay open on Thursday nights. This included the local small town department store. This was because the factories in the city paid workers on Thursdays. I wouldn't be surprised if many other US cities followed a similar schedule, although big-city businesses may not have been as sensitive to working-class paydays. -JW
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What did Dean Wilson ship to stores in a wooden box with holes in it? Was it fruit or drink bottles? - I need some more clues!
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Can you give me information about United department stores? I know they were the owners of the outlet, Sattlers and Edw. Malley and filing for bankruptcy around 1981 or 1982. Thanks to Scott Nimmo, United Department Stores owned countless stores across the United States during the 20th century, many of which carried the United Department Store name. The company purchased failed or bankrupt companies such as The Bullock Co. of Cleveland OH in 1907. In the 1930s it had stores in Bridgeport CT, Jersey City NJ, a large store planned for Boston in 1925, in Miami FL, Fresco CA, Jacksonville FL, Pittsburgh in the 1920's and 1930's. Owned by SP Dunham in Trenton NJ. (It would be a BIG job to research them all.) In 1980, Outlet Corp. of Providence sold 91 stores to UDS, but in 1982 New York-based UDS filed for reorganization and by that time had closed 63 of its 107 stores, including all of its MA stores. I guess the whole story would be complicated. -JW
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Michael, do you have plans to write a book about the late Albert Boscov, the son of the founder of Boscov, who is still in business? Do you only write about closed department stores? Thank you, Dean Moser. It's hard not to write about department stores being closed because so few are operational these days! I'm still trying to fully process why Hudson's Bay is completely letting down Lord Taylor's flagship on Fifth Avenue. Yes, Lord & Taylor hasn't understood itself for decades, but I like to think that its presence on Fifth Avenue is part of its brand and cachet. It was expensive to run, but the recent plan to reduce it to three stories seemed difficult enough. Well, so much for being a merchant, but Al Boscov was a true merchant, perhaps the last. This time he has trained his family well and the business is poised to survive and prosper as long as it serves and develops a loyal customer base. It is not for me to write his story, he has many relatives who are moved by his personality, love and philanthropy. Get the latest book 'You Boscov today?' You have done a good job. --ML
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What can you and Michael tell me about the Boston store in Columbus, Ohio? Not much has been written about this in the history of Columbus. I know his store was in the center of N. High Street. between Spring and Long and had locations at Town & Country Shopping Center and Northern Lights Shopping Center. -- Downtown store opened in 1913 by Marcus J. Federman of NYC and Charles Levy of Lima OH as part of a multi-state chain. The first address was 208-212 North High Street. There was a haberdashery wholesaler in New York who, I suppose, supplied the Boston stores in Ohio, Indiana, and other places. In 1918, Columbus's Boston store was acquired by Alfred & Jerome Kobacker of Kobacker Stores, Inc., a chain that grew to 12 with the opening of the Town & Country store in 1953. However, only the two Kobacker stores in Columbus they had the name of Boston Store. Eventually, the downtown store moved to 168-178 N. High Street, or that address was the result of renumbering. Near the Boston Store, on N. High between Broad and Spring, were Woolworth's, WT Grant, Kresge, The Union, and JC Penney. The downtown store closed in the early 1960's. My impression of the store is that it sold basic goods and was not a fashion store. -JW

The Columbus stores in Boston primarily offered affordable fashion and pushed the store credit scheme. "No cash available - shop modern!" The downtown store closed in 1964 and its two stores closed in 1973. -- ML
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Allied Stores, City Stores, Federated, and Associated Dry Goods were some of the largest department store owners in the years before Robert Campeau. Can you tell me some of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the above chains? Why did these chains appear? -- These are excellent questions that could form the basis of a PhD. Dissertation. I'll simply offer some insight into why the chains were formed, rather than the final analysis or stories from each group. As popular as the myth of successful family department stores created and run by the ingenious initiative of a single man is, the department stores that had developed in the late 19th century would need much more systematic management if they were to survive. Pants administration headquarters would no longer work. Economic crises have had a disastrous impact on large companies, as was evident at the beginning of the 20th century. The federated department stores were a response to the need for more sophisticated management. It was almost more of a cooperative than a public body as it later developed, and was initially based on the exchange of information between large stores in non-competitive markets. Also, the 1920s have been dubbed the “chain store era” for good reason: dime stores, pharmacies, tobacco shops, grocery stores all joined chains or were formed by big investors to take advantage of national publicity, organized management and group purchases to use . Manufacturers also became larger and better organized, advertising brand names directly to consumers, and individual department stores lost their power to command the low prices previously enjoyed by manufacturers. So overall I would say the formations were mostly responses to a changing economy. –JW

Let's not forget the May Department Stores Company, Mercantile Stores, R.H. Macy Corporation, Carter Harley Hale, Gimbel Brothers, United Department Stores, Gorin Stores, and we can go on. These companies were typically formed as early acquisitions or as holding companies, allowing companies to pool funds, buy in bulk, expand when necessary, and take risks. As Jan said, this question can easily form a university thesis. (Let's not forget AMC or the Associated Merchandising Corporation purchasing cooperative. A very important and essential component for the success of department stores.) But briefly about these companies: Federated, some of the largest, operating with solid financial backing; May, who was making a slow recovery in the '60s and quietly outpacing his competition; Allies, mostly mid-size markets that have been successful but have not advanced in fashion; Dominant trading business in smaller markets; Partner stores, beautiful but cumbersome with valuable real estate; City run by a madman who, almost on purpose, ran underperforming businesses in large markets; R. H. Macy, operating successfully under his family name with national ambitions dating back to the 1920s and 1940s, Gimbels was no longer a member of the family and was more reactive than proactive... That's enough for now. I still liked them all. --ML
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Was there ever a clothing store called "Marshalls" in Elmira, New York? -- If you can look up an Elmira city directory for that year, you can probably find the answer. Many city directories have been digitized. We specialize in department stores, a different type of store that offers a much wider range of products than clothing stores. So your question takes us outside of our area of ​​expertise.
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What were the days/hours of Bloomingdale's and Gimbels in New York in 1975? -- When department stores were powerful and local newspapers dominated as major advertisers, ads often listed all store locations and their respective hours of operation. In a way, those hours showed the strength of these businesses and their surrounding neighborhoods. As businesses in the city and suburbs faced challenges, opening hours were often reduced. (Check your local Macy's and Sears, as some close at 8 p.m. That's an ominous sign. Some Sears even now open at 11 a.m.!) But the difference might be in Manhattan stores. As other cities cut corners in the 1970s, Manhattan stores expanded their hours as the city polished some of its corners and attracted more immediate residents. In 1975, Gimbels expanded its hours of operation to 9:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 9:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, and 9:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Wednesdays and Thursdays were Bloomingdale's nights, although traditionally the store was open from 9:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. m. to 6:00 p.m. m. --ML
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Mr. Lisicky, first of all, THANK YOU for a wonderful walk down Memory Lane. I just finished Bygone with a huge smile on my face and heart! Second, this has probably already been pointed out, but the 1971 date in the photo on page 51 is probably incorrect, as all 7 cars shown are from the late 40's and early 50's. Have you ever come across something about train gardens as part of your downtown Christmas window displays? I can remember my father bringing the family to visit several times between the 50's and early 60's. Just curious! Thanks again for a great Smalltimore related read! M.L.K.
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What can you tell me about Uhlman's Department Store? They were located in major Ohio cities such as Greenville, Wapakoneta, Piqua, as well as other cities. They went bankrupt in the 1980s. -- The F. W. Uhlman Company, headed by Frederick W. Uhlman [1881-1974], was headquartered in Bowling Green, OH. The company may have started in the 1920s, possibly earlier, and grew out of Frederick's father's Weston OH business (his father was a German immigrant, Henry Caspar Uhlman). By 1965, under the direction of Frederick's son Robert, the Uhlman Company operated 32 stores in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana under the names Uhlman's, Plaza U, Just Labels, and Milliken and employed about 800 people. Uhlman's largest stores were located in Piqua, Traverse City, Newark, Disney, Greenville, and Mt. Vernon in Ohio. I think the smaller stores were focused on clothing and not the big box stores. In 1996, the chain was bought by Stage, which operated under names like Peebles and Goody's. It is likely that some of the stores were previously closed as you mentioned. -JW

Uhlman's dates back to 1923 and in its later years was generally classified as a junior department store. (Some sources trace the roots of the business back to 1867.) After Stage bought them in 1996, all 34 Uhlman locations took on the name of the parent company, Stage Stores. Stage Stores operated locations across the country, but over-expanded. Stage ran into serious financial problems which eventually led to its filing for bankruptcy in 2001. In March 2001, Peebles acquired 8 former Uhlman's/Stage stores out of the 15 remaining Stage Ohio locations. --ML
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Years ago, many department stores sponsored parades to mark the start of the holiday season. They announced to their communities that the next business day the store would be decorated and stocked with Christmas items, the mechanical windows would be on display, and Santa Claus would be ready to greet the children. They created a magical atmosphere for children and even for adults. When did the stores start the parades? When did the majority end?
Are there any notable saves that really stand out? It seems that this is a topic that is not well covered in some of the department store stories I have read. -- As department stores grew in size and stature, they became responsible for maintaining numerous local traditions that entertained customers and built loyalty. With the exception of the Eaton Toronto Santa Claus Parade, in the mid-to-late 1920s many of the great American Christmas parades were in full swing. Leading the way was Gimbels in Philadelphia (1920), followed by Hudson's, Macy's, Bamberger's, etc. It ended with Santa Claus leading the way. Thousands of participants entered any of the department stores, sometimes via the fire escape. But these smaller parades were expensive. Materials, labor, and permits were expensive, and as downtown areas began to lose their luster in the late 1960s, many companies chose to spend their advertising budgets elsewhere. Plus, television brought big runway shows like Macy's and Hudson's right into living rooms. By comparison, the local parades seemed almost bland and the crowds dwindled in size. But make no mistake, as soon as an expensive tradition was canceled by a department store, people got angry, as if something had been stolen from them. The average person had no idea what kind of strain these events were putting on a department store's bottom line. There aren't any books specifically about department store shows, but several books cover these shows pretty well, including some of my own! There are numerous books about the Macy's parade, but I love William L. Bird's Holidays on Display. That should do. --ML

Michael summed it up well and I agree that Holidays on Display is an excellent book, beautifully illustrated. We usually think of outdoor Christmas parades, but Wanamaker Stores held them indoors as a teenager, according to William Leach in his classic book Land of Desire. He says the Wanamaker stores had Christmas parades every day at 10:30 a.m., when the lights went out and a uniformed band of clerks performed fairy tale characters; then Santa Claus appeared, carried to Santa Town by four Eskimos. That sounds really magical to me. -JW
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Do you have photos or information about Mathews Department Store at 394 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201? It became the Metropolitan Theater in 1918 and again the current home of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. -- I don't have a photo, but there is a postcard of the store currently on e-Bay. The business went bankrupt in 1913 and failed in 1915 when its full name became A. D. Matthews' Sons. -JW

Azel Dennis Matthews founded his haberdashery in 1837, which over the next 78 years became one of the largest department stores in Brooklyn. Matthews was later taken into the business by his two children and continued to expand the business, moving with Wechsler & Abraham to the new Fulton Street business corridor. The store offered "daily delivery to Long Island" and specials like Clover Day sales (no relation to Strawbridge & Clothier in Philly!) and S&H Green Stamps. Azel died in 1900, but his business, which employed more than 1,000 people, was suffering from heavy debt and financial problems. By 1913, the business was on the verge of being wound up, but it continued under new owners. Its 78th anniversary in April 1915 promised a celebration "with due dignity", but just two months later it went bankrupt. In late December 1915, a bankruptcy trustee ordered the immediate liquidation of the department store. A year later, the building housed a branch of the Georges clothing store, but in September 1918 it became the Loews Metropolitan Theatre, the largest movie theater in the world. --ML
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I just want to thank Mr. Lisicky for replying to tell me about the artist at Westview mall.
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Which American department stores excelled in providing a quality shopping experience? By that I mean stores that sold high-quality products, had special tearooms or restaurants, had a high-quality architectural ambience, and promoted special holiday traditions? Some stores that come to mind are Marshall Fields, Hudson's, John Wanamaker, and Higbees. Are there others that you or Michael can add? – That may sound like a departure, but I think it applies to most department stores in the 20th century, before the 1980s (or so). Surely every major city, smaller town, and even many smaller towns had department stores that people still fondly remember for their products, services, and special events. Having grown up in St. Louis, I would say the top three stores: Famous-Barr; Stix, Baer, ​​and Fuller; and Scruggs, Vandervoort & Barney, provided a quality shopping experience. -JW
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WHEN WAS ARNOLD CONSTABLE BUILT AT STATE AND MONTGOMERY STS IN TRENTON NJ? What buildings were demolished? -- On November 11, 1954, Arnold Constable opened a 90,000-square-foot store in downtown Trenton. The company said it was the largest store in the city's business district. Eleanor Roosevelt cut the ribbon on opening day, a tradition Mrs. Roosevelt performed at other Arnold Constable venues. The new store at East State Street and Montgomery Street replaced a vacant movie theater, the Wilkinson Building, and several small businesses. In 1952 R. H. Macy purchased the land for a possible Trenton branch, but gave the lease to Arnold Constable about a year later. Arnold Constable stayed in Trenton until 1971. --ML
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high end apartment Business in Boston, Massachusetts beginning with the letter P that closed in the late 60's or early 70's. I think it was near the Park Street station? -- Of the 48 stores listed under "Department Stores" in the 1962 Boston City Directory, only one begins with a P and is in Roslindale. You might think of Conrad & Chandler on Winter Street. -JW
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Does anyone remember a little store called Robert's or Mr. Robert's in Rhode Island that sold fancy clothes around the 1970s? My Aunt Mary used to take us there and buy us clothes. And where was she? -- If I'm not mistaken in saying that you are referring to a children's clothing store and that it may have been in Providence, then perhaps you are referring to Edith Robert's store at 184 Wayland Av. - JW

Thank you very much! My sister in law lives near Wayland Square and I felt like she knew the place. It must have been Edith Roberts' store at 184 Wayland Avenue. Thank you for clarifying this mystery for me! what
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I found a photo of the business district in Albany, New York. The photo is from 1956. I saw a Robinson's department store and a Leed's department store in the photo. I'm sure Robinson's store is not related to the one in California. I had trouble finding information on both stores in Albany, NY. Can you help me? -- Neither store is listed as a department store in the 1960 Albany City Directory. Listed stores include John G. Myers and W. M. Whitner & Co., both in North Pearl. I found Robinson's Women's & Children's Wearing Apparel at 57 N Pearl in the Women's & Children's Clothing listing but Leed's wasn't there. -JW
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Who owned Plymouth's New York retail stores? -- Not being a lawyer, I'm not in my element on this case, but I suspect you're referring to what was formerly known as Bonwit-Plymouth Stores, Inc. but later had many name changes, to (and perhaps the last) is Allied-Stores-East, Inc. - JW
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Did Macy's Herald Square store ever have a notable tea room or restaurant? If so, are they still in business? It seems that The Walnut Room at Marshall Fields/Macy's, the Crystal Tea Room at Wanamakers, the Silver Grill at Higbees and The Birdcage at Lord & Taylor, among many others, are highly valued by customers who remember them. I've never really heard of the huge Macy's flagship. Am I missing something? Thanks Dave. You've named some of the most famous and popular American department store teahouse restaurants and you're right in assuming that Macy's isn't known for its restaurants. For much of its history, it's been a low-priced business, thanks in part to a lack of expensive trappings like fancy restaurants (which have generally lost money). It's improved its food service in recent years, but it doesn't have a tradition of fond customer memories to build on, and the era of department store restaurants is mostly a thing of the past, so I don't know how well it's doing. I've done. -JW
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I'm trying to find information about some of the early black women who became department store clerks, particularly in the South in the 1960s. Do you have any names OR stories about one of these women. Thank you very much. -- You should look at the 1971 book called The Negro in the Department Store Industry. Before World War II, black women were only hired as elevator operators or backroom attendants. During the war, there was a severe staff shortage, and some black women were hired at northern department stores to work as clerks during the Christmas season, often at the behest of the Urban League. The first employee (one) hired by a big box store that I referred to in a newspaper article was in Albany, NY in 1950. In 1952, a downtown department store hired its first full-time black salesperson. In the late 1950s, there were said to be quite a few black saleswomen in New York City stores, but for most of the country those gains came in the early 1960s, when facilities were also integrated to eat from the shops, after the protests. In the South, two of the largest department stores in Wilmington, NC reportedly hired black saleswomen in 1963, and Leggett's in Lynchburg, VA hired its first two black saleswomen in 1961. I am not aware of any personal stories or accounts, but at Leggett's the women's names were Amanda Spencer and Edith Chambers, both married. -JW
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I'm looking for information on departments that used to be in department stores but went the way of the dinosaur...so many articles refer to it saying there were 23 departments, 40 departments etc. but so far I haven't found any of any kind of the list. -- If you go to Bruce Kopytek's wonderful website thedepartmentstoremuseum.org and click on the individual stores, you'll see many department store listings, floor by floor. Of course, each store has a slightly different combination of departments, and they have changed over time. -JW
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Wanamaker is said to have been the first to install a pneumatic tube system in 1879. Was it a pay rail system invented by Lamson? Or was it a pneumatic tube system? Was it installed in the 1877 Grand Depot? After all, the Grand Depot was not a department store when it opened in 1877, but rather a men's store. When did it become a full-fledged department store? -- The Lamson Cash Carrier Co. was founded in 1881 and released its first trolley that year, so it couldn't be used at the Grand Depot from the start. John Wanamaker began expanding the range of this store a year after it opened. In 1877 he added women's clothing and shoes and by 1879 it was a full department store. -JW

According to company records, Wanamaker installed the first pneumatic tube system in department stores in 1880. But as I've learned, historical company records aren't always accurate. --ML
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There was a store in Detroit, Mich, (Delray) - They sold furniture and rugs, among other things -----did you think it started with the letter "K"? -- (I don't know what Delray is.) Many stores probably sold furniture and rugs, so I can't help you with that. As for department stores beginning with K, there was Kern's (Ernst Kern Co.) at Woodward & Gratiot. -JW
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I keep coming across conflicting information about Boston department stores in the 1880s. For example, Jordan Marsh is vaguely described as forming after the American Revolution and then eventually "departmentalized." Do you have more details on that? It would also be very helpful to meet other "greats" of the 1880s. Thank you very much. – I can assure you that Jordan Marsh is not from the Revolutionary War era, but it is generally credited as one of the first department stores in America. The term "department store" is somewhat of a vague definition, but it implies a wide variety of merchandise, usually spread over several floors, which encourages revolutionary business practices at the time, such as fixed prices and satisfaction guarantees. He followed the concept of "everything for everyone under one roof", so the term "everyone" has room for interpretation. Jordan Marsh traces its roots to 1851, and much of its centennial publicity has focused on an "observant" character from the Revolutionary War. That may have confused you a bit. But many, many other retailers in Boston deserve mention and study. The best way to find out who they are and what stories they tell is at http://shoppingdaysinretroboston.blogspot.com/2011/03/conrad-chandlers-story-of-1958-retro.html. --ML
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How many stores did it take in medium to large US cities to destroy the downtown flagship store business? Before malls became popular, many branches appeared to be smaller and sold a limited range of products, which didn't seem to pose much of a threat to the flagship store. As regional malls became more popular and anchor stores larger, flagship stores suffered and eventually closed. I read in an interview with a Lazarus family member that the one-store flagship store downtown was great, but as more stores were added, sales were negatively affected not only in the downtown area but also in the downtown area. Other stores. -- This is a much bigger problem than just suburban development. In most cases, department stores have had to move to the suburbs because the customer is moving there. Shopping in the suburbs was perceived to be easier and safer, and you could take your packages home in your own car. The American dream was based on expansion and postwar optimism. Downtown business peaked around 1955 when I had to give up a year. One million square feet, run by a private family, in a sprawling sixty-year-old building, in a city that shuts down at 6 p.m. it was not a recipe for the future. Lazarus's answer might have worked for Colon, but it wouldn't have worked in Detroit or Newark. (Lazarus had very little competition in Columbus.) Each city had its own economic and social reasons for the change, as did each store. And the branches got bigger as downtown stores dwindled and competition in the suburbs increased. --ML

Good question, but I agree with Michael's analysis and can only add that many postwar cities had such sprawling suburbs that driving downtown became a walk, not to mention parking issues once you got there. Downtown businesses developed and grew in the age of public transportation; private transportation, that is, automobiles, was a problem. Additionally, downtown businesses, and downtown in general, often looked shabby compared to new businesses in the suburbs. And keep in mind, it wasn't just the shoppers who left town; Large employers have also moved to commercial and industrial parks on the outskirts, so there were fewer daytime shoppers in city centers. -JW
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Does anyone remember the Palais Royal apartment? Shop on the main street. in Houston TX and the manager Mr. Poulis? He looked like Cary Grant. - As far as I know, the Palais Royal was a women's clothing store. It was located at 706 Main Street. I can't find any information beyond that. -JW
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Any information on Great Eastern Mills? Mills' part was eventually dropped. The location was Route 46 in Totowa NJ. My husband and I shopped there early in our marriage when we lived in West Paterson (now Woodland Park). - Great Eastern Mills was founded in 1956 in Paramus NJ. It was a general merchandise discount store as we still have it today and was part of a retail trend of the time when discount stores were located in the suburbs and often in older buildings, with large parking lots and late night hours, they became major retailers. They are not strictly department stores, but have severely undermined traditional department stores. In order to offer low prices, they avoided the fancy buildings, services, and all the luxuries that department stores were known for. Great Eastern Mills was acquired by Diana Stores in 1962, which became part of another company in 1969. By 1975 there were 14 Great Eastern stores: 4 in NJ, 7 in NY, and 3 in GA. The NJ stores closed that year, but I'm not sure if the others closed at the same time. -JW

Great Eastern Mills operated almost exclusively as a group of leased divisions united under a unified business name. The linen division was incorporated under the company name Great Eastern Linens. When then-owner Daylin Corporation declared bankruptcy in 1975 and closed several of its businesses, including Great Eastern Mills, the Linen Division became independent and ran its own business under the name Linens n Things. --ML
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Were there department stores in the South around 1920 that were run by women? -- I'm not aware of any large stores run by women, although there may be some small town stores, but I doubt it. It was quite rare in the 20th century for women to rise to senior management positions in department store positions. The exceptions would be Beatrice Fox Auerbach who managed G. Fox in Hartford CT and Dorothy Shaver of Lord & Taylor in New York. Shaver was known for her patronage of Depression-era American fashion designers such as Muriel King, Adele Simpson, Elizabeth Hawes, Clare Potter, Helen Cookman, Vera Maxwell, and Sally Victor. -JW
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In the late sixties I shopped and bought trendy shoes at Macy's in Herald Square, but I can't remember which brand I bought. -- Difficult question! Probably only a shoe buyer of that time could tell what they might have been. -JW

If you're really determined to find the shoe brand you're looking for, you might want to narrow down the date, including the month if possible, and drop in front of the New York Times archives and read the ads. Your local library may have a microfilm of The Times and/or your local library/educational institution may be able to make it accessible through an electronic database. Just turn off/lower the TV. During this search time, you will receive ads and not just text citations and articles. It can be a fun and tedious way to find answers sometimes. It is always a great way to start any modern historical search and its index is comprehensive and invaluable. A quick search on my site turns up possibly 4500 shoe display ads for "Macy's Shoes" in the 1960s alone. --ML
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My mom has fond memories of the wonderful bean soup that was served one day a week at Block's Department Store in Indianapolis, IN. Does anyone have access to this original recipe? We would greatly appreciate it if someone who has it could share it with us. THANKS... Mike - You may be able to find a recipe if you have access to the Indianapolis Star online (I don't), but you'll have to search by the full name of the store, William H. Block. -JW
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A local theme park has a children's carousel that was used as a traveling carnival ride in the United States and was also used during each Christmas season from 1922 to 1980 by Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia. I have searched the internet to verify this statement and possibly found a photo. -- The Wanamaker store in Philadelphia was known for its children's monorail ride during the holidays. I don't know of a merry-go-round, but I think one of the advantages of the monorail is that it ran along the roof of the toy department and didn't take up valuable merchandise space like a merry-go-round. turning around would. You can contact the Philadelphia Historical Society. -JW
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Wilson Department Store in Greenfield, MA is the only local department store I know of in New England. I know there's Nordstrom, Von Maur, Belk, Bon Ton. Do you know of any others in the country that are still open? JT: There are a few regional department store chains (like Boscov, Bergner's, Dillard's), but if by local you mean a single, privately owned store, I don't know of any. -JW

The two stores that come to mind when I think of Wilsons that are somewhat similar and require a visit are Dunham's in Wellsboro, PA and Weaver's in Lawrence, KS. When I want to succeed, I think of Hall's in Kansas City. But when I really want to go back in time, I go to Boscov's (Boston Store) in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. --ML
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I recently purchased an old Gladdings of Providence, RI credit card. It says "since 1766." Was the store really that old? Can you give us some basic information about her? Did they later have a connection to Shepards department store? -- It is difficult to determine how old Gladding was. A Providence Gazette article of September 13, 1766 advertised a "well-established store in the Signs of the Bunch of Grapes." For over 200 years, Gladding's has frequently used its signature "bunch of grapes" symbol in its advertising. It wasn't until 1805 or 1807 that George W. Gladding took over the business. Through a series of shifting partnerships, the Gladding family left the business in 1880, although the Gladding name was retained. Gladding's, long considered the oldest store in America, was primarily a specialty fine clothing store that also sold gifts, bedding, and travel items. It has been said that Gladding's "where not only the staff but also the customers were educated". Gladding's was a longtime member of the trade and research organization Frederick Atkins, Inc. and operated three stores in Wayland Square (1947), Garden City (1957), and Westerly (1969). In 1968, Howard N. Feist bought Gladding's and then, in 1970, the neighboring Shepard Co. department store (Feist had also bought Worcester-based Denholm's in 1970). By the summer of 1973, store shelves were running noticeably empty, and large sections of both stores were empty. Fall products had not been ordered correctly. In October, the combined company filed for bankruptcy, and both Shepard's and Gladding's closed permanently in January 1974. --ML
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Hello. I have a metal cylinder-shaped container the size of a shotgun shell that has a picture of a building on it and says under the building: Our Home. The picture at the top of the building reads: PERKINS DRY GOODS CO. Dallas. I was wondering if you could give me some information about the store or the item itself. I have had no luck at all and would appreciate any that I may have. Sincerely, L. Johnson - Perkins Dry Goods began in 1898 as a small dry goods store in Kaufman, TX, founded by two brothers, Samuel B. and J.J. Perkins; In 1915 he moved his wholesale arm to Dallas, and the two brothers divided up the retail operations. When Samuel Perkins died in 1948, the company operated 12 stores in Texas and Oklahoma. As far as I know, it never developed into a traditional department store. I don't know how long he stayed in business. I'm not sure what the item you found is, probably some sort of souvenir trinket given away as part of an anniversary celebration. -JW
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I recently came across a JC Penney coin with a denomination of &5.00. It's an old one. I was curious if it was worth anything. -- I don't think it would be worth much, but a coin dealer would be the best authority on the matter. -JW
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I am trying to find information or history about a 1920's/30's/40's furniture store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan called "Stewarts" or "Stewerts" or "Stuarts". Do you know anything about this? It was supposed to be very high end. -- I'm sorry, but since this site focuses on the history of department stores, we do not investigate retailers outside of the department store industry. Search the archives of the New York Times for possible mentions or entries about these companies. This database is usually available through your local library. Thanks for your understanding. --ML
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I'm from Pittsburgh PA and as a kid I was fully aware of Kaufmann's, Gimbels & Joseph Horne's...I wasn't aware of Rosenbaum's, that was just downtown Pgh (or was there a suburban store I'm not aware of) ?) Can you provide information on the Rosenbaums? I know that the main building was very close to Joseph Horne's original flagship store and that the building may have survived and been revived as an office building. Do you know what kind of business that was? Who did they take care of? -- The exact date of Rosenbaum's establishment is contradictory in company records, but many sources point to 1867. The main building was built in 1915 and grew to 14 stories. In the late 1940s, Rosenbaum left the family and was acquired by National Department Stores. National operated Frank & Seder, another department store with a large presence in downtown Pittsburgh. Rosenbaum's "A Step Ahead" was located at Sixth Street and Liberty Avenue. It was more a business, more "masses" than "classes". It was a complete store but rather promotional. Rosenbaum's days were numbered when the owner, Frank & Seder, closed in February 1959, signaling his interest in getting out of the department store business. Unable to find a buyer, Rosenbaum's began its final liquidation sale on January 4, 1960. Although billing itself as a "Tri-State Institution" and "Pittsburgh's second-oldest department store," Rosenbaum's it operated out of a single location and represented "honest values." and fine goods." --ML
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Do you have any idea what happened to the York clothing store that was located in South Jersey, outside of Philadelphia? I think the main store was in Philadelphia. I worked there in the early 70's and can't find any trace of him anywhere. -- No, sorry, my area of ​​expertise is limited to department stores. The number of shops and clothing stores is huge and a completely separate research area. Just to give you an idea, in Ridgewood NJ alone in the mid 1950's there were 40 women's clothing stores and 10 men's clothing stores, plus a few for children! -JW
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Jan: I was wondering if you or Michael could provide information on the Adler & Childs department store located on the northeast corner of Main and Fourth streets in downtown Dayton, Ohio. When did the store close? I have seen pictures of this corner in the 1940's where the store had a two story art deco storefront. Any information you can provide is welcome. This is apparently the least known of the 3 big department stores downtown. Thanks Dave - Adler & Childs, commonly known as Adler's, was established in 1895 and closed in 1950. Other department stores in Dayton at this time included Elder & Johnston, Rike-Kumler, and Johnston Shelton. -JW
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What is a compactome and why does it have so many patents? - I assume you're asking about patents. I've never heard of a Compactome, but it's easy enough to find on Google as an old fashioned trunk divided into compartments for clothing and accessories. I guess there are a lot of patents because there are infinite ways to divide a box. I guess department stores must have sold them at some point, although luggage wasn't a particularly successful department and many stores eventually got rid of it. -JW

I compare Compactoms to 1920s Australian furniture stores rather than American department stores. Even in a good general ad search, I've never seen a Compactom advertised in an American department store ad. Perhaps Australia's relationship with furniture required more patents than average? But Australia doesn't have much respect for US copyright laws. Target Australia and Woolworths Australia are excellent modern examples of Australian retailers previously unrelated to their American nameplates. --ML
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I'm looking for information about my great-grandfather's shoe store in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the early 20th century. It was an Italian immigrant, Nicolás Igalo. He was a shoemaker and had his workshop on San Francisco street. I do not know the name. Thanks, you can try Ancestry.com. I think this is your best option. Note that his business probably didn't have a name. I hope you understand that we are busy answering questions about department stores and cannot do research for individuals on all types of stores and businesses over the last 150 years. Good luck with your search. -JW
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What store was on Quackerbridge Rd NJ? When? Where exactly? Trenton? So many possible answers for such a vague question. When Quakerbridge Mall opened in 1976, Macy's, Bamberger's, and Hahne's planned to be there. In 1989 Lord & Taylor moved. Probably others. In another mall on this street, a Clover Store opened in 1978, one of Strawbridge & Clothier's discount stores. -JW

I think Jan got all kinds of great deals at the Quakerbridge Mall in Lawrenceville, NJ. However, she may be thinking more about Clover. Clover, who is not in the mall, usually used Quakerbridge Rd. as her address. It was also the only Philadelphia-based Clover location in central New Jersey. --ML
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Hi, I'm trying to find out when department stores started using paper bags with logos. I'm guessing it was around the 1960s, but so far I haven't been able to locate a reliable source. Any suggestion would be very welcome. Thank you very much! Katarzyna Cwiertka - As far as I know, there's no definitive source to answer this, but from what I can tell, department (and specialty) stores carried shopping bags around 1950 to discourage delivery requests to stores. Some stores began decorating the bags, such as Halle's in the late 1950s (a pink geranium) and Bloomingdale's in 1954 (a gloved hand, an umbrella, a rose, and a sheet of paper with a large red B). In 1963, Bloomingdale's was giving away 3 million bags a year. Decorated bags became common in the early 1960s, but by the 1970s some stores phased them out due to rising shoplifting rates. In the late 1970s there were displays of decorated shopping bags and I think the Smithsonian Institution had a collection of them. -JW
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Does anyone know when the Edgar A. Stevens store in Evanston, IL closed its doors? I bought an old coat that was made there and am trying to date it. Thank you very much! Also, I don't know if you've ever heard of it, but there was a mom and pop department store called MOBUDS in the small town of South Houston, Texas. I think it closed in the early 1960s; We shopped there from the mid 50's until around 1962 (I think) when we moved across town to Houston. I haven't found any reference to it online. -- I can't find any trace of Edgar A. Stevens, basically a women's clothing store, after 1964, and I doubt it's been in business much longer given the decline of downtown retail and the start of urban renewal activity. As for Mobud, I can't find any traces. -JW
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I found what looks like an old brass coin pendant, but it says compliments of THE W.E. MILLER CO. Winchester, IND. it also has the return address on the facing page #339. Do you have any information about this business and do you think it is legit with the word compliments? Thanks in advance! -- The W[illiam] E. Miller Store was established in Winchester in 1880 as a haberdashery. He died in 1916 and I don't know what happened to the store after that. Prepaid coins were common at the time and even if the store continued after his death, I am assuming the coin was dated before 1916. I see no reason why anyone should counterfeit them. -JW
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Hello again, regarding the Danbury clothing line, I have Greene Street, New York City on the sales receipt. Thanks for looking at this. 619 -- Ok, that's important to know. When I thought I was looking for a business in Danbury, Connecticut, I noticed that there are a lot of garment workers in this city. I can easily imagine that there was a store with its manufacturing facilities in Danbury, but the wholesale business was out of New York as shoppers from the US stores flocked there to buy fashion items. But beyond that, I don't know, since clothing production and wholesale is beyond my knowledge. -JW
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Was there a specific period when department stores began to differentiate themselves with goods and services relative to the economic classes of their shoppers? Many larger cities had one or more department stores that catered to the "carriage trade", the middle class, and the working class. I live near Cincinnati, where coachmen shopped at Pogues or Mabley & Carew, the middle class shopped at Shillitos, and the working class shopped at McAlpins or Alms & Dopke. It seems that the 1970s saw a need for high-end department stores to move in to cater to mid-range shoppers. -- Not an easy question to answer! From its beginnings in the 18th century, department stores were somewhat stratified in terms of the classes they served. A major change was the disappearance of many (but not all) of the "popular" discount department stores of the time, which catered to low-income shoppers. In the 1920s, many department stores expanded due to fierce competition. But overall, they needed many, many customers, so most wanted to appeal to as many social and economic classes as possible, and their departments reflected that, from basement stores stocking cheaper goods to custom salons trying to attract high-income customers. . Department stores faced a major challenge from small clothing stores offering wealthy customers personalized and highly personalized service. Many wealthy people are said to have avoided department stores because they were seen as catering to the masses and exhibiting mass tastes in multiples of each style. In general, the term "commercial transport" was overemphasized, although it was not entirely absent. Department store major customers have always been middle-class shoppers, ranging from the highest-paid industrial working-class families to the upper-middle-class working class. The masters formed a core customer base. During the Great Depression and after, many stores de-emphasized quirky, ornate interiors and cut back on service somewhat to keep costs down. This was in line with the general culture, which was becoming more casual, with less pretension and a need for fancy trappings. Part of the crisis of the 1970s was that the big "discount" stores of that decade took a lot of business from traditional department stores. Also, young people were not very interested in department stores. What you noticed may have been an attempt to address these challenges. -JW

Jan was quite right when it came to developing the department store and accepting its diverse clientele. The first successful department stores were recognized for their selection, service, and sales guarantees. They were aimed at the middle class, a business of all for all. Successful department stores made the shopper feel like they were "going out of business," at least on the upper floors. I like to look at the physical layout of Manhattan in terms of department store development. Many of the early retailers were concentrated on or below 14th Street. As the city grew north, large businesses moved "up" to the 34th Street area. But upscale retailers continued north, towards the carriages and the landscapes of Central Park. "High end" stores were located around 50th Street onwards. During the 1920s and 1930s, the once fertile ground of 14th St. stores was now home to "inferior" retailers such as Klein's, Ohrbach's, and Hearn's. The center of Manhattan's business district, home to some of the city's major subway and train stations, became home to large, massive mid-range retailers such as Macy's and Gimbels. --ML
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I was just wondering if you have any information on Danbury Clothing in the 1920s. - I haven't heard anything about it. Was it in Danbury CT? Doesn't sound like a department store. There was a department store in Danbury called John McLean, Inc.
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I have an old bottle and a box of jasmine perfume. Says Nelson Detroit. Was that a department store? Many thanks. Not that I know of, but I'll report back when I know more. -JW
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This may not be your area of ​​expertise, but I remember Dapper Dan's discount men's clothing store in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the 1970s. Does that ring a bell? JS: I certainly can't find any trace of it. -JW
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To answer the question about a department store on Springfield Avenue in Newark. Field's was a small department store located at Springfield Avenue and S. 6th Street. Like many retail stores, it was badly damaged during the riots of July 1967, but unlike most stores, they were rebuilt and reopened and remained in business until the late 1970s. Today the building houses a furniture store off. Most of Newark's major department stores were located downtown (and avoided damage during the riots). The exception was Sears, which operated a large, multi-story store on Elizabeth Avenue in Newark's South Ward. Sears closed this store around 1976, KA. - Thanks Ken.
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I live in Georgia and Belk stores used to sell chocolates and I'm trying to find out what it was called and who made it. In the 1980s I bought individually wrapped candies that were a medium pancake-sized disk of chocolate with cashews inside. They had these on the counter next to the tills. Does anyone remember this candy? – I lived in Savannah in the late 1980s, so I have a slight idea what candy you're talking about. In addition to Godiva, many large Belk stores carried chocolates, especially back when there were still something like candy counters made by "Sweet Shop." The company appears to still be around and is operated by Price's Chocolates, a longtime candy manufacturer that supplied many department stores. Go to www.sweetshopusa.com and see if anything looks familiar. --ML
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Do you have any information on a department store called Haggerty's? My grandmother worked for them in Southern California as a fashion buyer. I think they also had a store in San José. - Haggerty's was not a department store, but an upscale women's specialty store. So I don't know much about it, but apparently it was founded by J.J. Haggerty in Los Angeles in the early 20th century. In 1915 there were 4 in Los Angeles and one recently opened in Sacramento. They were then known by different names, such as the New York Cloak and Suit House and the Palais des Modes. By 1961 there were 10 stores in Southern California, two of which opened in 1960, one in Palm Springs. -JW

JJ Haggarty founded the New York Cloak and Suit House in 1905, but moved the business to 7th and Grand, across from J.W. Robinson's flagship store. Haggarty coordinated the opening of his new store with Robinson's in May 1915. Haggarty's downtown Los Angeles store relinquished its Beverly Hills flagship status and was delisted in the early 1960s By 1968, "prestige fashion stores" were located in Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Santa Ana, Lakewoo

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