Archive for the ‘Retail Postcards’ Category

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT STORES – WEINSTOCK LUBIN & CO – SACRAMENTO

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Weinstock Lubin & Co. Sacramento 1908 New Store After Fire

In 1875, David Lubin, a Polish émigré via New York opened Lubin’s One Price Store in downtown Sacramento. This first store was 16 by 24 feet. A year or two later, his half-brother, Harris Weinstock, and his sister,  Jeanette Levy, joined the business as it expanded from just a store to a major mail order house and the company name changed to Weinstock Lubin. Soon after, the store was expanded to 80,000 square feet with four stories. In 1875, the company was the largest mail order house on the Pacific Coast.  The company grew and soon opened buying offices in New York and San Francisco. In 1888, the company was incorporated and renamed Weinstock Lubin & Co. A store in San Francisco was opened in 1897. In January, 1903, the downtown Sacramento store was destroyed by fire. A fireman was killed. Not to be stopped, the company quickly proceeded to build a new store, a building which became the biggest in Sacramento. The company targeted the value driven customer. As time continued, the retail business took over and became the majority of the business.

The company developed a culture which allowed employees to have a stake in the business. The company started a profit sharing plan which shared profits by employee level. The company also hired teachers to provide younger employees with skills in writing and mathematics.

David Lubin was impatient and wanted to do more than just run the family department store and mail order house. He let Harris Weinstock become the CEO while he engaged in agriculture. He started orchards in the Sacramento area and brought European farming methods. His knowledge of agriculture assisted him when he helped found the California Fruit Growers’ Union. He then helped settle Eastern European Jewish refugees who worked on various farms in the area and, in 1891, he became the director of the International Society for the Colonization of Russian Jews. He then began to campaign for subsidies and protection for farmers, initially in California but eventually on an international scale. His son, Simon, helped him develop a proposal for an international chamber of agriculture; in 1896, David Lubin moved to Europe to implement the proposal. In May, 1908, with the sponsorship of Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III, the International Institute of Agriculture (the IIA) opened, in Rome. The Institute’s goals were to help farmers share knowledge, produce systematically, establish a cooperative system of rural credit, and have control over the marketing of their products. In 1906, David was permanently appointed as the U.S. delegate to IIA. (Note: The IIA was folded in 1945 and merged into the United Nations.

In 1949, Weinstock Lubin & Company was acquired by its arch rival, Hale Bros. In 1979, the new parent company Carter Hawley Hale Stores expanded Weinstock Lubin & Company (now just called Weinstock’s) into Reno, Nevada, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 1991, Weinstock’s was combined with the Emporium division which took over all operations including merchandising.

The downtown store in Sacramento is now an office building.

What happened???      Weinstock Lubin & Company was once a powerful retailer in Central California. It unfortunately became a part of Hale Bros which later merged with Broadway Stores and became Broadway Hale and later merged with Emporium Capwell to become Carter Hawley Hale Stores. Wall Street jokingly called the company EGO, Inc. The parent company immersed itself with debt as it went on a drive to acquire other retail chains in an effort to become the biggest retail chain in the U.S. The impact of this debt reduced the amount of capital available to maintain the stores. Macy’s became a better competitor in California and Nordstrom also entered the market along with a host of specialty retailers and big box retailers. The department store divisions of Carter Hawley Hale no longer were relevant to the customers. After Carter Hawley Hale Stores were sold to an investor group, Zell/Chilmark, the new management team made key marketing mistakes which finished off the parent company and resulted in the 1995 sale to Federated Department Stores. With the sale, all divisions, including Weinstock’s were either converted to Macy’s or sold.

I visited Weinstock Lubin & Company when I was young as I only lived 80 miles south in Modesto. Although Weinstock Lubin had an enjoyable lunch bar for kids, it was not as magnificent as the stores in San Francisco. Weinstock Lubin was a major participant in the holiday festivities and always had wonderful window displays.

Weinstock Lubin & Co. Sacramento 1906

Weinstock Lubin & Co. Sacramento 1924

Weinstock Lubin & Co. Sacramento 1927

I encourage you to leave your memories of this store and department store chain in the comments section below.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT STORES – SMALLER LOCAL STORES

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Besides the larger department stores in Southern California there were also smaller stores inside and outside  Los Angeles. These stores carved out specific niches. They are an important part of Southern California retail history.

GOODMAN’S DEPARTMENT STORE – LOS ANGELES

Goodman’s was located at 7th & Hill Streets across from Bullock’s. It was founded by S. Goodman. It was also short-lived, operating from 1922 to 1923 and ending in a public dispute between the founder and the landlord. The building still stands and has been converted into loft apartments. You can still see the remains of the painted sign if you look from Broadway Street down 7th. The store featured four elevators and a food market in the basement.

EASTERN COLUMBIA

One of Los Angeles’ oldest retail stores, Eastern-Columbia was founded in 1892 by Mr. Adolph Sieroty. There were two divisions: Eastern Outfitting Company and Columbia Outfitting Company. The Art Deco styled building was built in 1930 and designed by Claud Beelman.  The building still stands today as a landmark and has been converted into loft apartments. I was never brought to the store in Los Angeles and it closed before I started working in downtown Los Angeles. I had visited the Columbia Outfitters store in San Francisco before it closed.  

Eastern Columbia Stores and Headquarters Broadway Street LA

 

DESMOND’S

The Broadway Street store was opened in 1923. The facade was redone in 1933 in a Beaux Arts style. The first store was opened on Olivera Street in 1862. In 1921, Ralph R. Huesman purchased the store from the Desmond family and led the expansion of the retailer to several locations throughout the Southern California market. Other Desmond stores of architectural importance were built on Wilshire Blvd. and in Hollywood. The downtown Los Angeles building still stands. The first floor is for small retailers. The upper floors are still empty. Desmond’s, under new ownership, merged with Walker-Scott (San Diego) and K. Wolens (a Texas based specialty department store chain) in 1985.

 

MULLEN AND BLUETT

The company was founded by William Mullen and Andrew Bluett in 1889. The first store was located at the Corner of First and Spring streets. In 1910 the store was relocated to the first two floors of the Story building at Broadway and Sixth Streets. Mullen and Bluett was a high-end clothing store with a focus on menswear.

Mullen & Bluett Los Angeles 1911

   

 
 
 
 
 

 

Mullen & Bluett 1920′s

 

          

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Mullen & Bluett – Hollywood and Vine – Hollywood

 

   

COULTER’S

Founded by Kentucky-born minister and entrepreneur B. F. Coulter in 1878, Coulter Dry Goods Co. was one of the pioneering businesses in downtown Los Angeles. Built on the corner of Temple and Main streets, the original 900-square-foot building contained just $1,000 worth of merchandise that originally was purchased in New York and shipped west.

With a business philosophy of providing exceptional quality items at a fair price, Coulter quickly distinguished his enterprise — which eventually changed names to Coulter’s Department Store — from competitors with his keen attention to customer service. Advertisements described Coulter’s as “the nicest store in Los Angeles.”Over the years, the store was moved several times, finding larger homes on Main, Spring, Broadway and Seventh streets before it relocated for the last time to the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles.

Eventually, the L.A. business economy and consumer tastes changed and Coulter’s was purchased by The Broadway Department Store chain. The company’s final — and longest-held — location at 5600 Wilshire Blvd. was razed in the 1980s. It was a prime example of modern Art Deco design. Today the location is home to an upscale apartment complex. I did visit the store before it closed. It was not elegant, but it was clean, well merchandised, and had superior customer service…even though I could not afford to buy much.

Coulter’s LA on Broadway Street 1919

Coulter’s Broadway Street Store Tea Room 1920

Coulter’s New Store. Wilshire Blvd. 1950′s

 

BLACKSTONE’S DRY GOODS

Blackstone’s Dry Goods was founded in 1895 by Nathaniel Blackstone. He was the brother-in-law of J. W. Robinson, the founder of J.W. Robinson & Company/The Boston Store, and Blackstone had worked for him. The first store was located on Broadway between Third and Fourth Streets. In 1917 he moved the store to the corner of Broadway and Eighth Streets.

Blackstone’s Tea Room

HAGGERTY’S

Haggerty’s Downtown Los Angeles

Haggerty’s Pasadena Store

Haggerty’s Beverly Hills – 1957

HARRIS AND FRANK

Harris and Frank -Broadway Street – Los Angeles – 1920

Harris and Frank – Mens Furnishings Department

Harris and Frank – Hosiery and Neckwear Department

Harris and Frank – Youth Clothing Department

Harris and Frank – Youths Hat Department

I. MAGNIN

For more information please see I. Magnin under Department Stores of Northern California.

FEAGENS JEWELRY/BROCK & FEAGANS

 George Feagans and his partner, Mr. Brock founded Brock & Feagans on Broadway Street in Los Angeles. The elegant jewelry store opened its doors in 1882. The partnership dissolved in 1903 and the store closed. George Feagans then opened a new and even more elegant store in the famous Alexandria Hotel at 502 South Spring Street. The store was the gathering place for the richest and most famous. The hotel stands vacant now. The original Brock & Feagans building also still stands on Broadway Street.

Original Brock & Feagans – Broadway Street Los Angeles

Brock & Feagans Interior – Broadway – Los Angeles

Feagans Jewelers -Alexandria Hotel – Los Angeles

Feagans Jewelry at Alexandria Hotel – Los Angeles

Feagans Jewelry – Alexandria Hotel – Los Angeles -Approx 1910

OHRBACH’S

Orbach’s, a well-known retailer of closeouts and seconds operating in New York, opened a Los Angeles office to buy goods for the New York stores as well as operate stores in the greater Los Angeles market. The Los Angeles buying office opened in 1945 and the first store was opened in 1948 on the Miracle Mile part of Wilshire Boulevard on the Mezzanine plus three floors in the Prudential Insurance Building. In 1953, they opened a branch store at Fifth and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, That location did not do well as that area was starting to decline. The downtown store was closed in 1959. The Miracle Mile store was closed in 1965 and moved to the former Siebu store on Wilshire Boulevard at Fairfax. The company opened other stores in Los Cerritos Center (Cerritos), Del Amo Center (Torrance), La Mirada, and Panorama City. The ownership of Orbach’s transferred from the family to the Brenninkmeyer Company (AMCENA). In 1986, when Brenninkmeyer acquired the Howland Steinbach department store business from Supermarkets General, the decision was made to close the entire Orbach’s business, including the offices and stores in California. The former Siebu store which had been converted to Orbach’s on Wilshire Boulevard now houses the Petersen Automotive Museum.

The problem for Orbach’s was that it lost relevance as off-price stores expanded into the market and the quality of apparel increased at discount retailers. It also had a strange policy in never sharing product margins at the store level. People in the stores never felt engaged with the business.

As a competitor, Orbach’s had a bigger negative impact on May Company and The Broadway than it did on Bullock’s. Its sales really only impacted basic goods.

First LA Store on Wilshire in Prudential Building Across from Coulter’s  New Store on Wilshire in former Siebu Store at Wilshire and Fairfax

BARKER BROTHERS

Barker Brothers was founded by Obadiah J. Barker, Jr. The first store opened in the early 1880’s on Spring Street. Later a major store was built on Broadway Street and it operated until 1927. In 1924, a ten story store was opened at the corner of 7th Street and Figueroa. This store was the largest home furnishings store in the U.S. and was grand in style. The entrance was designed in a Moroccan style. A pipe organ on the Mezzanine floor provided music for the store. There was a huge auditorium for the customers to learn about furniture and decorating. In addition, the restaurant was operated by Mary Louise, a famous tea room operator in Los Angeles. The company was the showcase for major as well as new, upcoming furniture designers. The sales force was known as aggressive in marketing to all the new housing developments. Barker Brothers grew as the population moved to suburbia. The company opened numerous stores all through out Southern California. In 1984, the downtown store closed. In 1992, the entire chain closed. The downtown store now houses a mixture of offices and lofts.

Barker Brothers was first incorporated in California but in 1924 it incorporated in Delaware. It was later bought by Gold’s and that family continued to operate the business. They were later acquired by Gamble-Skogmo. In 1960, Gold’s/Barker Brothers was acquired by City Products, an Ohio based ice delivery company on a drive to diversify. In 1965, Household Finance Corporation bought City Products in its attempt to diversify. They later sold Barker Brothers to a Wall Street investment group in 1984. That is when the downtown Los Angeles store was closed. Unfortunately, the company had too much debt to service along with too much competition while lacking management strength. Now, Levitz, Gold Key, and other discount retailers were taking away the mid-market customers and the designers on Robertson Boulevard were capturing the up-scale customers. There was little room for Barker Bros.For a period, Barker Brothers/Gold’s owned and operated the W. & J. Sloane furniture chain. Due to stiff competition they closed the California stores and sold the stores in the East to City Stores.

I visited the downtown Los Angeles several times just to look at the facilities and the merchandise. At the time, I was still living with hand-me-down furnishings so I could not afford to shop there. I did learn home furnishings taste by looking at the designer products. I also shopped the store as a competitor. The smaller suburban stores were not really exciting as they lacked the variety and the designer fashions in the main store. The suburban stores were much more like any upper moderate home furnishing store. 

         

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Barker Brothers – Broadway Street – 1910

 

          

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Barker Bros – New Store on 7th Street.

        

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Barker Bros 7th Street Los Angeles   Barker Bros – 7th Street – Mary Louise Tea Room in Store

 

Barker Bros-Los Angeles-Annual Christmas Decorations

Barker Bros Downtown Los Angeles – Annual Christmas Tree Decor

Barkers Owned W.J. Sloan. This LA store was first closed.

JEVENE COMPANY

The H. Jevene Company was founded by Hans Jevene in1882. It was known as the largest and best grocer in the West. The company operated retail, mail order, and home delivery services. I do not know the first location but the second location opened in 1896 at Spring and 2nd Streets. In 1907, it built its new store at 6th and Broadway Streets. The new store had the finest of grocery products on all six floors. The company reportedly closed in the late 1920’s after the founder died.

      

OVERELL’S

This home furnishings store was founded in 1906 on Main street in Los Angeles in the area known as the furniture district. Next door was another well-known furniture store, Dearden’s Home Furnishings (1909). Others nearby included: Heywood Bros. & Wakefield Company (circa 1899) and Hulse Bradford & Company (1901).

Overell’s Home Furnishings Main Street Los Angeles approx 1910

SIEBU

Tokyo’s Siebu store opened a branch in 1962 in a new and modern design at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, across the street from a highly successful May Company store. The store executives were surprised to see the poor quality of Japanese merchandise sold in the U.S. and felt there was an opportunity to expand with an offering of upscale goods. The first day, the store was jammed with 40,000 customers. The restaurant was also a success. Unfortunately, the store was not a long-term success and closed in 1964. Orbach’s took over the store in 1965. I visited the store with friends when I was in college. It was not a warm environment and I did not see anything of interest.

I do not have a postcard of the store when it was Siebu. There is a postcard of when it was Orbach’s. I suggest you look in the Orbach’s collection to see the store.

 

HARTFIELD’S

Hartfield’s was a chain of specialty retail store located in downtown shopping areas primarily in the West. The company was headquartered in downtown Los Angeles. In the late 50′s the company started Zody’s, a discount department store in Southern California. Then, the company was renamed Hartfield-Zody’s and went public in 1961. By 1960, the Hartfield’s chain consisted of over 50 specialty apparel stores (mostly in downtown shopping areas in the West) and 5 Zody’s. As downtown shopping districts declined, Hartfield’s stores closed. Eventually the company only operated Zody’s stores. By the early 80′s Zody’s was closed and the stores sold.

On the personal side, my father-in-law did the audits for Hartfield’s in the 1930′s. He often told me about the commitment the family had towards building a successful business.

I have not been able to find a postcard depicting a Hartsfield’s store.

WALKER SCOTT - SAN DIEGO

The Walker Scott Department Store was founded in downtown San Diego in 1935. The store’s original owner, Ralf M. Walker, who already owned and ran Walker’s Department Store in Los Angeles, passed away in New York six weeks before the San Diego store’s opening. A former stock boy at the Los Angeles store, George A Scott, whom Mr. Walker had sent to the New York University of Retailing (1930), opened the San Diego store with Mr. Walker’s widow, Eliza Fitzgerald Walker. Eliza Walker became president of the company while Scott held the title of vice president. Walker’s Downtown store opened on October 3, 1935, situated on 5th and Broadway. It eventually expanded to eight stories, and held San Diego County’s first escalators.

The company merged with Desmond’s (Los Angeles) in 1985 which formed Wolens-Desmonds which operated Desmonds (Los Angeles), Walker-Scott ( San Diego), and K.Wolens (Texas).

Walker’s Later Walker Scott – San Diego

               

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Walker’s Long Beach

 

               

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Paris Walker New Store Los Angeles 1920′s

 

             

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Paris Walker – Downtown Los Angeles on Broadway – 1920′s

 BUFFUM’S – LONG BEACH

Buffum’s was a chain of Long Beach, California based department stores founded in 1904 and for years owned and operated by the Buffum family. It grew slowly over the years to a total of 16 stores throughout Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. (Dorothy Chandler was a member of the Buffum family.)

Over the years, the stores gained a reputation as the “Grand Dame” of department stores in the area. The stores interiors were known for large chandeliers and other upscale touches. The chain marketed itself as “Buffum’s Specialty Store,” in attempt to differentiate itself from other local chains including The Broadway, Bullock’s, Robinson’s, and the May Company.. It’s most famous advertising line “I’ve been to Buffum’s” was used in their advertising.

Like other local department stores of the era, Buffum’s was challenged by old-fashioned business models, changing consumer, tastes and the arrival of Nordstrom. The chain was bought in the 1970s by the Australia-based Adelaide Steamship Company, which looked to sell the struggling chain in the 1980s. AdSteam never found a buyer and liquidated the chain in March 1991.

The original downtown Long Beach building was replaced in the 1980′s. Unfortunately, the new store did not make much of a difference as downtown Long Beach had seriously declined. The newer store has since been demolished but downtown Long Beach has made a significant comeback and is considered one of the desirable parts of Southern California

 

               

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Buffum’s Santa Ana Store

HENSHEY’S – SANTA MONICA

The company was founded in 1925 at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and 3rd Street. It was the first store in the West side of the L.A. basin. The store always appealed to the value-oriented customer. The building was damaged in the Northridge earthquake. It closed in the 1980’s. Much of the building currently houses a Toys R Us store. A new shopping center was located nearby which ended the reign of Henshey’s.

MARSTON’S - SAN DIEGO

Marston was a department store based in San Diego founded by George Marston.  The store was founded in 1878, and moved several times before moving into its longtime flagship store on C Street, between Fifth and Sixth in downtown San Diego.  In 1960, Marston was acquired by Broadway-Hale. The flagship store was demolished. George Marston’s success was his ability to develop strong relationships with key vendors so he had the merchandise on an exclusive basis. For example, Marston’s was the key retailer for Gustov Stickley furniture. Mr. Marston was a politician and a philanthropist. His home is now a museum in San Diego with an incredible collection of Gustov Stickley furniture. The store Marston’s downtown store has since been demolished with the building of Horton Plaza.

 

                

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Marston’s – San Diego Downtown Store – 1920′s

FEDWAY – CALIFORNIA

Federated Department Stores started a new division in the 1960’s to capture small markets. The company saw the opportunity to become the dominant player in small cities (under 100,000) by acquiring local department stores and folding them into this new chain with merchandising and operating strengths. A management team was installed at the new headquarters in California and Federated started acquiring chains such as Halliburton’s in Oklahoma City, Levy’s in Tucson (1960) and others. It quickly realized that this new division was not providing the returns of the growth divisions. Plus, the settlement with the Justice Department after the acquisition of Bullocks-Magnin curtailed Federated’s ability to acquire more department store chains. The division was closed, a smart move as the department store chains they were targeting were downtown stores. Even in small cities, the retail centers were moving outside of downtown. Individual stores were sold to Dillard’s in 1971. (Keep in mind, at this time J.C. Penney, Sears Roebuck, and Monkey Wards which all had stores in downtown markets, were developing strategies to close these downtown stores and locate them in suburban strip centers and malls.)

HARRIS – SAN BERNARDINO

The Harris Company was a retail corporation, based in San Bernardino that operated stores named Harris’.  Brothers Philip, Arthur, and Herman Harris started the company with a small dry goods store in 1905, and the company eventually grew to nine large department stores, with stores in San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern counties.

The chain was acquired by Gottschalks in 1998. After the acquisition, some of the stores continued to operate under the name Harris Gottschalks. In January, 2009, Gottschalks filed for bankruptcy, and on March 31 announced they were liquidating all stores. All of the original Harris stores were finally closed in July, 2009.

 

                 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Harris Company – San Bernardino – 1935

 

                 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Harris Company – San Bernardino – 1944

 

                 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Harris Company – Riverside – 1960′s

ROUSES – RIVERSIDE

Rouses was founded by Gaylord Rouse in 1895, after first owning stores in Philadelphia, Santa Barbara, and Antioch. He opened his first store in Riverside which targeted a broad audience. Mr. Rouse died in 1923.  In 1925 the store was expanded and remodeled. The store continued in operation until 1964 when the company closed in bankruptcy. Competition from other major department stores became too great. By then Harris’, The Broadway, and May Company Southern California had moved into the market.

 

Rouses – Riverside, Ca – 1948

Rouses – Riverside, Ca – 1935 – Main Aisle

Rouses – Riverside, Ca – 1935 – Men’s Clothing/Furnishings

GEORGE W. REYNOLDS DEPARTMENT STORE

George W. Reynolds Department Store – Riverside, Ca – 1925

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YAMATO – LOS ANGELES

Yamato Store – Broadway Street – Los Angeles – 1911

Yamato – Los Angeles – Tea Garden – 1911

INNES SHOE – LOS ANGELES

Innes Shoe – Downtown Los Angeles

CALIFORNIA FURNITURE COMPANY – LOS ANGELES

California Furniture Company – Los Angeles – approx 1900

WOOD BROS – LOS ANGELES

Wood Bros Spring Street Los Angeles approx 1900

Mosgroves Los Angeles Spring Street approx 1900

 MYER SIEGEL

The company operated stores in Los Angeles on Wilshire Blvd, in Pasadena, Hollywood, and in Fresno, California. These stores offered better women’s apparel. The company closed in the late 1950′s.

Wilshire Boulevard – Los Angeles – 1952

Wilshire Blvd – Los Angeles – 1952

Fresno, Ca Store, 1937

Myer Siegel 1926

Myer Siegel 1926

FOSGATE’S

Fosgate’s Fountain and Confectionery Broadway Street LA approx 1910

Fosgate’s Fountain 4th and Broadway Los Angeles approx 1910

METROPOLITAN BARBER SHOP – LOS ANGELES

Metropolitan Barber Shop Spring near Broadway Los Angeles approx 1910

CHRISTOPHER’S CONFECTIONERY AND FOUNTAIN

Christopher’s on Broadway near 7th Los Angeles approx 1920′s

REDLICK’S DEPARTMENT STORE – BAKERSFIELD

Redlick’s Department Store Bakersfield, Ca 1919

BROCK’S DEPARTMENT STORE – BAKERSFIELD

Brock’s Department Store Bakersfield, Ca. 1950′s

DONAVAN & SEAMANS – JEWELERS- LOS ANGELES

Donovan & Seamans Jewelers Broadway Street Los Angles approx 1920

J. JESSOP & SONS JEWELERS – SAN DIEGO

This wonderful jeweler was later sold to Dayton Hudson Jewelers.

Jessop & Sons Jewelers – San Diego

THE ERNSTING COMPANY – JEWELERS – SAN DIEGO

Ernsting Jewelers Downtown San Diego

THE ELITE – CATERERS AND CONFECTIONERS – LOS ANGELES

The Elite Caterers and Confectioners – Broadway – Los Angeles – 1926

PARMELEE COMPANY – GAS AND ELECTRIC FIXTURES – LOS ANGELES

Z.L.PARMELEE COMPANY 2nd & Broadway Los Angeles approx 1900

THE GREAT WARDROBE – SANTA BARBARA

The Wardrobe Company Santa Barbara approx 1910

 

 

EASTERN STORE (LEFT) BAKERSFIELD, CALIFORNIA APPROX 1954

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT STORES – MAY COMPANY CALIFORNIA

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Downtown LA – May Company (after addition)

MAY COMPANY – CALIFORNIA – The Largest Department Store in the West

In 1923, the May Company based in St. Louis, Missouri, bought Hamburger’s in Los Angeles and re-named it May Company California. The May Company itself had started in 1877 in Leadville, Colorado, specifically to serve the silver miners. The May Company Department Stores expanded by moving to Denver and later purchasing Famous Brothers in St. Louis. It then moved to St Louis and merged with William Barr Dry Goods in 1911 to create Famous Barr. With the 1923 acquisition of the large Hamburger store in Los Angeles, it entered the California market.

For the first 15 years, the May Company California division focused on the downtown Los Angeles store. The first branch store was opened in 1939, at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax. Even though the Great Depression did not hit California hard, the May Company remained cautious. They did know that they needed a store in Western Los Angeles as that was where the population growth was happening. In 1947, after WWII, they opened a store in the Crenshaw shopping area where many of the aircraft plant workers lived. In 1952, they opened a large store in Lakewood, near the Douglas plant and airfield. Afterwards, the company began opening a new suburban store every year or two until their stores captured significant market share in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, and San Bernardino counties.

Like Broadway Stores, May Company was a mid-tier department store chain catering to the broad value oriented customer. The company developed strong merchants and, although highly promotional, they were great at following the fashion trends. I remember in the 60’s and 70’s when the juniors revolution was taking place, the May Company – California stores had a junior area that captured the times as well as the best junior specialty retailers. May Company was hot! In those days May Company California was a major profit producer for May Department Stores Company.

In later years, the May Company California expanded outside of California as the parent company bought Goldwater’s (Arizona) and incorporated the Goldwater’s Las Vegas store into a May Company California store.

In the late 1970’s and 1980’s May Company California stores started to show wear as the stores were not well-maintained under the expense control programs being implemented. The company still maintained strong merchandising programs and the May Department Stores Company became known for making money through effective merchandising. However, the California division was hurt by executive turnover and corporate programs that influenced and limited local merchandising.

In 1993, after the May Department Stores Company acquired Associated Dry Goods Company, the Associated’s W.J. Robinson & Company division was merged with the May Company California stores to form Robinsons-May. Robinson’s was an upper-tier department store operation and the merger of these two businesses first created some difficulties. When Bob Mettler became responsible for merchandising the problems seem to end as he differentiated the merchandising for the stores based upon local markets. He also brought a new level of enthusiasm to merchandising and buffered the merchandising team from the corporate merchandising pressures.

In 1984, the original store at 8th and Broadway was closed. The headquarters had moved out of that building years before. This area of downtown Los Angeles had deteriorated significantly.

In 2006, after the May Department Stores Company was acquired by Federated Department Stores, the Robinsons-May division was closed and the stores were converted to Macy’s or sold.

What happened?????   Although May Company California was a strong and aggressive merchandising organization, they, like others, had difficulties facing increased competition. Nordstrom, Mervyn’s, Target, a reinvigorated J.C. Penney, Costco, and others were taking market share and operated with lower costs. The May Company reduced expenses in a manner that resulted in a less than pleasant shopping environment. Corporate turnover and control also caused problems and eventually ended local merchandising programs. In the end, the collapse of the parent company ended May Company California.

I have posted postcards of the downtown Los Angeles store, the Wilshire store and the Crenshaw store. Postcards of the downtown LA store are listed under Hamburger’s, the company May Company purchased in 1923. Postcards of the newer May Company California stores are, in my mind, not important for this blog. The newer stores were just big boxes with no architectural importance.

May Company Downtown LA 1930′s

May Company California – Store at Fairfax and Wilshire Blvd -1940

May Company Store at Fairfax and Wilshire Blvd. Miracle Mile 1960′s

May Company California – Crenshaw Store 1940′s

Northern California Department Stores – City of Paris – San Francisco

Friday, January 28th, 2011

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CITY OF PARIS DRY GOODS COMPANY

City of Paris – 1904

Felix Verdier owned a silk-stocking manufacturing company in Nimes, France.  In 1850 he chartered a ship, Ville de Paris, to bring silks, laces, and fine wines, champagne, and cognac to San Francisco. His ship was met in the Bay by boatloads of newly wealthy 49ers, brandishing bags of gold. As the story goes, he sold all the products before the ship was even docked. Felix Verdier immediately returned to France and reloaded with fresh merchandise destined this time for the store he opened at 152 Kearney Street and named the City of Paris.

The City of Paris became the premier department store in San Francisco.  By 1896, a larger store in a Beaux-Arts design featuring an open atrium was built at Stockton and Geary Streets. In 1906, the big earthquake and resulting fires destroyed much of the store’s interior. A temporary store was established on Van Ness while the interior was redesigned by John Bakewell and Arthur Brown. Its open atrium was topped with a magnificent stained glass dome depicting the ship, Ville de Paris.

The rebuilt store became a showcase for retailing in San Francisco. It was opulent and continued to be stocked with merchandise of French design and manufacture. The liquor department was well regarded for its French influence as this was before the development of Napa Valley. Brentano’s took over the book department and became the largest volume bookstore west of Denver. Every Christmas season, the store set up a beautifully decorated tree in the Atrium. Herb Caen, the San Francisco Chronicle columnist, deemed it the official Christmas tree for San Francisco. Reportedly, he tree was 50 to 60 feet tall.

In the 1960’s, the City of Paris’ fortunes declined. It was no longer as highly profitable as consumer tastes changed and competitors became stronger. Macy’s, for example, had copied the basement theme of the Normandy Lane in the City of Paris and created The Cellar. (Later, Macy’s took The Cellar concept to their other stores and divisions.) The Verdier family decided to close the store in 1972. I think there are many who will remember the KFRC radio station studios which were on the first floor so pedestrians could see the studios through the window.

The City of Paris did open suburban branches. They opened one in Vallejo in the 1940’s. They also opened boutique shops in some of the better hotels. The branch stores never proved highly successful.

After the closing, Amfac bought the store in San Francisco and converted it to their Liberty House department store division. The new store was called Liberty House at the City of Paris. Liberty House quickly discovered that it was a difficult facility to operate on a profitable basis so they built a new store next door on Stockton Street. They sold the old building to Neiman Marcus who immediately announced plans to demolish the landmark building and replace it with a modern store.

The reaction in San Francisco to the announced destruction of this landmark was unbelievable. Herb Cain, the noted columnist, took on the fight as did many of the citizens of San Francisco. Although the building was not saved, an agreement was reached in which the dome and some of the important historic décor was saved and put into the new store. The replacement store is an important part of the retailing community in San Francisco as the dome has been preserved and Neiman Marcus is a respected retailer. The new fake tree at Christmas, unfortunately, does not meet the standards of the citizens who remember the old City of Paris tree.

What happened????     Many things worked in the favor of the City of Paris. The upscale shopping district moved from Market Street to the Union Square area. Unfortunately, City of Paris remained a small retailer with little market clout. In addition, consumer tastes were changing as apparel brands were becoming strong. American wines were also growing stronger. Most importantly, I. Magnin’s was located across the street and had captured the carriage trade. Macy’s California was under the leadership of Ed Finkelstein and he upgraded that chain from a promotional value oriented department store to one with style and a healthy upper moderate merchandise mix. He developed The Cellar concept and went after the younger customers with successful Junior and Young Mens departments. Most importantly, the Macy’s San Francisco main store was also on Union Square and its excitement drew many customers. I also believe that the succeeding family members did not have the interest or flair to take the store where it needed to go to be competitive.

I remember the City of Paris well. Every back to school season and for many Christmas seasons my family would visit the retail stores in San Francisco. The City of Paris store was something we always had to see even though we could not afford much of the merchandise the store carried. We always came to see the Christmas tree! When I was at Bullock’s I would continue to visit the store on trips to San Francisco. I watched the store in decline, but it was still an example to me of a store carrying unique product, with historic design and décor, and with superior customer service.

At the time the building was to be demolished, a colleague from Bullock’s was the head of Neiman Marcus. He could not understand why the citizens were so upset since the building was of a design that could not be operated on a profitable level. He did want the location so he worked to a compromise to save the dome and some of the decor. Most older San Franciscan’s still cannot accept the outside architecture of the store. To them the new building looks like a typical suburban store (without windows) plopped onto a city corner.

1906 – After the Earthquake and Fire. Structure Sound/Inside Burned

City of Paris – 1905 – Camp Crocker on Union Square

City of Paris – 1910 -Celebration

Union Square – 1904 – City of Paris

Union Square – 1915 – City of Paris (Note: Dohrman’s Across Street)

Union Square – 1944 – City of Paris – (Note: I Magnin Replaces Dohrman’s)

City of Paris – 1907 – Temporary Store After Earthquake on Van Ness

City of Paris – 1911 – After Earthquake Renovation

Rotunda 1915

City of Paris – Christmas Tree – 1911

City of Paris – Christmas Tree in Atrium

City of Paris – Christmas Tree – 1950′s

Christmas Tree 1961

 

I hope all who shopped or worked at the City of Paris Dry Goods Company will feel free to memorialize their impressions of this beautiful store by writing in the COMMENTS section below.

NOTE: Please do not copy any of these postcards without the written permission of John Plummer. These cards took years to collect.

Department Stores in Southern California – J.W. Robinson & Co

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

The Boston Store – Los Angeles – 1910

J.W. ROBINSON & CO – Los Angeles

James Winchester Robinson opened his first store in 1881 under the banner of The Boston Store. The original store was located at Spring and Temple Streets. In 1914, the name was changed to J.W. Robinson & Company and it moved to a new location at 7th and Grand in a building designed by Noonan and Richards. In 1934 the building was modernized by Edward L. Mayberry. The downtown store had six floors of selling space. On the seventh floor were the restaurants, the beauty salon, and customer service. The women’s rest area and lavatory were reputed to be exquisite.

Robinson’s catered to the carriage trade as did Bullock’s and Coulter’s. The store presented better fashions and offered excellent customer service. For years the store competed well with Bullock’s in the downtown market because it was located west on 7th street in an area attractive to the upper-end customers.

In 1957, the company was acquired by Associated Dry Goods and became their fashion headquarters for the West.

In 1952, the company opened its first branch store in the Beverly Hills market. Robinson’s needed that store to capture the carriage trade: customers that were now shopping at Bullock’s, I. Magnin’s, and Sak’s stores located out on Wilshire and at the specialty shops on Rodeo Drive. Even Coulter’s had closed its downtown store and moved to Wilshire. Later, Robinson’s opened a winter-only store in Palm Springs to serve the customers who wintered there. Other suburban stores opened in Panorama City, Anaheim, Santa Barbara, Glendale, Pasadena, Newport Beach, Cerritos, Woodland Hills and the City of Industry.

In 1986, Associated Dry Goods was acquired by The May Department Stores Company (St. Louis). In 1993, the Robinson’s division of Associated Goods was merged with the May Company Southern California division to form Robinson’s May. This was a difficult marriage as May Company was targeting the moderated market and Robinson’s catered to the carriage trade. In 2005, after the acquisition of The May Company Department Stores by Federated Department Stores, the stores were either renamed Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s or were sold.

What happened????      Although Robinson’s had relatively good positioning in Los Angeles, it relied too long on its one store downtown. It did not have the clout with vendors to develop exclusive relationships. As the customers moved west to Beverly Hills and south to Orange County and  when the downtown retail market declined, Robinson’s was slow to expand and gave up market share to Bullock’s, I. Magnin’s, Sak’s, and other retailers. Robinson’s started to rebound when Michael Gould became the CEO, but he did not get full support from the parent, Associated Dry Goods. When it merged with May Company, the company quickly lost the carriage trade customer.

I knew Robinson’s well as a competitor when I worked at Bullock’s. The downtown LA and the Beverly Hills stores were well-maintained and operated at high customer service levels. The management was not known as sophisticated. The management development program was not strong so the company was never able to develop talented merchants. I remember when the Attorney General for California looked into price fixing amongst the Southern California department stores. They found a folder amongst the corporate office files at Robinson’s entitled “Price Fixing Agreements”.

I wish there were postcards showing the interior of this wonderful store. I have only one which shows the women’s restroom. As soon as I locate it I will post it.

New Downtown LA J.W. Robinson Store Drawing

J. W.Robinson & Company – Los Angeles – 1917

J. W. Robinson & Company – Los Angeles – 1920′s

J. W. Robinson & Company – Los Angeles – 1920′s

J. W. Robinson & Company – Los Angeles – 1940 – After ‘Remuddling’

Utopia Yarn/ J.W.Robinson & Co – 1940

Rogers Peet Suits/J.W. Robinson & Co. – 1941

J.W. Robinson & Co. – Beverly Hills Store

J. W. Robinson & Company – Newport

Department Stores in Southern California – The Broadway

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

The Broadway . Original Store 1900

The Broadway Department Stores was founded in 1896 by Arthur Letts, Sr, an English immigrant. He built his first store on Broadway at Fourth Street, farther south on the street than the other retail establishments. His store, targeting the cost-conscious customer, was an immediate success and led to the 1920′s replacement of the building with a new, larger facility at the same location. In 1907, Mr. Letts funded two of his best employees, John Bullock and P. G. Winnett, to form Bullock’s at Seventh & Hill Streets.

The Broadway acquired the B.H. Dyas Specialty Emporium on Hollywood Blvd during the beginning of the Great Depression. This gave Broadway an important store in West Los Angeles. This store later declined with the decline of Hollywood Blvd and the growth of Beverly Hills.

The Broadway Street store was closed in 1973 and reopened at the newly built Broadway Plaza on Seventh Street. In later years, Broadway acquired many competitors to become a major retailer operating in the Southwest (Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Acquisitions included: Coulter’s (Los Angeles), B.H. Dyas (Los Angles), Milliron’s (Los Angeles), Walker’s (Long Beach), and Marston’s (San Diego). In 1979, Broadway was split into two divisions, Broadway Stores based in Los Angeles, and Broadway Southwest based in Phoenix.

The Broadway merged with Hale Stores (Sacramento) in 1950 to form Broadway-Hale Stores. This put Hale Stores (Sacramento/San Francisco), Weinstock Lubin (Sacramento), and Broadway under one company ownership. In 1969, the company acquired Emporium-Capwell. Emporium was based in San Francisco and Capwell’s was based in Oakland. In 1969, CHH acquired the three unit Neiman-Marcus chain based in Dallas. In 1972, the company acquired Bergdorf-Goodman (New York), Holt-Renfrew (Montreal), Sunset House (Los Angeles), and Waldenbooks (Stamford, Ct). In 1977, CHH attempted to takeover Marshall Fields, but was unsuccessful. Licking their wounds they ended up taking over the troubled John Wannamaker chain based in Philadelphia. In 1979, the company acquired Contempo Casuals based in Los Angeles. For a time, CHH also held a major interest in the House of Fraser which included Harrod’s. Through all these acquisitions the company increased sales and debt but profits remained low. The company was ripe for a takeover and Limited stepped up to the plate in 1984 and 1986. To fend off the takeover, CHH spun off the Specialty Group (Neiman Marcus, Contempo Casuals, and Bergdorf Goodman), sold Waldenbooks to Kmart, sold Thalheimers to the May Company, sold Wannamaker’s to Woodward & Lothrop, and Holt Renfrew to the Weston family. In 1991, CHH filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In 1992, the Zell/Chilmark fund took the company out of bankruptcy and formed a new company called Broadway Stores, Inc. A new management team was recruited led by Mr. David Dworkin. Unfortunately, this new team misread the customer base and took Broadway Stores into a direction which proved disastrous. In 1995, the Zell/Chilmark organization sold Broadway Stores to Federated Department Stores. Within months the headquarters were closed and the stores were converted to Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s or were sold to Sears and other retailers.

What happened???      The Broadway never had the merchandising talent in fashion found at the competitors. It had few exclusive relationships with vendors and, because it was targeted towards the value-driven customer, it faced stiff competition from Sears, the rejuvenated J.C. Penney Company, discount stores and specialty retailers. Because the parent company was deep in debt due to the aggressive acquisitions, the Broadway did not have the funds to invest in the maintenance of their stores. The facilities were showing wear, carpets worn, and the fixtures and decor were outdated. Broadway also fell into advertising addiction; they relied heavily on costly advertising to drive whatever customer traffic they had. Most importantly, employee morale was low as the value of their profit sharing retirement plan declined with the company’s eroding performance. Probably the largest portion of blame goes to the lack of leadership at Carter Hawley Hale, the parent.  Competitors lovingly called the company Carter Farter & Hoopla. Reportedly, the Wall Street Journal commented … God gave them Southern California and they blew it”.

The downtown store on Broadway Street was kept open far longer than it should have. The store in the later years was in a transitioning area of downtown LA, surrounded by closeout shops, closed theatres, and empty store fronts. The store had narrow wooden escalators which were scary to use and very noisy. You could hear the thump, thump of the escalators all over the store. At the end, the store misrepresented the brand as the merchandise assortment was targeting a customer in the lower income strata.

Broadway Store During Shriner Convention . 1907

New Broadway Store. Los Angeles. 1930

Millinery Department – Broadway

The Broadway . Drapery Department . 1907

Corset Department . 1907

Drapery Department 1907 Another View

Fourth Floor Restaurant . 1907

New Eighth Floor Restaurant . 1930′s

Garden Restaurant . 1930′s

Broadway . New Van Nuys Store

Broadway Santa Card (reverse side below)

Reverse of above Santa card

Home of The Broadway Founder

More on the home of the founder of The Broadway

Founder’s Home in Hollywood

The Broadway . Employee Handbook . 1920

1920 Broadway Handbook pgs 2 & 3

Employee Handbook pgs 4 & 5

The Broadway . Employee Handbook . pgs 6 & 7

Employee Handbook . The Broadway. 1920 . pgs 8 & 9

The Broadway . Employee Handbook. pgs 10 & 11 . 1920

Note: Please do not make any copies of these postcards without the permission of John Plummer. It has taken years and a great deal of expense to compile this collection.

New Jersery Department Stores – Newark – Hahne & Company

Monday, January 10th, 2011

HAHNE & COMPANY

Downtown Newark 1905

Hahne and Company was founded in 1858 by Julius Hahne. The first store was a specialty store and later grew into an up-scale department store known for catering to the carriage trade and for friendly service.

In 1906 a new store was built on Broad Street in downtown Newark. The 441,000 square foot building had four floors plus a basement. An atrium in the center of the building allowed sunlight into all the floors to compensate for the lack of good electrical lighting.)

To the delight of the children, the basement had a merry-go-round. The Toy department was also located in the basement along with Housewares, Small Electrics, Sporting Goods, Luggage, Televisions, and the Budget Store.

The store had two restaurants. The Pine Room, a wood paneled fine dining area on the street level, was formal and until the late 1970’s had a dress code for patrons.  The Maple Room, located in the basement and offering counter service, appealed to downtown workers. It closed in the 1980’s when the basement selling floor was closed.

In 1929, the company opened the first suburban store in Montclair, New Jersey. Later, suburban stores were opened in Westfield, Livingston, Monmouth, Quaker Bridge, Woodbridge, and Rockaway.

Hahne and Company was a founding member of Associated Dry Goods when the company formed in 1916. Other founding members included: H.B. Clafin & Co (NYC), Lord & Taylor (NYC), Stewart & Co (Baltimore), Heneger’s (Buffalo), and J.N. Adam & Co. (Buffalo). This grouping of companies helped each division secure needed financing and also helped combine buying power.

What happened????     The company became too focused on its downtown store in Newark. As a result, when the Newark retail market declined in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the business did not stand out in the New Jersey market. A&S, Lord & Taylor, and Bloomingdale’s moved into the better suburban markets in New Jersey and left little room for Hahne’s. In 1986, the parent, Associated Dry Goods, was sold to The May Company Department Stores. The downtown store closed in 1987 and the corporate headquarters were moved to the newly acquired store in Paramus. Since there was not much difference between a Hahne’s store and the May Company’s Lord & Taylor division, the decision was made to close the Hahne’s stores and replace some with Lord & Taylor stores.

In the late 1970’s while working for A&S, I visited many of the Hahne’s stores. One of my colleagues from Bullock’s had also joined the company. I found the stores to be wonderful up-scale stores with excellent customer service. However, the stores were never full of customers and you could see the facilities were in need of new investment.

Hahne & Co – 1906

Hahne & Co – 1906

Hahne & Co. – 1907

50th Anniversary – 1908

Golden Jubilee/50th Anniversary – 1908

Hahne & Co – 1910

Hahne & Co – Inside Atrium – 1910

Hahne & Co. – Santa Greetings – 1906

NOTE: These postcards are part of the Plummer Collection. You will need permission from John Plummer at Plummer & Associates to reprint or copy any of these postcards.

Southern California Department Stores – Hamburgers

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

HAMBURGERS/Peoples Store

Downtown Los Angeles . 1910

Alex Hamberger opened his first store, The People’s Store, on Main Street in Los Angeles. Because of the success of that store, he opened A. Hamburger & Son  in 1908 in a new building at 8th & Broadway Streets. The building was Beaux Arts and designed by Alfred F. Rosenheim, a well-regarded architect. The store boasted as having the ‘largest aisle in the West”. The building offered open floors. The Arrow Theatre was located on the fifth floor. The store served the value-oriented customer in Los Angeles. Probably the biggest mistake was to locate the store at 8th and Broadway Streets, one block south of Bullock’s at 7th and Broadway. By then the better stores started to move West on 7th Street. In 1923, the partners of the May Department Stores Company acquired Hamburger’s and converted the store’s name to May Company. Later it became known as May Southern California. The building was closed as a retail store in the 1980′s. Today, the building is the home to the Broadway Trade Center. Hamburger’s claimed the store was the largest in the West. It also boasted about the length of the main aisle and the openess of the construction.

For more history of this retail building,  I refer you to our blog on May Company in Southern California.

Postcard of the Hamburger’s store are shown below. If there is anyone around who has memories of Hamburger’s before it became May Company, I hope you will memorialize your experiences in the Comments Section for others to see and enjoy. Obviously, I only knew the downtown building when it was occupied by May Company- Southern California. My family did tell me that the original store was Hamburger’s, but they did not tell me much about the store other than that there was a public library in the building.

Downtown Los Angeles . 1920

Mail Aisle

Dental and Manicure Departments

Women’s Shoes/Men’s Clothing

Silver & Jewelry/Ladies Restroom/Pictures/Art

Millinery/Trimmed Hats/Coaks/French Gowns

Furniture/Piano/Doll/Drapery/Infant Wear Departments

Soda & Candy/Cigar/Drug/Book Departments

Dinnerware/Cut Glass/Home Decor/Lamp Departments

Broadway and Eighth September 1909 Celebrating Elk’s Convention

NOTE: These postcards are part of the Plummer collection. You must have John Plummer’s written permission to copy or reproduce any of these postcards.

Department Stores in Southern California – Bullock’s

Monday, January 3rd, 2011
  Bullocks Downtown Los Angeles – 1907 – Grand Opening

In 1907, John Gillespie Bullock and Percy Glen Winnet opened Bullock’s at the corner of 7th & Broadway Streets in downtown Los Angeles. The two had worked at The Broadway and convinced Arthur Letts, Sr, founder of The Broadway to back them in this new retail venture  targeting the more up-scale customer. The store grew over the years as it acquired buildings on 7th Street between Hill and Broadway; one of the buildings was a competing department store. In 1923, John Bullock and P. G. Winnet bought out Arthur Lett’s interest.

In 1929, the company opened its first branch store on Wilshire Boulevard. This luxury Art Deco designed  store targed the wealthy as they moved to the nearby Hancock Park neighborhood from the downtown’s West Adams district.  Later, the Bullock’s Wilshire store became a separate division within Bullocks. For years Bullock’s Wilshire merchandised the store in Palm Springs which only operated in the Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons. The Palm Springs store served the Hollywood community with winter homes in that area.

Bullock’s was known as a chain which targeted the better customer and provided unparalled customer service. The company had approximately 65 buyer/managers in each store until 1970. Up until then, the company believed that having buyers in each store for each department helped provide a localized assortment. However, it was hard for Bullock’s to buy from larger manufacturers as each store could not meet minimum quantity orders. The company did have exclusive relationships with key better vendors which helped it retain the better market position.

The third suburban store was opened in Pasadena (it was designed to be converted into a hotel if it did not succeed as a store). Later the chain continued to expand with stores in Westwood, the San Fernando Valley, Santa Ana, Torrance, Lakewood, San Gabriel Valley, Orange County, Las Vegas, Pheonix, and San Diego.

Bullock’s acquired  I.Magnin & Company in 1944 to form Bullocks-Magnin. In 1964, publicly held Bullocks-Magnin was acquired by Federated Department Stores. This was a hostile takeover. P.G. Winnet, the founder, opposed the sale. His son-in-law, Walter Candy who was President, was for the sale and gathered support of the management team.  Abe Fortes, who later became a Supreme Court Justice, was the attorney representing Federated. (Note: Bullock’s in Northern California was a separate division of Federated Department Stores.) This acquisition affected both Bullock’s and Federated for many years.  First,  many of the management team were protected for supporting Mr. Candy and the Federated acquisition so it was agreed that directional and management changes would not be made for five years. That is one of the key reasons Bullock’s did not convert to central merchandising until 1970. P.G. Winnet mostly continued working out of the Bullock’s-I Magnin offices but did visit stores and was known for pinning candy on sales people who he recognized as outstanding. Secondly, Federated was restricted from further growth through acquisition. The Justice Department was concerned that Federated was gaining too much share of the department store sector which at the time was the largest individual segment in the retail industry.

In 1988, Bullock’s was sold to the R.H.Macy Company as Federated was owned by Campeau and needed cash. As Macy’s-Atlanta took over merchandising,   Bullock’s lost its better positioning. As I understand it, under Macy’s store gross margin production shrank dramatically. In 1995, Bullock’s name was formally changed to Macy’s. Now, all the Bullock’s sites are known as Macy*s or Bloomingdales since the R.H. Macy Company was acquired by Federated Department Stores.

Bullocks was known for:

  • Merchandise assortments which trended towards better.
  • Higher quality salespeople who were focused on customer service.
  • Strong fashion presentation with upgraded and well-maintained stores.
  • Special events.

What happened???       When Federated Department Stores acquired Bullock’s it was a leader in Southern California but was marginally profitable. As management changes were made the company became highly profitable and in a dominant market position because the company secured top merchandising talent, invested in systems, and had the capital from Federated Department Stores to upgrade facilities and to expand into new markets. The downtown store continued to slide as the market demographics changed, the Southern California transportation system collapsed, and as customers shopped more at shopping malls. Bullock’s flourished until Nordstrom’s entered the Southern California market. At that time, Bullock’s began losing some of its fashion edge as markdown programs were reduced with the intent of increasing profitability but in reality allowed fashion to become stale in comparison to Nordstrom’s. Bullock’s remained dominant but should never have allowed Nordstrom’s to gain a foothold in Southern California. (Note: Terry Lundgren, CEO of Macy’s (Federated Department Stores) started with Bullock’s as a trainee. Keep in mind, the Bullock’s motto was….” to build a business which shall know no end”.

Today, the former downtown Bullock’s store building is divided between a St Vincents Jewelry Mart, a parking lot, and small retail stores. The Bullock’s Wilshire store now houses the Southwestern Law School. The Bullock’s Wilshire store is kept in its original Art Deco splendor and serves as a reminder of department store retailing in the grander days.

I started my retail career with Bullock’s. Although I grew up in Modesto, California, about 300 miles north of Los Angeles, I knew Bullock’s especially well. My mother was from Los Angeles. My grandmother used to knit infant clothing for Bullock’s downtown. My godmother, Ms. Paquita Machris, used to take me twice a year to Bullock’s Wilshire to pick out clothing. Her personal sales person, Ms. Dineen, met us at the MotorCourt and took us through the store followed by a lunch in the tea room where I enjoyed my first taste of Babas au Rhum. Years later,  I always made sure Ms. Dineen was well taken care of as she had the largest sales book in the entire Bullock’s chain. I joined Bullock’s when I taught Statistics at U.S.C. I then became a part of the Personnel department in the corporate offices. I remained with Bullock’s until 1978 when I was recruited to Mervyn’s, a new publicly held company in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My collection of Bullock’s postards are shown below. If anyone has memories of Bullock’s I hope you will feel free to memorialize your memories in the Comments Section below. I know I have many friends and co-workers who are anxious to do so. You must receive my permission to copy or reprint any of these postcards.

Bullock’s Downtown

Bullock’s Downtown 1920′s

July 4, 1921

DownTown LA 1912

Bullock’s Downtown 1930′s (note outdoor dining – before smog)

Bullock’s Downtown – 1930′s

First Floor 1914 – Later became Cosmetics floor

 

Gown Room – Third Floor – Pre 1920

 

Children’s Departments – Fourth Floor – Pre-1920

Millinery Room

The Tea Room…..

Tea Room – 1920′s

The Lobby – Tea Room

The Foyer – Tea Room – 1920′s

The Foyer – Tea Room – 1910

Tea Room – The Grey Room – 1920′s

Tea Room – 1920′s

Tea Room – 1930′s

Tea Room Kitchen – 1930′s

California Poem Sent to Bullock’s Downtown Customers – 1924

Bullock’s Wilshire – Opened 1929

Bullock’s Wilshire

Bullock’s Wilshire – Fine Pottery and Glassware

Bullock’s Wilshire – Fine Jewelry Gorham Sterling & Precious Stones

Bullock’s Pasadena

Bullock’s Pasadena – Designed to be a hotel if it did not work as a retail store.

Fashion Postcards Sent to Bullock’s Pasadena Customers

Bullock’s Santa Ana

Bullock’s Santa Ana – Company developed mall- Sister Company I Magnin is co-anchor

Bullock’s Downtown Easter Placecard – Shirley Temple – 1928

This placecard was provided to me by someone whose Great Aunt worked at Bullock’s and kept this placecard. She had Shirley Temple, Ma Kittle, and Bob Hope as customers. I have not verified the signature. Bullock’s, Bullock’s Wilshire, and Bullock’s Palm Spring served many of the Hollywood Stars!

Happy Holidays from Plummer & Associates

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

 

Plummer & Associates, Inc.
P.O. Box 607
New Canaan, Connecticut 06840
(800) 603 9981
www.plummersearch.com

Happy Holidays!

At this time of year we all think of our relationships, friends and family. We also like to review our successes and seek areas for improvement.

2010 has been a better year for all of us involved in retail. Although the economy has a long way to go to fully recover, there are significant signs of improvement indicating that the consumer is spending more. That bodes well for all of us!

At Plummer & Associates our commitment is to do a better job than we have before. During the deepest part of the recession, we spent time re-thinking our business model and how we serve our clients. We have always been proud of our success in recruiting top candidates who excelled with our clients, but we challenged ourselves to work more efficiently and at less expense to our clients. We as a team are proud of what we have accomplished.

We have now added a blog to our website: www.plummersearch.com/blog. Currently this blog covers topics related to talent development and information for candidates. In January, as part of our contribution to the retail industry, the blog will cover the evolution of downtown retailers for the prime period from 1880 to 1960. Our first blog will cover the stores of Southern California and the second will cover Northern California. Over time, we will cover all states and provinces in North America, utilizing our collection of over 10,000 retail store postcards.

For now, we thank you for our relationship and want you to know that we are honored to work with you. We trust we have earned your respect so that we may continue this relationship in 2011.

We wish you the best for the holidays and look forward to being in touch in the New Year.

Sincerely,
John Plummer
Susan Gill
Heidi Plummer
Dina Lokets
Kathy Brooke
And the Plummer & Associates Team

P.S. The Santa buttons above are from our collection representing retail stores in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the U.K.