Hale Bros. San Francisco – Pre-1906


In 1880 the Criterion Store was opened by Prentice Cobb Hale and his two brothers. This store was located in downtown Sacramento. The next year the store and company was renamed Hale Brothers & Company. In 1896, the company incorporated under the name of Hale Bros. In 1887, the company established a buying office in New York headed by Marshall Hale. This store was known for offering value priced merchandise.

Hale Bros opened large stores in San Francisco and San Jose and several smaller stores in California’s smaller markets. In those days some of the stores included groceries in their merchandise mix. Each store was managed as a separate entity as systems were not sophisticated enough to have chain wide merchandising. The Sacramento store was last located at 9th and K Streets. The San Jose store was at the corner of 1st and San Carlos. The San Francisco store was first located at 989 Market Street. After the earthquake, the company built a new store at 901 Market Street in a neoclassical building designed by the Reid Brothers. It lost that store in a 1944 lease dispute with the owners of the land upon which the store was built. As a result, J.C.Penney moved into this prime location and Hale Bros was forced to take over the former J.C.Penney location adjacent to the enormous Emporium store.  The foolish negotiations by Hale Bros resulted in the company opening in an older building while paying a much higher rent.

In 1949, Hale Bros. acquired their Sacramento rival, Weinstocks Lubin & Co. In 1949, Hale Bros. negotiated an all-stock merger with Los Angeles based Broadway Department Stores, then the largest and most aggressively growing chain in Southern California. The result was Broadway-Hale Stores. Prentice Hale became the Chairman and Ed Carter (Broadway) became President.

All stores were closed by 1968. Hale Brothers was facing increased competition from the Emporium and aggressive specialty retailers. Consumers were moving to the malls while Hale Bros stores were in downtown markets. Since the Emporium was merged into Broadway – Hale in 1969, I have to believe they knew that Hale Bros stores would not be relevant in that combined company. At the time, the only people crying over the loss were the employees of Hale Bros. The store was not missed.

The Sacramento store has now been restored to its original look; the unsightly aluminum sheathing has been removed. The San Jose store now houses a building and loan office. The San Francisco store was empty for years after J.C. Penney left San Francisco. It now houses big box retail venues.

What happened????…. In the case of Hale Bros you cannot blame Carter Hawley Hale for its demise. Instead, blame goes directly to the company’s management. The loss of the San Francisco store lease killed that store. They ended up with a store that was old and in decline and they paid more in rent. They just could not compete with the more customer friendly Emporium next door. Customers were also looking for more fashion but Hale Brothers did not offer it. The biggest problem was that the customers were moving to mall shopping environments and Hale Bros stores were only located in downtown venues.

I was taken to the Hale Bros stores in both Sacramento and San Francisco. In Sacramento, the Weinstock’s store was far more exciting. In San Francisco, going to Hale Bros was torture in comparison to the Emporium, the White House, or the City of Paris. Then, when Macy’s San Francisco woke-up, it was all over for Hale Bros.

I hope that all of you who know Hale Bros better than I do will be able to tell your stories in the comments section below. I would especially like to hear more about how the real estate mogul, Louis Lurie, out foxed Prentice Hale.

Hale Bros. – San Francisco – Destruction by 1906 Earthquake and Fire

Hale Bros. – San Francisco – Rebuild after Earthquake and Fire

Hale Bros. – San Francisco – New Store on Market – 1927

Hale Bros. – San Jose – Scene from 1932

Hale Bros. – San Francisco – First Floor – no date

Hale Bros. – San Francisco – Pompeian Court/Restaurant – 1914

These Hale Bros. postcards are part of the Plummer & Associates collection. Please do not copy or reproduce without permission from John Plummer.

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  2. Barbara says:

    I have a piece of “jewelry”, per say, that was my grandmothers, purchased at Hales in San Francisco, still with the tag in the original paper bag.

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  5. a rice says:

    i have an original photo signed by hales bros in original mount

    photo of beautiful young woman with a tragic life story to unfold .

  6. jplummer says:

    I am sure the picture is a treasure. John

  7. I´ve enjoy reading this post. You use a lot of effort to writting it and that´s cool! Cheers!

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  9. Marney says:

    Love your website.
    Regarding the Hale Store in San Jose.

    Oliver A(and others! ) was a first cousin to my GGF.
    Oliver’s letterhead stationery dtd 9/25/96 [1896]

    Hale’s California Stores
    O. A. Hale & Co
    Established 1876 <–

    140 142 144 S. First Street
    28 30 & 32 San Fernando
    San Jose, California

    Print, left-hand margin:

    Mail Order Department

    Hale Bros
    San Francisco

    Hale Bros & Co

    O. A. Hale & Co
    San Jose

    Hale & Co

    Hale Bros & Co

    The J M Hale Co Inc
    Los Angeles


    Note: the above is typed precisely as found and engraved on O A H's letterhead-no abbreviations by this writer. In the corporate and business sense such is how the various stores described themselves.

    BEST! wishes,


  10. Holly says:

    I really enjoyed reading about the history of Hales and seeing the picture postcards. Would love to see some pictures of the original Hale’s in Sacramento. I walk by it everyday at lunch and wonder what it must have been like back then.

  11. Marlene says:

    Really appreciate your website. Stopped in a Thrift store today and found a framed De Jonge floral art deco print in the original frame for $3.50 but what thrilled me the most was the original tiny sticker price tag that read Hale’s California Stores $3.00 on the back! Brought back memories of haunting the downtown stores as a kid. My mother worked at Weinstock’s at 12th and K. My favorite floor was the mezzanine where they carried Nancy Drew books and bicycles … I loved the silver Monet charms on the first floor in jewelry too and begged my Mother for one until one Chrismas I received a tiny silver poodle …still have it… my Mother was a divorced single Mom raising four kids on a salesgirl’s salary so that charm was quite the sacrifice! In those days they wore navy or black dresses to work and your purchases were boxed and wrapped in tissue. Any trip downtown always meant putting on your best dress. We had no car so we walked about a mile downtown, first stop Weinstock’s and on the way home a peek in The White House petshop where there were always puppies in the storefront window and a loud Mynah bird or two inside. Well thanks for letting me recall and share my memories of Department store magic … Hale’s, Ransohoff’s …I. Magnins…and of course there was always the lunch counter and parakeets at Woolworth’s …does anyone even have a mezzanine anymore??

  12. jplummer says:

    What wonderful memories. You show that department stores were an important part of our social lives. That ended quickly in the 1990′s.

    Mezzanine…from an architectural standpoint they still exist in retail stores. But, the actual mezzanine retail floor in terms of merchandise mix no longer exists.

    Yes, the parakeets in Woolworths. I remember them well. A friend of mine raised and sold them to the Woolworth store in Modesto. I also remember the baked apples at the Woolworth lunch counter.


  13. Leoma Kuczma says:

    Cap proclaims that by way of his own throw ups he’s the emperor of Graffiti Bombing. Seeking back until right now, Exactly what do you think may be the history of “Cap’s War”?

  14. Sally says:

    I just finished refinishing an old stool that was always in our home while I was growing up (and I’m 60!). On the underside of the seat was stamped “Hale Bros Sacramento”, so naturally I wanted to know more about the store. My parents lived in Sacramento in the 40′s and Mother worked in one of the department stores as a glove saleswoman (a lady always wore here gloves when going to the City!). Unfortunately, I don’t know which department store. Thank you for your article….I know she would have enjoyed reading it too.

  15. Jeremy says:

    Great info. I received an old catalog for Hale’s from my great grandmother how lived on the west coast. Being from here in Illinois I had never heard of it. It’s the spring and summer 1900 catalog 12. A lot has changed since then. Thanks for the great information.

  16. Bobber57 says:

    I’ve found an old tube radio from the 1920s that’s called Hale’s Californian. Did Hale Brothers have sets made for them in that time period?

    The information you have provided is VERY interesting! I’d love to see the photo mentioned by a rice and read the story that goes with it!

  17. I was the Security Manager for Hale’s San Francisco Div with 5 stores: Market St.,Misson St., Oakland and 2 applicance stores. I was involved in the closure of the chain and was transfered back to the Broadway in Los Angeles. That division had a colorful security history.

  18. pjmonego says:

    I am a collector, restorer and curator of pre WW II vintage radios. Recently I acquired a 4 tube battery powered radio with no documentation. From the electronic design I would estimate the radio to be a mid- 1920′s era. The front panel is inscribed Hale’s Californian. Is it possible that Hale’s had radios manufactured for them? If so, does anyone know when they started and for how long they did this? Any idea who the manufacturer was?

  19. Melanie says:

    Thank you for this! My grandfather was Marshal Hale III, and my mom tells me stories about the stores all the time. My favorite having to do with the Hale Bros lack of fashion as you mentioned.

    My grandmother, Lucille Powers, was an actress (in some of the first “talkies” like 2 Gun Man) and was shopping at a department store I believe in Sourhern California that the Hale Bros had just purchased. As the old manager was showing Marshal the store they ran into Miss Powers. “Are you finding what you like, Miss Powers?”

    Without turning around she replied “Not since that damned Marshal Hale took over.”

    As she turned around the manger replied “May I introduce you to Marshal Hale?”

    He was so smitten with her boldness that he showed up at her house a few days later with a truck full of dressed and asked “Do you like any of these?” Needless to say he won her affections.

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