Posts Tagged ‘broadway’

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT STORES – H. C. CAPWELL – OAKLAND

Monday, February 21st, 2011

H.C.Capwell & Co – Opening 1912 – Oakland, California

Mr. H. C. Capwell, an immigrant from Michigan, opened a retail store in Downtown Oakland. For two years prior he worked in San Francisco for merchandising companies from the East Coast. His store opened in 1889 under the banner of “The Lace House”. Two years later he changed the name to H.C. Capwell.

As the company proved successful and Oakland grew, he opened a new big store at 20th and Broadway in downtown Oakland. This new store was of Beaux Arts design, built of brick, clad in terra cotta and six floors in height. With this store, Mr. Capwell set the tone for Oakland. On opening day, August 5, 1929, 10,000 customers waited for the doors to open.

Capwell’s, as the store was known to the consumer, was a mid-priced department store. In the 1930’s, the company also operated a grocery store in downtown called Capwell’s Central Market.

In 1924, Capwell’s merged with Emporium (San Francisco) to form Emporium-Capwell. The two remained separate entities under the same holding company. Capwell’s limited its expansion to the area near Oakland (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties)

The downtown Oakland store still stands. It remained a Capwell’s until 1989 when the name was changed to Emporium. Then, in 1996, when its parent company was sold to Federated Department Stores, the store was closed. It reopened months later as a Sears store and continues to operate as such. The building was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Pieta earthquake. It was closed for six months until repairs were completed.

What happened???     Capwell’s, by merging with the larger Emporium, became the stepchild in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its major market was downtown Oakland which declined rapidly after World War II.. When Emporium Capwell was acquired by Broadway Hale, the Emporium got all the capital to expand throughout the market while Capwell’s struggled with its Oakland and Alameda base. Worse yet, the new parent organization, Carter Hawley Hale Stores, went on an ego driven path to acquire other retailers, leaving the company burdened with debt and unable to refurbish the stores to keep up with retailing trends. This eventually led to the temporary collapse of the parent company and an ill fated attempt to rebuild the company in a buyout by the Zell/Chilmark fund. In 1996, the parent company was sold to Federated Department Stores. With the sale many stores were converted to Macy’s and Bloomingdales or were sold to other retailers or for other uses.

As a child, I never visited Capwell’s but we always passed it on our shopping trips to San Francisco. Later, when I worked at Mervyn’s I shopped it as a competitor. I found that it was then just an Emporium under the Capwell’s banner. The downtown store’s façade was beautiful, but inside, the store was not clean and you could see the facility was expensed to death. It was a sad sight. The suburban stores were better, but still poorly maintained.

H. C. Capwell & Co. 1921

H.C. Capwell & Co.. Terrace Tea Garden – 1914

H. C. Capwell & Co. = Venetian Roof Garden – 1914

H. C. Capwell & Co. Roof Garden Showing Berkeley Hills – 1912

H. C. Capwell & Co. – Venetian Garden on Roof. 1918

H. C. Capwell & Co. – Childrens Play Room on Roof – 1912

I encourage all who have been a customer or part of the H.C. Capwell & Co. team to please leave your comments. It would be great to capture all the memories of this once great retailer.  John

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.