Posts Tagged ‘emporium’

Northern California Department Stores – I Magnin & Co – San Francisco

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

I. Magnin on Union Square – San Francisco

For years, I. Magnin & Company was the leading high fashion/luxury goods chain in the West serving the ‘carriage trade’ customer with exclusive fashion from leading designers. It earned these exclusive relationships by providing a facility and customer service that showcased the brands. She became known for bringing the latest fashions from Paris.

Magnin & Company was started in 1876 by Mary Ann Magnin and she named the company after her husband, Isaac Magnin. She came from the Netherlands and he from England. Her first store carried lotions and high-end clothing for infants. She then expanded into bridal. Her first store was located on Market Street. She later moved to 918-922 Market Street, right across from the Emporium. The new store was 10,000 square feet, two stories, and renowned for its elegant ladies room. In 1906 the company had a second location under construction on Grant Street but it never opened. The earthquake and fire destroyed both the Market Street store and the incipient one. Mrs. Magnin built a new store at the corner of Stockton and Geary Street. In 1948 that building was replaced with a new flagship store, dubbed the ‘White Marble Palace’ by Christian Dior.

Three of the Magnin’s sons (John, Grover, and Sam) joined the company. The fourth son, Joseph Magnin started his own company, J. Magnin.

In 1910, I. Magnin’s began opening boutique shops in luxury hotels in California. Eventually, there were six of these shops. In 1939, the company expanded into Southern California with its first store on Wilshire Boulevard, a block from the Bullock’s Wilshire store.

In 1944, Bullock’s Department Stores bought I. Magnin & Company and formed Bullock’s-I.Magnin. This partnership funded the new I.Magnin flagship store opened in 1948. It also led to the expansion of I. Magnin & Company to Santa Ana, Sherman Oaks, and Del Amo.

In 1964, Bullock’s-I.Magnin was acquired by Federated Department Stores in a hostile takeover. As a result, Bullock’s and I.Magnin’s became separate divisions of Federated. Federated did fund the expansion in the 1970’s of I. Magnin & Co into Chicago and Washington, D.C.

In the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s, Federated Department Stores realized that I. Magnin’s customer base was shrinking as the ‘carriage trade’ passed. The company realized that the younger customers were not shopping at I. Magnin’s. Management changes were made to attract the younger customer. These strategies did not provide the expected results and in fact, often resulted in offending the older customers. Sales continued to decline. High end boutiques were doing a better job of attracting the young and wealthy.

In 1988, Federated was taken over by real estate developer Campeau Corporation. In a settlement with the R. H. Macy Company which was also a bidder, Campeau sold the Bullock’s and I. Magnin’s divisions to Macy’s. The following year, Macy’s combined the Bullock’s Wilshire and I.Magnin’s divisions and started shuttering stores. The 1992 Rodney King riot in Los Angeles made it easy for the original Bullock’s Wilshire store to be closed.

The secret sauce for I. Magnin’s was creating an environment to showcase high fashion and luxury goods. Everyone who visited the San Francisco flagship I. Magnin store will tell you stories about the store, especially the marble ladies room with the gold plated fixtures. The store and all its facilities were elegant. Designers preferred to have their goods showcased at I. Magnin’s versus other retailers. And this set the company apart from all other department stores. In addition, the sales associates developed strong relationships with all the carriage trade customers and would call them to let them know about new goods and would hold those goods until the customer visited the store.

For a while, Rose Marie Bravo ran I. Magnin’s and she set plans in place to rebuild the chain’s image. After she left, the business again lost merchandising direction. In 1994, Federated Department Stores reached an agreement with the creditors of the R. H. Macy Company to buy it out of bankruptcy. Before the deal closed, they shuttered the remainder of the I. Magnin’s stores. Many of the stores were converted to Macy’s. The upper floors of the San Francisco flagship were converted to Macy’s; the lower floors became a duty free store.

What happened????…. For years the I Magnin & Company served the high end customers well. This was while the family was heavily involved in the business. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the company continued to cater to the carriage trade but missed the growth of the baby boom generation. The company’s executives did not change their strategies, they just focused on the same for far too long until the high end and luxury specialty retailers had captured the younger wealthy customer. By the time Federated Department Stores recognized this, it was too late. I. Magnin & Company was seen by the customers as a store for the past generation. The company had lost its cache. Rose Marie Bravo did implement good strategies, but it was simply too late and the return on a turnaround simply was not a good investment. Many retailers fall into this trap. Federated put in an executive to reduce costs. This executive did not understand the importance of the sales people in the store. He implemented a plan to reduce full-time employees and add more part-time employees. This nearly resulted in the employee’s joining the union and definitely led to the departure of some of the best sales people and a serious decline in morale and customer service.

I knew I. Magnin & Company too well. Harriet, the aunt of a good friend of mine, worked in the candy department on the first floor at the Kearny Street entrance. She would tell us how it was her responsibility to let the management know when someone famous or a well-known customer would come in the door so they could be met and given individual service. Harriet showed us all around the store, including the ladies’ restroom.

Later, when I worked at Bullock’s, I shopped I. Magnin’s at the various stores. I had visited all except the store in Washington D.C. The stores were well maintained, elegant, and the customer service was exemplary. It was evident that the store in Chicago did not get the exclusive designer goods that were in the big stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Many of smaller stores (Del Amo, Sherman Oaks) also lacked the breadth of merchandise. At that time it was clear that the younger customer was not going to feel comfortable in that environment.

I had a great relationship with one of I. Magnin’s most delightful carriage trade customers. Mazie Donovan had inherited vast sums. Because she was virtually blind and lived near me, I used to do bookkeeping for her every week. She maintained strong relationships with the San Francisco flagship store even though she lived in Hermosa Beach. Ms. Jolly from the fur department would always call Mazie when she had some fur item she wanted Mazie to consider. I can remember the Russian Sable Bolero that Ms. Jolly sent to Mazie on approval which Mazie purchased. Within a week after a call from Ms. Jolly, Mazie would arrange a trip to San Francisco to see what was being held for her. I knew each trip would end with a new jacket or coat.

I have shared my memories. I trust you will too. Please leave them in the comments section below.

I. Magnin & Co. Union Square -San Francisco – mid 1950′s

I. Magnin & Co Collector’s Stamp 1930′s

I. Magnin & Co -Union Square San Francisco 1950′s – Macy’s Expanding

I. Magnin & Co Calendar 1912

The following postcards depict the store in Los Angeles at Wilshire Boulevard and New Hampshire, near Bullock’s Wilshire. This store had access to the affluent Hancock Park neighborhood.

Please keep in mind that these postcards are part of the Plummer & Associates collection. Please do not copy or reproduce any of these postcards without permission.

DEPARTMENT STORES OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – HALE BROS – SACRAMENTO

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Hale Bros. San Francisco – Pre-1906

HALE BROTHERS – SACRAMENTO

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.

DEPARTMENT STORES OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – GOTTSCHALK’S – FRESNO

Monday, March 14th, 2011
 
 
 
 

 

Gottschalk’s – Fresno – 1914 – New Downtown Fresno Store

 

GOTTSCHALK’S

Gottschalk’s was founded in 1904 by Emil Gottschalk, a German Jewish immigrant. The store opened in downtown Fresno, California, a city in the great San Joaquin valley rich in agriculture. The store focused on moderate priced dry goods. This strategy was so successful that the company opened a new larger store (100,000 square feet) in downtown Fresno in 1914. About 1960, Irving Levy, the grand nephew of the founder, took control of the company as CEO. He remained Chief Executive Officer until his death in 1980. During his tenure, he opened the first branch store in Merced, California which served an agricultural based population plus those at Castle Air Force Base. He continued expansion in California growing the chain to six. In addition, he launched Bobbie West, a juniors chain, and Village East, a plus-sized women’s chain.

Gottschalk’s found its niche in small markets in the West. In these smaller towns the retailer became the dominant store and was able to operate with lower real estate costs and often lower labor costs than retailers in major markets. The company expanded through acquisition. In 1987, it acquired Malcolm Brock, the privately held chain operating in Bakersfield. A year later, it acquired the Harris Department Stores chain based in San Bernardino. In 2000, the company acquired Seattle based, Lamont’s which operated stores in the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska.

Gottschalk’s became a public company in1986 and was listed on the NYSE.

The downtown Fresno store was closed in 1998.The downtown area had been upgraded with an outdoor mall area, but that was not enough to save the store as customer preferred shopping in suburbs.

Gottschalk’s filed for bankruptcy protection in January, 2009. In March 2009 the company announced that it would be liquidating; the last stores were closed on July 12, 2009.

What happened????…. The small market strategy worked for Gottschalk’s. In many of the markets it was the dominant store allowing the company to flourish. The acquisition of Lamont’s quickly became a problem. Some of the Lamont’s stores were in malls which were not a good competitive format for Gottschalk’s. Those stores were the first to be closed. Competition also got stiffer as Mervyn’s, Kohl’s, Target, Wal-Mart, and a rejuvenated J.C. Penney entered Gottschalk’s markets. The biggest blow came from the Great Recession. It hit California hard. The final blow came when the company could not secure financing to emerge from bankruptcy protection.

When I was a child I did visit the downtown store. I had an aunt and uncle who lived in Fresno. To me it was just a big store, nothing remarkable. When I visited the store later, it was not well-maintained. It was not long afterwards that the store was closed. The suburban stores were the best store in each of their markets. The merchandise mix was moderate, but they were the only store that offered major national brands. That was the clear edge they had over Mervyn’s, Target, and Wal-Mart.

Since the demise of Gottschalk’s is recent, I am sure there are many around who can add their memories of the company to the comments section below.

Gottschalk’s – Fresno – Postmark 1918 – note recolored

Gottschalk’s – Fresno – New Years Greetings!

These postcards are from the Plummer & Associates collection. Please do not copy or reproduce any of these postcards without written permission from John Plummer.

DEPARTMENT STORES OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – EMPORIUM – SAN FRANCISCO

Friday, March 11th, 2011

 

Emporium – Market Street – San Francisco – 1905 (pre earthquake)

THE EMPORIUM – SAN FRANCISCO – CALIFORNIA’S LARGEST AND AMERICA’S GRANDEST DEPARTMENT STORE…..

The Emporium in San Francisco was the first and later became the largest and for many years the most important department store in San Francisco. The store, because of its size and convenience to transportation, helped turn Market Street into a shopping Mecca. The store offered popular or value priced merchandise. It also had special events to draw customers such as band concerts every Saturday night under the glass dome.

The original store was started in 1872 as the Golden Rule Bazaar. At the time, it was the only large store on the West Coast and was designed to serve those following the gold rush. It grew to operate out of three different buildings. During those years the store was operated by the Davis brothers.

In 1893Adolph Feist leased a building on Market Street with plans to open a major department store through a partnership with one of the major retailers in the East. When the partnership strategy failed he rented out space in the building to various small entrepreneurs. In 1896, the doors opened under the name The Emporium. Soon after, Mr. Frederick W. Dohrmann became involved. He was a German immigrant who had come to the S.F. Bay Area in 1860 and had proven himself successful in flour milling and pottery merchandising. He understood the possibilities of the original department store plan and ended up leading the 1897 merger of the Golden Rule Bazaar and the Emporium into one entity in the space that Adolph Feist had leased. He then brought his son, A.B.C. Dohrmann, in as the president.  The younger Dohrmann built the systems and procedures to allow the different departments to work together. The store quickly became successful under his leadership. He remained President until his death in 1914.

The Emporium suffered major damage in the 1906 earthquake and fire. While the store was being rebuilt, a temporary store was opened on Van Ness Avenue. A new building was built on Market Street. The new building had 775,000 square feet of floor space. It had a glass arcade, a glass dome, solid mahogany fixtures, and a new grocery department. The design was intended to make this store as glamorous as anything found in the East.

In 1927, the Emporium merged with H. C. Capwell & Co. based in Oakland. The new holding company was named Emporium-Capwell. The two different divisions operated independently for years only merging their New York and overseas buying offices. The Emporium started to grow with stores on the San Francisco Peninsula, Santa Clara County, Marin County, and Sonoma County. Capwell’s, on the other hand, opened stores in Alameda County and Contra Costa County.

The Emporium-Capwell company was acquired by Broadway Hale Stores in 1969. This put together Broadway (Southern California), Weinstock’s (Sacramento), Emporium (San Francisco) and Capwell’s (Oakland) into one holding company under the name Carter Hawley Hale Stores (CHH). CHH then went on a major acquisition binge which resulted in significant debt. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 1991. In 1992, the Zell/Chilmark fund bought CHH and renamed it Broadway Stores as the company emerged from bankruptcy protection. In 1996, Broadway Stores was sold to Federated Department Stores and they closed all the various divisions and either converted the stores to Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, or sold the facilities.

The downtown San Francisco store has mostly been converted into a Nordstrom’s anchoring the San Francisco Center mall.

What happened???? The Emporium remained a dominant department store chain in the San Francisco Bay Area until the 1970’s. Then Ed Finkelstein and Phil Schlein led a rejuvenated Macy’s organization which took the market by surprise. The new Cellar department and the fashion forward Juniors and Young Mens departments captured the youth and early adult markets. Macy’s also put money into the look of their stores setting them apart from the Emporium which did not have capital available for the stores as the parent company had to service its debt. By the mid-80’s, Macy’s was clearly the dominant player. Because Emporium was a value priced department store chain, they also faced pressure from Mervyn’s which offered better values and more convenience. The explosion of good specialty retailers also took market share. During the construction of BART, the downtown San Francisco store suffered as Market Street was a mess and this drove shoppers to the Union Square area. In the end, it was the recklessness of the parent company that destroyed the Emporium and all the other divisions of CHH.

I knew the Emporium well both as a young customer and later as a competitor. When I was a young child, I came with my parents to shop in San Francisco. Modesto was just 80 miles away, but in those days it was a major trip. We had our car serviced before we made the drive and we stayed in a hotel for three days while we shopped for back to school, Christmas, and for Spring/Summer. Although we shopped in many stores (White House, City of Paris, Macy’s, and Hale’s), the Emporium was the targeted store. Not only did it have the merchandise we could afford, but it was also a grand place to take children. During the holidays the roof had a children’s playground/amusement park. There was a Ferris wheel ride that hung out over the front of the store looking straight down at Market Street. There was also a small Southern Pacific passenger train that kids could ride. (The last time I saw the train it was at model train store in the Sunset District.) In those days, the store had a pet department with live animals which was also a playground for the kids. We usually ate in the mezzanine cafeteria. In the mid-70’s I shopped the Emporium when I worked at Bullock’s in Los Angeles and later when I was at Mervyn’s. In those days you could see a lack of excitement in fashion apparel, a decline in customer service, and, most importantly, a decline in the maintenance of the facilities.

NOTE:  I treasure my memories of this Grand Dame of Retail and hope you will too. Please feel free to leave your memories in the comments section below.

The Emporium – San Francisco – 1904 – Pre Earthquake

Emporium – 1910 – Note Earthquake Reconstruction on Roof Nextdoor

The Emporium – San Francisco – 1910

The Emporium – San Francisco – Holiday Greetings – 1910

The Emporium – 1911

The Emporium – Temporary Store on Van Ness – 1908

Emporium – Entrance Arcade – 1905 – Pre Earthquake

Ekmporium – Entrance Arcade – 1911 – Post Earthquake

Emporium – San Francisco – The Grand Staircase – 1915

The Emporium – Rotunda, Cafe, & Bandstand – 1908 – Pre Earthquake

The Emporium – Bandstand – 1906 – Note Sender’s Comments

Emporium – Rotunda – After Earthquake Reconstruction

Emporium – Pre 1906 – Women’s Cloaks & Suits

The Emporium – Juvenile Section – Pre 1906

The Emporium – Oriental Section – Pre 1906

Emporium – 1912- Cafe – Note Fire Sprinkler System on Ceiling

Emporium – Cafe – 1915

Emporium – 1908 Calendar – Sent from Temporary Store

The Emporium – 1908 Calendar – Sent from Temporary Store

Emporium – Postcard Calendar – 1909 – Sent From Temporary Store

The Emporium – 1920′s – Gloves Trade Card

The Emporium = 1910

The Emporium – 1920′s – Trade Stamp

The Emporium – 1906 After Earthquake and Fire

The Emporium – 1906 – Smoldering Fire

The Emporium – 1906 – After the Fire

The Emporium – 1906 – Another View After the Fire

The Emporium – 1906 – After The Fire Looking Through Former Entrance

Emporium – 1907 – Postcard Envelop Containing Earthquake and Fire Postcards

San Francisco City Hall

Emporium – Panorama of the City of San Francisco After Earthquake and Fire.

Emporium – 1906 Earthquake and Fire Burning the Metropolitain Temple

Emporium – 1906 Fire Destroys Concordia Club

Emporium – 1906 – Ruins of St. Ignatius Cathedral and College

Emporium – 1906 – Earthquake and Fire Refugee Camp

Emporium – 1906 – Refugee Camp in Cemetary

The Emporium – 1906 – The Entrance After Fire and Earthquake

These postcards are from the Plummer & Associates Collection. Please do not copy or reproduce without written permission from John Plummer.

Northern California Department Stores – White House – San Francisco

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

The White House – Kearny Street Looking towards Market – 1905

The White House in San Francisco first opened as Davidson & Lane.  It opened in 1854 on Sacramento Street by J.W. Davidson and Richard Lane. Raphael Weill, an 18 year old émigré from France, joined the company. In 1958, when Richard Lane left to make his fortune in the Gold Rush, Raphael Weill became a Partner in the business. By 1861, Raphael Weill had bought out his partner and the store moved to Kearny and Post Streets. In 1870 it was renamed Raphael Weill & Company but the store was known as the “White House” after Grand Maison de Blanc in Paris. In 1906, the great earthquake and fire destroyed the building. Like many other retailers, it relocated temporarily after the fire and until the new store could be built. The new store was built at Sutter and Grant. It was built in a Beaux Arts design by Albert Pissis. The company maintained a buying office in Paris and all key members of management were from France and brought the French style in merchandise to San Francisco. For years, the company thrived and was noted for its elegant tea room. Mr. Weill died in 1920. The company continued to operate until 1965 when it closed in bankruptcy.

The building still stands and is now a flagship store for Banana Republic.

What happened????….The store was located in the better part of San Francisco. Unfortunately, that was not enough. The company seemed to lose its way in the marketplace and could not compete in San Francisco with the rejuvenation of Macy’s. The company could not attract the best merchants while other stores were developing exclusive relationships with vendors. In the end, the White House was just another promotional department store with an older customer base and with high labor and rent costs. Customers that used to travel to San Francisco to shop were now shopping in the suburban malls. The rest of their customers had passed. The White House became irrelevant. Not many were sad to see the store close.

The White House was on our family list of stores to shop when we came to San Francisco. I bought my first suit there which I needed for debate and speech tournaments. The only distinguishing point about this suit was that it was on sale. It never fit well.

The White House – Kearny Street- 1906 before earthquake and fire

The New White House – Approx 1909

The White House – Calendar – 1931

The White House Tea Room

The White House Tea Room

The White House Tea Room

I trust any customers and/or employee will feel free to leave their comments below. This was too beautiful of a store to let the memories pass without being put in print.

As with my other postcard blogs, please do not copy these postcards without my written permission.

DEPARTMENT STORES OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – HOLMAN’S – PACIFIC GROVE

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Holman’s was founded in 1891 by Rensselaer Luther Holman who reportedly came to Pacific Grove to retire. His first store was named the Popular Dry Goods Store. The name was later changed to Holman’s Department Store.

In 1927, the new store was built. The store had three floors and a fourth was added in 1937. The store had 46 departments. On the roof was a solarium and in good weather, food was served on the terrace. A large plate glass window on the roof allowed a great view of Monterey Bay while protecting patrons from the wind. The dining room was on the fourth floor.

The store sold popular priced fashion and home goods. In buildings behind the main building the store also sold building supplies, seeds, and feed supplies.

Holman’s is known for being the store at which John Steinbeck shopped. Some of the drafts of his novels were written on notepads purchased at Holman’s. In addition, one of the company’s biggest publicity stunts was mentioned in his book Cannery Row. This is when a roller skater skated on top of the store’s flagpole for 51 hours to break a record. This event was also recorded for the newsreels that played in the movie theaters in the 1940’s. (You can view it on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjXhJ3yz0yY)

Pacific Grove was a vacation spot for the wealthy from the San Francisco Bay Area. Until the late 1950’s, the Southern Pacific operated trains from San Francisco to Monterey and Pacific Grove.

For a while, the company operated a branch store in Monterey.

The Pacific Grove building now houses an antiques mall.

What happened???? …. In the 1990’s and into 2000, it became difficult to operate an independent department store. A mall opened in Monterey with all the major department stores and a host of specialty retailers. It became impossible to compete with the department and specialty stores which had better assortments with the brands the consumer desired. In 1985, Holman’s was sold to Watsonville, California based Ford’s Department Store. Ford’s was the oldest merchantile company in California as it was started in 1852. Ford’s was expanding at the time and had also acquired Riley’s based in San Louis Obispo. Unfortunately, Ford’s Watsonville store was destroyed in the 1989 earthquake. The store was rebuilt and opened in 1992. Unfortunately, This led to Ford’s filing for bankruptcy in 1993 and its closing of all eight stores, including the Holman’s store in Pacific Grove.

I visited the store a couple of times in the 1960’s when I went to the sports car races at Laguna Seca. I found the store to be clean and staffed with friendly and helpful sales people. The store had a local feel and a family atmosphere.

A good friend, Laurie Heth,  worked in the publicity department at Holman’s. She described the store as an exciting and fun place to work. She was sad to see it close.

The Holman family currently operates a guest ranch in the area. I hope that the family, customers, and former employees will feel free to add to this post so that the memories of this fine store will be kept alive. This is too important of a store to fade away.

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

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.

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.

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.