Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles History’

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 – 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!