Posts Tagged ‘May Company Department Stores’

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.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT STORES – MAY COMPANY CALIFORNIA

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Downtown LA – May Company (after addition)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May Company Downtown LA 1930′s

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

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

May Company California – Crenshaw Store 1940′s

Northern California Department Stores – City of Paris – San Francisco

Friday, January 28th, 2011

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CITY OF PARIS DRY GOODS COMPANY

City of Paris – 1904

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City of Paris – 1905 – Camp Crocker on Union Square

City of Paris – 1910 -Celebration

Union Square – 1904 – City of Paris

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

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

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

City of Paris – 1911 – After Earthquake Renovation

Rotunda 1915

City of Paris – Christmas Tree – 1911

City of Paris – Christmas Tree in Atrium

City of Paris – Christmas Tree – 1950′s

Christmas Tree 1961

 

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

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

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.

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.

OUR NEW BLOG: RETAIL HISTORY -1880 TO 1950 – DEPICTED IN POSTCARDS

Monday, December 13th, 2010

In January, 2011, we will launch our blog which will show the history of retailing in downtown North America. We will employ our collection of over 10,000 postcards of these famous stores. Our purpose is to bring to life these Grand Dames that existed in major metropolitan areas as well as in small town America. We also want to make this interactive so customers and associates of these retailers can memorialize their thoughts in the Comments Section for the Blog.

Our first series will be about the stores in Southern California. We will feature Los Angeles stores such as Goodman’s Department Stores, Coulter’s, Hamburger’s, May Company, Broadway, Bullock’s, Bullock’s Wilshire, I Magnin & Co, Desmond’s, Mullen & Bluett, and others. San Diego stores will be Marsten’s and Walker-Scott. Harris Stores in San Bernardino is another.

The second series will cover Northern California. This will include San Francisco Bay Area stores such as: City of Paris, White House, Gump’s, Emporium, Capwell’s, Kahn’s, Rhodes, Hale Stores and more. The Sacramento store, Weinstock-Lubin, and the Fresno’s Gottschalk’s will be included.

During the year we will continue to post blogs on other states and provinces in North America.

Collecting the postcards for these Grand Dames has been enormously satisfying. I don’t want this important part of retail history to be forgotten. I hope you will have as much fun reviewing this collection and adding your comments and memories of these institutions in the Comments/Leave A Reply section below. If you have postcards of any of these stores which are different from my collection I would be honored to have the opportunity to post your card on the Blog.

Elmira, New York

Note: Elmira, New York, like most small towns has variety (five & dime) stores next to local department stores. Sometimes they also had a chain department store such as J.C. Penney, Sears, and/or Montgomery Ward. The variety stores always had excellent real estate in the busiest part of downtown. The local department store catered to both value-oriented and upscale customers with their good, better, and best merchandising program. The rest of the stores included a local drug store, a millinery store, a gift store, a hardware store, an automotive tire & battery store, a cinema/theatre, a candy/soda fountain, a cigar/tobacco/news store, a feed/farm store, a cafeteria, auto dealerships, a barber shop, and a restaurant or two. Of course, there was always a grocery store.

Downtown areas in major metropolitain areas were different as the stores were bigger. Department stores were what we today would call a shopping center. They were large and catered to different customers (budget, moderate, and luxury).