Posts Tagged ‘nrf’

RETAINING YOUR TOP TALENT AS THE ECONOMY IMPROVES

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

RETAINING YOUR TOP TALENT AS THE ECONOMY IMPROVES

According to all the statistics I read, one in every three employees is desiring to change jobs when another opportunity comes along. Should every employer be concerned?

As the economy improves, executive search firms will be seeking the best talent for their clients. Top talent will be contacted and wooed with opportunities at other companies. This has been the way things work for the past fifty years and I expect it will continue for the next fifty years.

Just because 1/3 of executives are looking to move does not mean it should be of major concern. I feel the question each company should ask itself is … “who are the 1/3 willing to leave?”  If your key and high potential executives are willing to leave, you have a problem. It is time for you to evaluate your key executives to make sure their compensation is in-line with competition and that you have the benefits and stock options in place to keep these executives motivated and owners in the company. At the same time, you need to let them know the importance they play in the company and the future they should expect.

On the other hand, if the one-third willing to leave are not your top team members, maybe this is not a bad thing. If they leave, it will give you an opportunity to recruit and/or develop top talent. Turnover at the bottom performance level often allows new stars to develop and flourish.

Organizations which compensate key employees well, that lock them in with strong benefits and stock option programs, and that offer a bright future, seldom lose their best executives. Executive recruiters know that!

RETAINED VERSUS CONTINGENCY EXECUTIVE SEARCH

Friday, June 17th, 2011

For years, consultants in executive search have been explaining the difference between contingency and retained executive search firms. It has always been hard to do without sounding self-serving. I have attached a definition of Executive Search from Wickipedia (June 17, 2011) which I believe makes the differentiation quite clear.

Which process a client chooses is the client’s decision. I have a bias. After years within a client company and years as a leader in executive search, it is clear that the retained approach is best for the recruitment of key executives. The retained process is more intensive, extensive, and results in candidates with the best fit. Retained search also best represtents the client’s brand.

Executive search

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (June 17, 2011)

Executive search is the consultative process of recruiting individuals to fill senior executive positions in organizations. Executive search may be performed by an organization’s board of directors, or by an outside executive search organization.

Executive search profession

Executive search is an extremely lucrative industry and successful search consultants can earn large sums. For this reason there is fierce competition to work in this sector. Generally the office is broken down into three functions: Business Development, Recruiting and Research. Generally the Business Development person receives the largest commission while the Researcher receives the smallest.

The executive search profession ranges in models from “Retained” search to “Contingency” search. Retained search firms are paid a retainer equal to one-third of the fee up front to launch the search process, a third of the fee thirty days from launch and the final third sixty days from launch. If the fee is fully paid before a candidate is hired, the retained firm continues its work until the search is concluded. Contingency search firms, on the other hand, receive their entire fee at the conclusion of the search process. Over the years, many contingency firms have begun receiving retainers while retained firms have expanded their models to include flat fees, capped fees, etc.

Search consultancies are often entrenched in particular market sectors. Their market sector networks are used along with various methods to seek candidates for a particular job. Normally the individuals are not actively seeking a new job. It is the job of the search consultant to approach these individuals with a view to taking them out of their current company and placing them in another, often a competitor.

The service is paid for by the client company or organization, not by the hired job candidate. Potential job candidates are identified, qualified and presented to the client by the executive search firm based upon fit with a written or verbal Job Specification developed in conjunction with the client. Assessing degree of potential fit of the candidate with the job specification is a key activity for the search firm, since the most common reason a search consultant is engaged by a client company is to save time and effort involved with identifying, qualifying and reviewing potential candidates for specific leadership positions.

It is common for a potential candidate to be identified by the search firm via a telephone call. Often the phone call is the result of a recommendation from someone inside the existing network of the search firm. Quality oriented search firms work hard at cultivating and continually updating their network of contacts so that when a search assignment is awarded they will be ready to start recruiting potential candidates. Another way to identify potential candidates involves search firm “research”, which is contacting targeted people in specific companies who appear to fit the job profile in some logical manner. Some of the best candidate referrals come from people who could be candidates for the job themselves but for any number of reasons are not interested at that particular time.[1]

Retained executive search firms

Retained executive search firms are firms paid on a retainer-structure that identify, assess, and recruit Corporate Officers, Board Members, C-level executives, Diversity Candidates, and other senior talent. There are large, global firms who engage in this activity, as well as regional “boutique” firms. Some smaller firms act together as a network, thus gaining global reach and being able to compete with the large integrated ones. Some firms specialize in specific industries (for example pharmaceutical, retail, IT) or functions (i.e. sales executives), while others are generalists.

Job seekers who qualify for senior-executive level searches often mistake executive recruiters for career transition, or “outplacement” specialists. Executive recruiters work for their client companies. They do not actively place out-of-work individuals. This would not only be a conflict of interest, it would also be financially unwise. A job seeker does not pay a recruiter when he lands a job. The client company pays the recruiting firm when it fills a position. This nuance is lost on many. It may be worthwhile to contact executive search firms if you qualify, but do not expect them to take time out of their schedule to talk with you or see you. They are driven by their specific assignments for their clients: they find people for roles, not roles for people. Executive search consultants can be “career makers” for some individuals, but for most, this will not be the way they will find their next role.

When choosing a firm, it is a good idea to consider carefully what you want from the relationship. While contingency firms offer a service with no money up front, they will often only work on those searches that can be executed quickly and do not have the time to focus on high-quality candidates. Another option is to hire one firm and give them an “exclusive contingency” arrangement so that the money is still paid at the end of the search, but there is only one firm working on the search. This gives the firm the benefit of time to truly focus on quality and the hiring manager is not flooded with resumes. A third option is to pay the firm an engagement fee. Generally firms with engagement fees are exclusive as well and then have more resources available to them to purchase additional research. This also moves the search to a “retained” level which brings a level of professionalism sought by many upper level candidates. At the retained level, a client could pay a “performance retainer” which means a payment to start the search, a payment when candidates are submitted and final payment when the candidate starts. These milestones are chosen due to the fact that the firm “performed”. The more traditional retainer agreements are time based and are set at specific intervals regardless of retainers.

 Types of executive search firms

There are broadly two different types of Retained Executive Search firms in operation.

Global: These tend to cover numerous different sectors including financial services, life sciences, automotive, consumer, energy, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, technology, and media companies, as well as other industries. Such executive search companies will have many offices all over the world and the consultants will typically be split by which sector they are expert in. These firms are often public listed and may have over 100 offices.

Boutique: These tend to be more sector specific. That is to say that they will cover only one sector and within this sector, they may only look at certain aspects. For instance, there are a number of boutique firms that operate within financial services and these companies tend to look at senior positions (MD, Director and Vice President) within Investment Banking (M&A, Corporate Finance), Capital Markets (ECM & DCM), Sales, Trading, Research, Interest Rates, Credit, Equities, Derivatives, hedge funds and long-only asset management. As such, these firms would have one or more offices in the major financial centers across the globe; London, New York, Chicago, Dubai, Shanghai, Beijing, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore. While the global firms may have a presence within these areas, they tend to cover board level positions within retail banking, asset & wealth management and insurance. However the larger global firms do periodically work within the capital markets arena

PLUMMER & ASSOCIATES RECRUITS DIRECTOR – STORE PLANNING FOR FIVE BELOW

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
Plummer & Associates recruits Ms. Kim Mason as the Director – Store Planning for Five Below. Ms. Mason had been the Senior Manager - Supply Chain for Office Depot.

Five Below in Durham, North Carolina.

Five Below is a privately held chain of discount stores found in a number of states. The store (as indicated by the name) sells products that cost no more than $5.00. The chain is aimed at teenagers and pre-teens, but have many products for mom and dad. The store was founded in October 2002.

Plummer & Associates, is based in New Canaaan, Connecticut and is known in the direct-to-consumer industry (retail, retail services, food service, restaurant, catalog, e-Commerce, m-Commerce, direct marketing/selling, and apparel wholesale) segment for the quality of its executive search services. For more information, we refer you to www.plummersearch.com.

NEW YORK DEPARTMENT STORES – ABRAHAM & STRAUS

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Holiday Card 1904. Front Entrance

NEW YORK DEPARTMENT STORES – ABRAHAM & STRAUS

Abraham & Straus – Arial View – 1906

Founded in 1865 by Abraham Abraham and Joseph Wechsler in Brooklyn, New York, the company initially opened as Wechsler & Abraham on Fulton Street near Tillary. At this time, Brooklyn was a thriving community of its own; the Brooklyn Bridge had not yet been built. In the early 1880’s, the company bought and renovated an ornate cast iron building on Fulton between Hoyt Street and Gallatin Place. With continual expansion, the store eventually occupied the entire block. The building was equally ornate inside as depicted in some of the postcards shown below. A five-story courtyard with a skylight allowed daylight to show off the merchandise.  Abraham & Straus became the retail showplace in New York. The last major renovation was between 1928 and 1930 when the architects Starrett & Van Vleck designed the new building facing Fulton Street in Art Deco style. This store still stands today but is now a Macy’s.

In 1893, the Straus family along with Simon Rothschild bought out the Wechsler interest in the company and the store was renamed Abraham & Straus. The Straus family also had controlling interest in R.H. Macy & Company in New York. The two retailers were not combined but did maintain a common buying office in Europe. During the 1910s, the Straus family separated their interest in the two stores, with Abraham & Straus going to one branch of the family, and Macy’s to the other. In April, 1912, Isidor and Ida Straus went down with the Titanic.

In 1929, Abraham & Straus, Bloomingdale’s, Filene’s and Lazarus (along with its subsidiary, Shillito’s) merged to form Federated Department Stores. At this time, Federated was located in Columbus, Ohio but later moved to Cincinnati. The merger gave each division the strength to weather economic storms and also created buying clout in the U.S. and Europe.

Family members ran Abraham & Straus until 1955. Walter Rothschild was President and Chairman until 1955, and was succeeded by Sidney Solomon, the first non-family member to lead the company.

In 1950, the company purchased the Loeser’s store in Garden City and converted it to Abraham & Straus. In 1952, the company built its first suburban store in Hempstead. That store was expanded over the years until it exceeded 400,000 square feet. The company continued expansion with stores in Manhasset, Smithtown, Babylon (later replaced), Monmouth (NJ), Paramus (NJ), White Plains (NY), Short Hills (NJ), King of Prussia (PA), Willow Grove (PA), and Manhattan.

Under the leadership of Walter Rothschild and Sidney Solomon, Abraham & Straus was the powerhouse of Federated Department Stores. The division contributed more earnings per share than any other division. For years it was known as the training ground for merchants for the retail industry. Many of the top retail CEO’s came from the A& S training program.

Unfortunately, Abraham & Straus also became the funding source for Federated Department Store’s divisions in the Sunbelt (Bullock’s, Burdines, Sanger-Harris, and Rich’s). Eventually the Brooklyn market declined as did Hempstead and Babylon. The new management team relied on a strategy of opening new stores to grow their way out of the problems created by the declining markets. New stores were built in White Plains and Short Hills, but neither was an immediate success. Then, A&S made the disastrous decision to open stores in the Philadelphia market (Willow Grove and King of Prussia). These stores worsened the situation. As a final fiasco, the division opened a new store near Herald Square in NYC, a store that never could be profitable. On top of all this, a new centralized distribution center was opened, intended to reduce expenses and to increase the selling space in each store. Through management bungling, this operation became a major problem as shortage increased dramatically chain wide. In addition, costs were far above projections and merchandise got stalled in the pipeline.

Outside Porte Cochere. 1909

The Court, Silver Department, 1904

What happened???

Atop all the management mistakes in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, the final blow came when Campeau, the real estate developer, bought Federated Department Stores and combined it with Allied Stores. This led to the combination of A&S with Jordan Marsh (Boston), operating out of the Brooklyn headquarters. In 1994, Federated Department Stores purchased bankrupt R.H. Macy & Co and in 1995, combined A&S with the Macy’s New York division, converting stores to the Macy’s brand or other divisions of Federated.

I first saw Abraham & Straus in the late 1960’s when it was a powerhouse. I was working at Bullock’s in Los Angeles and was asked to visit with A&S to gather information on some of their personnel policies and procedures. I was impressed. The customer traffic was unbelievable. The fashion displays were incredible as the volume justified the costs. I joined A&S in 1976 and it was then on a fast downhill slide. Management’s response was to take the business upscale. This new direction worked in Manhasset, Smithtown, Paramus and the smaller Garden City store but in the other stores the new direction was a disaster. In Brooklyn, for example, we added a Pappagallo shop and put $12 million into an upscale renovation of the Brooklyn store when in fact all that sold in front of the store were Jellies and incense on cardboard boxes. The employees lost confidence in management as customers objected to the new higher priced merchandise. Unions started organizing attempts because of separation of the associates from management. One day over 6,000 people demonstrated in support of the unions in front of the Brooklyn store. The store also became a magnet for criminals. Organized gangs came into the store to steal merchandise. One Christmas Eve a gang came into the jewelry department during business hours, broke all the cases and stole the majority of the merchandise.

A&S Rotunda .. 1904

Picture Gallery. 1907

The postcard collection primarily shows the store pre-1930 when it was grand. Like all the other cards in the Plummer Collection, I ask that you do not reproduce or copy any of these postcards without gaining my written permission.

Grocery Department. 1904

Grocery Department in 1907

I trust that you will feel comfortable to leave your comments about your history with A&S, either as a customer or as an employee. We need to preserve this important part of retail history.

Straus Family Summer Home. View 1 . 1907

Straus Family Summer Home . View 2. 1907

Anniversary Day Parade . Prospect Park. 1907 . Pub by A&S

Lawn Tennis Prospect Park . 1905 . pub A&S

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