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Friday, January 2, 2009

Gimbels and Saks Fifth Avenue

Gimbels, Wikipedia [1,2]

Gimbels was an iconic major American department store corporation from 1887 through the late 20th century.

Gimbels was founded by a young German Jewish immigrant, Adam Gimbel (1817–1896). Gimbel arrived as a penniless young immigrant from Bavaria in 1835, settled in New Orleans and earned a living as a travelling peddler. He opened his first store in Vincennes, Indiana, in 1842.

After a brief stay in Danville, Illinois, Gimbel relocated in 1887 to the then boom-town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The new store was an immense success, quickly becoming the leading department store in Milwaukee.

In 1894 Adam Gimbel acquired the Granville Haines store in Philadelphia, and in 1910 opened another branch in New York City. With its arrival in New York, Gimbels prospered, and soon became the primary rival to the leading Herald Square retailer, Macy's.

In 1922 the chain went public, offering shares on the New York Stock Exchange, though the family retained a controlling interest. This provided the capital for expansion, starting with the 1923 purchase of across-the-street rival, Saks & Co., which operated under the name "Saks Thirty-Fourth Street". With ownership of Saks came a new, about-to-open uptown branch, Saks Fifth Avenue.

In 1925 Gimbels entered the Pittsburgh market with its purchase of Kaufmann & Baer's. Although this expansion spurred talk of the stores becoming a nation-wide chain, such hopes were ended by the Great Depression. The more-upscale and enormously profitable Saks Fifth Avenue stores did continue to expand in the 1930s, opening branches in Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.

At one point, Gimbel Brothers Inc. was the largest department store in the world. By 1930 Gimbels had branched to seven flagship stores throughout the country and had net sales of $123 million. By the time of World War II, profits had exploded to a net worth of $500 million, or over $1 billion in today's money. By 1965, Gimbel Brothers Inc. consisted of 53 stores throughout the country, which included 22 Gimbels, 27 Saks Fifth Avenue stores, and four Saks 34th St.

1 comment:

Irissa said...

Thank you so much on all the history on Gimbels and how it got started...I remember fondly of Gimbels/Schuster Department Store. My mother always in stylish High Heels & her hat with a veil infront and of course white gloves. Me in my little white dress with shiny white shoes...and matching little hand-bag!! Walking through the doors, it always smelled so good. We love to frequent Tasty Town and I always got an unbrella in my Hot Fudge Sundae!!! The best part was picking out another pretty dress to wear!! Thanks again, it was the delight in my little girl world!!!