H. & S. Pogue Company
The H. & S. Pogue Company was a Cincinnati, Ohio based department store founded by two brothers, Henry and Samuel Pogue. They first came from County Craven, Ireland to Cincinnati and worked in their uncle’s dry goods store. They later were able to buy him out and H. & S. Pogue Dry Goods Company was established in 1863. Brothers Thomas, Joseph, and William Pogue would eventually join the enterprise.
Growing with the Queen City
The original storefront mid-block on Fourth Street between Race and Vine Streets grew quickly, soon expanding into the storefront directly west of it. Renowned architect Samuel Hannaford was chosen to design the company's flagship store in 1916, expanding the enterprise westward to the corner of Race Street, the result being a graceful Edwardian structure with an impressive six acres of selling space. The downtown store would be expanded again in the late 1920s when an alleyway was enclosed to provide a new mechanical and ventilation tower that included ten service and passenger elevators connecting the building's nine floors of a basement, six selling floors, and two service/storage levels. The new structure also served to functionally connect the store northward into the new Carew Tower complex, where Pogue's would occupy the lower five floors of the structure's southern side, the northern side across the Carew Tower Arcade originally being occupied by competitor Mabley & Carew.
In 1960, the downtown store modified its layout by expanded into the first and second floors on the northern side of the Carew Tower building when Mabley & Carew moved into their own building directly across Fifth Street, returning the third-fifth floors on the southern side of the building to Carew Tower for conversion to offices. The expansion area was commonly referred to as "Pogue's Fifth Street" or "The Fifth Street Store" in company publications.
The business stayed under family ownership and management as Cincinnati's unquestioned high-end department store until 1962 when Pogue's was purchased by Associated Dry Goods Corp, at one point the third largest retailer in the United States with such nameplates as Lord & Taylor, Caldor (discount store), and Loehmann's in addition to the 16 regional chains including Pogue's.
During its heydey of the 1920s to the 1960s, Pogue's was well known by generations of Cincinnatians for their elaborate Christmas displays, including the Enchanted Forest in the Carew Tower arcade with "Pogie and Patter," artificial deer wired with microphones into which children would whisper their Christmas wishes. In the store's fourth floor auditorium, a miniature train wound through a holiday wonderland, convenient to the Toys, Books, and Music departments.
Pogue's several restaurants were also popular with downtown shoppers and business people. The Ice Cream Bridge was created from the soda fountain of a demolished pharmacy in the Cincinnati suburb of Mariemont, and functionally connected the store's Fourth and Fifth Street stores on the second level of the Carew Tower arcade. In fact, each level of the store's parking garage (still in use as of 2014 but slated for demolition to make way for a 33-floor mixed use development) was named for a flavor of store-made ice cream available at the Ice Cream Bridge. More formal dining was available at the Camargo Room on the store's sixth floor, where an elaborate dinner buffet was served each Monday and Thursday when the downtown store offered extended hours. A snack bar in the Basement Store survived that level's conversion to non-selling space in the 1970s and remained open as the sole business in Carew Tower's lower arcade that had once included both Pogue's and rival Mabley & Carew's budget stores and the Mayflower Cafeteria operated by the Netherland Plaza Hotel.
Suburban expansion came in 1959 with the opening of a 134,500 square foot two-story branch at Kenwood Plaza with a Camargo Restaurant designed on the model of the popular Camargo Room downtown. 1962 saw the opening of a 160,000 square foot branch at Tri-County Center in Springdale with both a Camargo Restaurant and an Ice Cream Parlour based upon the downtown store's Ice Cream Bridge
Associated Dry Goods and the Long Road Down
Whether to retire the debt for the expensive suburban expansion or as a result of its success, the business was sold to Associated Dry Goods (ADG) in 1962 after nearly a century of family ownership and direct management. Pogue's thus joined a national network of some of the nation's finest department stores, most notably Lord & Taylor (New York City) and J.W. Robinson (Los Angeles).
Kenwood Plaza would be expanded in the late 1960s to nearly 200,000 square feet and remain the largest and most successful Pogue's branch store through the chain's existence, and by 1980 was surpassing the downtown store in annual sales with a third the square footage. Efforts to update the Pogue image were apparent in 1970 when suburban expansion continued with a 153,000 square foot three-level store in Northgate Mall. The palatial design of the Kenwood and Tricounty stores with their gleaming white brick, floodlit exteriors and generous landscaping, typical of an ADG sister-store Lord & Taylor branch of the period, was dropped in favor of a stark Modernist design with a striking exterior entranceway and a new casual-concept dining option called The Balcony.
In 1972, the components of Pogue's end-game would start to take shape when ADG purchased L.S. Ayres (13 stores) and Stewart Dry Goods (7 stores) based in nearby Indianapolis and Louisville, respectively. Unlike the other ADG regional carriage trade chains, L.S. Ayres and Stewart's were the mid-market, dominant department stores in their marketplaces, more similar to Shillito's in Cincinnati or Lazarus in Columbus. ADG now had a 25-store cluster of stores across the Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky tristate, and cost synergies between the three, while operating independently, began to be implemented. As the smallest chain within ADG, Pogue's was seen as the test ground for new CEO's and a parade of young store leaders on two to three year rotations would became commonplace in the Executive Office, unsettling to staff who had worked for up to five generations of Pogue family members who would famously roll up their sleeves and wade into the stockrooms and sales floors when peak business demanded it. Efforts to update the brand were clearly evident in the 1972 holiday catalogue, which featured a caftan-clad woman strumming a guitar rather than Pogue's traditional Christmas-themed illustrated covers.
The final Pogue's branch store would open in 1976, a modest single-level 112,000 square foot location in Florence Mall, the chain's only venture into Kentucky and the only one without a Home Store. As ADG continued to attempt to update its Pogue's unit in the late 1970s, Tri-County's Ice Cream Parlor would be moved into the store and renamed Le Petite Cafe, and the sedate tea room-style Camargo Restaurants closed at both the Tri-County and Kenwood branches. A redesign of the Downtown store saw the Fourth and Race Street show windows removed and the sales floor made visible to the street to showcase the instantly popular Fourth Street Market with updated Housewares and Gourmet Foods departments and an upscale food bar featuring a variety of pates, salads, and wines. The food bar would hold the same appeal for a new generation of fashionable Cincinnati shoppers that the Camargo Room had held for their mothers in a more genteel era, and Fourth Street Market gave the downtown store renewed vitality and a bustling lunchtime crowd that would, ironically, outlast Pogue's itself.
Decline, Merger, and Closure
As the Ohio Valley suffered in the recession of the early 1980s, compounded by the deindustrialization of the Great Lakes region, the Pogue's division of ADG became unprofitable. The downtown store, in particular, had suffered severe sales declines since 1983 when a city-subsidized Saks Fifth Avenue opened directly across Race Street. Saks demands that Pogue's reduce their Race Street loading docks dramatically hurt the viability of the downtown store which had served as the receiving and distribution center for all five stores. A new standalone receiving facility in northern Kentucky only added to the losses of the H.&S. Pogue Company division, and in 1983 Pogue's was merged into their Indianapolis ADG sister division L.S. Ayres & Company in an unsuccessful effort to keep both struggling chains afloat. The merger had been anticipated by ADG senior management for several years, with the Pogue's and L.S. Ayres logos each being modified for consistency between both chains, and the Pogue's merchandise assortment being down-scaled throughout the early 1980s to the more mid-market range of L.S. Ayres.
The corporate merger was accomplished with little fanfare and L.S. Ayres continued to operate the former Pogue locations with minimal changes for an additional three years. Interestingly, the Fourth Street Market continued to be so popular in the former downtown Pogue's location that the concept was incorporated into larger L.S. Ayres stores and a private label line of gourmet foods, "Fourth Street Market," developed.
With the age of the carriage trade department store slowly drawing to a close, ADG merged L.S. Ayres and Louisville's Stewart Dry Goods in 1985 in yet another unsuccessful effort to make the regional chains profitable. In October 1986, the failing ADG was acquired for US$2.2 billion by May Department Stores. Still unable to make the Cincinnati locations profitable, the four former Pogue's suburban locations were sold to Hess's or JCPenney in 1987 and 1988, and the downtown store shuttered. The Samuel Hannaford-designed building on Fourth Street was demolished to make way for Tower Place Mall, which would eventually fail and be shuttered in 2012; the street level of the Carew Tower sections of the store was subdivided into various nameplates of The Limited, Inc, conglomerate and the second floor converted to offices. Pogue's showplace Kenwood Plaza store would be demolished and replaced with a Nordstrom store; the Tri-County store gutted with the first level converted into a new mall entrance, a BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, and an Ethan Allen furniture store,and the second level empty as of 2014. The Northgate store was demolished in 2008 to make way for a cinema complex that did not materialize. Ironically, only the smallest former Pogue's location continues as a department store as of 2014: The Florence Mall location sold to Hess's in 1988 would in 1993 become a Home Store site for the F.&R. Lazarus division of Federated Department Stores, with all Lazarus stored being rebranded as Macy's in 2005.
A Facebook page for fans and former employees of the H. & S. Pogue Company was started in 2010 as "H&S Pogue Company of Cincinnati."
- Grace, Kevin (Oct 29, 2012). Irish Cincinnati. Arcadia Publishing. p. 28. Retrieved 2013-05-06.