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I. Magnin & Company was a San Francisco, California-based high fashion and specialty goods luxury department store. Over the course of its existence, it expanded across the West into Southern California and the adjoining states of Arizona, Oregon, and Washington. In the 1970s, under Federated Department Stores ownership, the chain entered the Chicago, Illinois, and Washington, DC, metropolitan areas. Mary Ann Magnin founded the company in 1876 and named the chain after her husband, Isaac. The chain's flagship San Francisco store was located next to Macy’s California flagship on Union Square.
In the early 1870s, Dutch born Mary Ann Magnin and her English husband Isaac Magnin settled in San Francisco. Mary Ann opened a shop in 1876 selling lotions and high-end clothing for infants. Later, she expanded into bridal wear. As her business grew, her exclusive clientele relied on her for the newest fashions from Paris.
At the turn of the century, Mary Ann’s four sons entered the business. While John Magnin, Grover Magnin, and Sam Magnin became associated with the I. Magnin store, the fourth son, Joseph Magnin, became known for his own store (Joseph Magnin Co.).
The 1906 earthquake & fire leveled the original store with the rest of the downtown area. After rebuilding, the store opened in new quarters at 50 Grant Avenue at Geary Boulevard in 1912. During the 1910s, the chain opened shops in six high-end hotels around the state of California. The Los Angeles Wilshire Boulevard branch (which opened in 1939) and the new flagship Union Square store (opened in 1948) were considered among the most elegant in America. When famed designer Christian Dior paid a visit from Paris, he toured the Union Square store, which had already earned the nickname "White Marble Palace", and said "Magnifique!" The word would later be turned into a high compliment: "Magninique."
Sale to Bullock's
In 1944, the chain was bought by the Los Angeles-based Bullock's department store chain. In the late 1950s the combined chain expanded in the Southern California suburbs by opening the Fashion Square concept in Santa Ana in 1958, the San Fernando Valley (Sherman Oaks) in 1962 and Del Amo (Torrance) in 1965.
After a major proxy battle in 1964, Bullocks-I. Magnin was merged into Federated Department Stores. Bullock's, I. Magnin, and eventually Bullocks Wilshire were run as separate divisions of Federated. I. Magnin expanded in the Chicago and Washington D.C. areas in the 1970s.
Sale to Macy's
R.H. Macy & Company had long yearned in the 1980s to enter the Southern California market. Along with trying to build their own stores, they attempted to purchase Federated, eventually losing a takeover war to the Campeau Corporation in 1988. As part of the settlement with Campeau, Macy's purchased Bullock's, Bullock's Wilshire and I. Magnin, subsequently beginning a reorganization of its divisions and consolidating the I. Magnin and Bullock's Wilshire stores into a semi-autonomous division under Macy's California. The seven Bullock's Wilshire stores were renamed I. Magnin in 1989.
In 1991 Macy's announced plans to re-align its divisional structure and created a new Macy's West/Bullock's division by February 1992. While in the process of doing so, it declared bankruptcy on January 27, 1992. During the next two years, the I. Magnin group shuttered 11 stores of an already-reduced franchise with the historic original Bullock's Wilshire flagship on Wilshire Boulevard closed in early 1993 after years of losses aggravated by the effects of the 1992 Rodney King riots. The Oakland, California store was closed in 1995 although it is admired for its Art Deco architecture in the present day. Originally built in 1930 and designed by Weeks & Day, the I. Magnin Building, with its bright green stone façade, is one of Oakland’s most prominent landmarks.
In 1994 Federated Department Stores reached an agreement with R.H. Macy's creditors to buy the company out of bankruptcy, completing the acquisition on December 19 and making Macy's West/Bullock's a division of Federated. Even before the acquisition closed it pulled the plug on the remainder of the I. Magnin chain, eventually selling four stores (Carmel, Beverly Hills, San Diego, and Phoenix) to Saks Fifth Avenue and ultimately converting six former I. Magnin locations in Palo Alto, Walnut Creek, Woodland Hills, Palm Desert, Newport Beach, and Palos Verdes to specialty Macy's or Bullock's locations, replicating the success of the 1991 conversion of I. Magnin at South Coast Plaza into a separate Bullock's Men's location. The upper floors of the former I. Magnin store on Union Square were later converted to an expansion of Macy's West's own adjoining flagship.
In October 2006 Macy's resurrected the I. Magnin name and now uses it as a house brand label on ladies apparel. This using of the name may be due to keeping the trademark rights.
- Frick, Devin Thomas (2000). I.Magnin & Co. A California Legacy. Park Place Press, Orange County, CA. ISBN 0-9663493-1-8.
- Hendrickson, Robert (1979). The Grand Emporiums: The Illustrated History of American’s Great Department Stores. Stein and Day, New York, NY. ISBN 0-8128-2516-0.
- Mahoney, Tom and Sloane, Leonard (1966). The Great Merchants: America’s Foremost Retail Institutions and the People Who Made Them Great. Harper & Row, New York, NY. ISBN 0-06-012739-2.
- Mullane, James Thomas (2007). A Store to Remember. Falcon Books, San Ramon, CA. ISBN 0-9788513-0-7.