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Lipman's was a department store chain based in Portland, Oregon. The company was originally known as Lipman-Wolfe & Company, named after the two founding partners, Adolphe Wolfe and his uncle, Soloman Lipman. It is now defunct. The 1912 building in downtown Portland that was the company's flagship store is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as the Lipman–Wolfe and Company Building.
In 1850, Lipman and Wolfe formed a partnership in Sacramento, California during the California Gold Rush. They became prosperous merchants, expanding into Nevada during the great silver rushes. The later decline of the Comstock Lode impacted the business, prompting Wolfe to move to Portland in 1880.
Wolfe opened a new store in Portland, re-establishing his business. Floods and space limitations forced the store to move three times, the last of which was in 1912, when the flagship store was opened at Fifth and Washington Streets. The new store was just across the street from Meier & Frank's flagship store, sparking an intense rivalry.
Lipman's was well-known locally for establishing several "firsts" in Portland retail history:
- The first use of an elevator system in a department store.
- The first retailer to mark set prices on merchandise, eliminating haggling and the fashion code price system.
- The first retailer to make change down to the penny instead of nickel.
By the end of its identity, the Lipman's brand had grown into a chain of six stores. Adolphe Wolfe died in 1938, passing the company on to his nephew. In the 1950s, the Wolfe family sold Lipman's to the Dayton Hudson Company, which kept the Lipman's brand as a division. Lipman's began to lose market share to Meier & Frank in the 1970s, when Marshall Field's bought all six stores in 1979. All were rebranded as Frederick & Nelson in early April of that year. In 1986, these stores, except for the downtown store which was closed, were re-branded as Crescent Outlets from The Crescent Chain based in Spokane and Owned by Frederick & Nelson. They were purchased by Lamonts in 1988.
In early 1987, F&N Acquisition Corp., the owners of Frederick's announced that they would bring back the Lipman's name[not in citation given] as an off-price retail division. Five Frederick & Nelson stores in Oregon and four Great Clothes Outlets in Washington were to be renamed Lipman's, but the Oregon locations instead were sold to The Crescent. These stores were slightly smaller in size than normal stores and catered to "fashion-conscious 20- to 40-year-olds with money to spend on career and casual wardrobes". The division was meant to compete directly with Nordstrom along with complementing its sister store. By January 1988, sales at the stores fell short of the $125-per-square-foot target. Ownership was handed over to F&N executives and all the stores became Frederick & Nelson Red Tag Clearance Centers by mid-1988. All these stores were closed during 1990 cutbacks.
Lipman's is probably best remembered for the Cinnamon Bear, a popular Portland Christmas time tradition since 1937. The Cinnamon Bear was introduced as a Lipman's-sponsored radio story character, meant to count down the days until Christmas. Along with Santa Claus, his costumed likeness appeared every Christmas at Lipman's stores, handing out cookies to children. Frederick & Nelson continued the practice after absorbing the brand. The Cinnamon Bear survives today as a souvenir at the Fifth Avenue Suites. To this day, the Cinnamon Bear is aired during the holidays on K103. The Cinnamon Bear radio show can also be heard on Kool 99.1 in Eugene, Oregon every Christmas
Portland flagship store reuse
Frederick & Nelson closed the former Lipman's flagship store during a reorganization of the chain in 1986. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, as the Lipman–Wolfe and Company Building, in 1988.
In 1996, after extensive renovation, the ten-story, half-block building reopened as the Fifth Avenue Suites, a 222-room hotel. In 2007, the Fifth Avenue Suites was renamed the Hotel Monaco.
- Tess, John M. (March 15, 1988). National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Lipman-Wolfe and Company Building (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- "Tonight we close our doors as Lipman's ....". Advertisement in The Oregonian, March 30, 1979, p. A3.
- "Lamonts Buys 4 Stores From F&N's Owners; Move Is Part Of Big Expansion". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. April 14, 1988. Retrieved 2009-02-26.[dead link]
- "Frederick's Changing 8 Stores To New Format". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 1987-02-18. Retrieved 2009-02-26.[dead link]
- "Oregon National Register List" (PDF). Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. June 6, 2011. p. 36. Retrieved June 14, 2011.
- Lipman's at PDXhistory.com, Mark Moore's page on Lipman-Wolfe & Company
- Fifth Avenue Suites Portland, history of the building
- "Lessons from the past", 2005 article comparing the Lipman building reuse to a similar plan for the nearby Meier & Frank Building from Portland Tribune
- 1956 photograph of Lipman Wolfe & Co. store in Salem from Salem Public Library