Abraham & Straus

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Abraham & Straus
Corporation
Industry Retail
Fate Converted to Macy's and Stern's
Founded 1865
Founder Abraham Abraham
Joseph Wechsler
Defunct 1995
Headquarters Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
Products Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and housewares.
Parent Federated Department Stores, Inc.

Abraham & Straus, commonly shortened to A&S, was a major New York City department store, based in Brooklyn. Founded in 1865, it became part of Federated Department Stores in 1929. Shortly after Federated's 1994 acquisition of R.H. Macy & Company, it eliminated the A&S brand. Most A&S stores took the Macy's name, although a few became part of Stern's, another Federated division, but one that offered lower-end goods than did Macy's or A&S.

History[edit]

Timeline[edit]

  • 1865 - Founded in Brooklyn as Wechsler & Abraham by Joseph Wechsler and Abraham Abraham
  • 1893 - The Straus family (see Isidor Straus and Nathan Straus), who acquired a general partnership with Macy's department stores in 1888, buys out Joseph Wechsler's interest in Wechsler & Abraham and change the store's name to Abraham & Straus. While Abraham & Straus did not at that time become a part of Macy's, the two stores shared an overseas office and maintained close ties.
  • 1929 - Federated Department Stores, Inc. is formed as a holding company by several family-owned department stores, including Abraham & Straus, F&R Lazarus & Co. (along with its Cincinnati-based subsidiary, Shillito's), and Filene's of Boston. Corporate offices established in Columbus, Ohio, later moved to Cincinnati.
  • 1992 - Federated Department Stores merges with Allied Stores Corporation. The A&S and Jordan Marsh divisions are consolidated, forming the A&S/Jordan Marsh division, headquartered in Brooklyn, NY. Early in the new year, Macy's files for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11.
  • 1994 - Federated Department Stores acquires the now bankrupt R.H. Macy & Company and combines Macy's, headquartered in New York City, with A&S/Jordan Marsh.
  • 1995 - The name Abraham & Straus is dropped in favor of the more widely known name Macy's, and Macy's East is formed. Other A&S locations were converted to Stern's.
  • 2006 - An historic memorial bronze plaque acknowledging Isidor and Ida Straus, and their deaths during the sinking of the RMS Titanic was removed during a 34th Street store renovation and returned to the Straus family.

Founding and early history[edit]

The first Brooklyn store, at 285 Fulton Street, opened in 1865 and measured 25 feet by 90 feet. Abraham Abraham, age 22, and Joseph Wechsler each contributed $5,000 for the purchase.[1] In 1883, the firm bought the recently built Second Empire cast-iron Wheeler Building at 422 Fulton Street to be their flagship store.[2]

On April 1, 1893, Nathan Straus, Isidor Straus,[3] and Simon F. Rothschild as partners – the Straus brothers provided the financing, but Rothschild was the active partner[4] – bought out Wechsler, and the firm became Abraham & Straus. At the time, the company had 2,000 employees. Simon F. Rothschild, Abraham's son-in-law, Edward Charles Blum, and son, Lawrence Abraham, became partners in the new firm.

1900–1969[edit]

By 1900, the company had 4,650 employees. From the 1890s to the 1920s, A&S utilized a system of catalog store agencies across Long Island to serve customers.[1]

In 1912, Isidor Straus, along with his wife Ida, perished in the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Around 1915, after Abraham's daughter married Isidor's son Percy Selden Straus, the Straus family divided up the empire with Nathan's family running A&S and Isidor's family running Macy's.[3]

Beginning in 1928, the company embarked on a $7.8 million expansion of the Fulton Street Store, which included excavating a new basement without disturbing customers above. The renovated store opened October 10, just days before the Wall Street Crash of 1929. In 1929, the company also joined Filene's, Lazarus, and Bloomingdale's to form Federated Department Stores. To economize during the Depression, the company began scheduling employees according to hourly sales. In addition, all employees took a 10 percent pay cut. No employees were laid off.[1]

In 1937, Walter N. Rothschild led the company, and served as president and chairman until 1955. Following Rothschild, Sidney L. Solomon became the company's first non-family president. At the time, the company had 12,000 employees.

After World War II - The company grew. In 1950, the company purchased Loeser's Garden City store, and two years later its first new branch store opened in Hempstead, New York.[1]

In the following decades, the company expanded throughout the New York metropolitan area. Among its expansions was an anchor store at Paramus Park in Paramus, New Jersey, which necessitated the building of an access road that, despite the conversion of the store to Macy's, is still today known as A&S Drive.

1970–1995[edit]

In the 1970s, Federated attempted to update the image of A&S and funded the construction of new, more upscale stores. A&S developed a new logo that once again branded the stores Abraham & Straus. The company opened a central distribution center which decreased the amount of non-selling space needed in each store.

In 1978, the firm opened the first of its more upscale stores at the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, NJ. This was followed by stores in White Plains, New York in 1980, The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey, in 1981, and a replacement for the chain's Babylon, Long Island store at Westfield Sunrise Mall.

In 1981 and 1982, the chain opened two stores at malls in the suburban Philadelphia market, The Court at King of Prussia, and Willow Grove Park Mall. These new stores struggled to find their niche, and the two Pennsylvania stores were closed in 1987, and 1988, respectively, and the space became occupied by Philadelphia-based Strawbridge and Clothier.

The Short Hills, New Jersey store seemed out of place in the very upscale mall, and customers resisted what were seen to be the store's more rigid policies concerning check acceptance, inter-store transfers, and refunds. Eventually, A&S would stock the Short Hills location with merchandise that better befit the location.

Fulton Street flagship store[edit]

Livingston Street annex

The company's 841,000-square-foot Brooklyn flagship store was located at 422 Fulton Street, in the Fulton Street Mall.

From the beginning, the company had high aspirations. In 1885, the company hired architect George L. Morse to work on the Fulton Street store in Downtown Brooklyn. For their 1928 to 1930 renovations and additions, the company hired architects Starrett & van Vleck to build an Art Deco addition that faced Fulton, Hoyt, and Livingston Streets. In 2003, the Brooklyn Heights Association and the Municipal Art Society put the building on a list of 28 historic buildings in downtown Brooklyn that needed to be protected.[5]

In the mid-1970s, Abraham & Straus' flagship store made mannequin modeling famous. Linda Timmins, head of the division, selected one juvenile and ingénue with "The Editorial Look" from each of the high schools across Brooklyn and Manhattan. The schools and their students were also selected for high academic standing; Manhattan Performing Arts High School student Yvette Post, Metropolitan Opera juvenile star Robert Westin, Brooklyn's Abraham Lincoln High School's Alan Jay Kahm and head cheerleader Paula Gallo, as well as Maria Russo of Catherine McAuley High School (Brooklyn) were some of the few selected to represent the youth of New York. These "Mannequin Models" would pose for up to an hour at a time in the windows of the store as "Living Mannequins", wearing classic designer clothes and current fashions designed by Nik Nik, Pierre Cardin, and other top designers and exclusive prêt-à-porter from upscale fashion houses.

Eventually, as crowds would often stop traffic and became a safety hazard, Abraham & Straus had to move the Living Mannequins inside the store or face a stiff penalty from the city. Despite this change, the crowds still came. Each season, the young mannequin models would be allowed to move in order to do an in-store runway show for the Designer de Jour. Although it was the 1970s, the store did not feature polyester suits or non-designer outfits in these shows.

Unlike countless numbers of downtown department stores that have closed throughout the nation, this historic location continues as a Macy's. At 1,012,000 sq ft (94,000 m2), it is the second-largest Macy's in the New York City area.[6] Macy's utilizes the lower level through 5th floor for retail departments, the 6th floor for seasonal merchandise and a beauty salon, and upper floors for a number of corporate departments. Display windows continue to be maintained along Fulton Street, and the elevator bank in the middle of the street floor continues to evoke hints of this building's elegant past. The passenger elevators at this location were among the last in all of New York City to be converted from manual operator to automatic use. Macy's has continued to reaffirm its commitment to this location.[citation needed]

On July 16, 2014, Women's Wear Daily' reported that Macy’s had stopped the renovation of its Brooklyn flagship while it considered possibly selling the property, which could be worth $300 million from a developer looking to turn it into condominium apartments. It has also been reported that Macy's was considering building a new Downtown Brooklyn store.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ a b c d "...And Paramus Makes Ten," internal history published on opening of Paramus Park store, 1974
  2. ^ "MAS Proposed Downtown Landmark #1". Brownstoner. October 2005. 
  3. ^ a b "Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Straus - information". engineer.com. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved November 8, 2007. 
  4. ^ "Now Abraham & Straus.; Big Change in a Big Store Which All Brooklyn Knows". New York Times. April 2, 1893. Retrieved March 19, 2007. 
  5. ^ Gray, Christopher (July 24, 2005). "Different Name, Same Architecture". New York Times. 
  6. ^ "New York, NY - 5 Boroughs, Lower Hudson Valley & Northeast Bergen Co., NJ" (PDF). Macy's Inc. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Moin, David (July 16, 2014). "Macy's Rethinking Brooklyn Unit's Future". Women's Wear Daily.