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|Fate||Rebranded as/replaced by Macy's|
|Headquarters||Newark, New Jersey, U.S.|
|Products||Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, electronics and housewares.|
Bamberger's was a department store chain with locations primarily in New Jersey, also with locations in the states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. The chain was headquartered in Newark, New Jersey.
Founded in 1893 by Louis Bamberger as L. Bamberger & Company in Newark, New Jersey, in 1912 the company built its flagship store, designed by Jarvis Hunt, at 131 Market Street. Felix Fuld and Louis M. Frank joined Bamberger as partners later in 1893. Jarvis Hunt would also design the Newark Museum following a gift from Bamberger. In June, 1929 (prior to the October 1929 stock market crash) Bamberger's was purchased by R.H. Macy Co.
Suburban branch stores of L. Bamberger & Co. were built in downtown Morristown, NJ, and in Plainfield, NJ, and at the Princeton Shopping Center in Princeton, NJ. With the post-World War II population shift towards the suburbs of major cities, Bamberger's built additional stores in locations such as East Brunswick, Garden State Plaza, Monmouth Mall, Nanuet Mall, and Menlo Park Mall. In 1970, the East Brunswick location became an anchor store for the Brunswick Square Mall.
The 1960s and 1970s saw expansion throughout the state of New Jersey and into the Greater Philadelphia metropolitan area, and the 1980s there were branches opened in the Baltimore, Maryland metropolitan area. On October 5, 1986, the Bamberger's stores adopted the name Macy's New Jersey, and in 1988 Macy's New Jersey was consolidated with sister division Macy's New York to form Macy's Northeast (now Macy's, Inc.).
The historic Bamberger's flagship store at 131 Market Street in downtown Newark once ranked among the nation's largest.
The massive 14-story building covered an entire city block, bounded by Market, Washington, Bank and Halsey Streets. The phone exchange, 565, was devoted solely to Bamberger's, with local direct-dial numbers for most of New Jersey's suburbs for telephone orders, known as "Tele-Service." The building's loading dock was located well below ground on the fourth-basement level, avoiding the blocking of busy city streets by delivery trucks at street-level. Two massive elevators carried fully loaded 18-wheeled trucks from Washington Street down to the loading docks.
Selling space and escalator service ran from the second basement level to the ninth floor, while the tenth floor contained a beautiful wood-paneled dining room and several private banquet rooms. The eighth floor featured extensive toy, game, and sporting goods departments offering imported merchandise. Services offered included dry cleaning, pharmaceuticals, fur storage, travel services, ticket services, watch and jewelry repair, personal shopping services, and a butcher department. Two elevator banks and two escalator banks served the store.
After RH Macy and Co. purchased Bamberger's in 1929, the store began to focus more on middle-income shoppers, and some of the higher-end services were eliminated or modified. In the years immediately following World War II, selling space was reduced to seven floors plus the two lower levels, and the tenth-floor restaurant complex was leased to the private Downtowner Club. (Bamberger's would use the space on Saturdays for occasional special events.) Dining service for customers continued at The Dinette, a counter style room on the first lower level, and snack bars on the first and fourth floors. Eventually the lower-level eatery was remodeled into a formal restaurant named the Garden State Tea Room.
Like most east-coast U.S. cities, downtown Newark had a traditional late-hours "shopping night" when stores would remain open into the evening. For Newark that day was Wednesday, and during the years of World War II, Bamberger's remained open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings, and created a "night shift" for people looking to work part-time. The Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening hours, plus all-day Saturday hours became popular with women seeking to work part-time, and remained popular into the early 1970s, when the store began to curtail evening hours downtown. Late evening hours were eliminated entirely in 1979.
As northern New Jersey's population grew Bamberger's followed the suburban population more aggressively than its rivals Hahne and Company, and Kresge-Newark. The first three small suburban New Jersey branches of Bamberger's--Morristown, Plainfield, and Princeton--were followed by large shopping-center branches in the 1950s and 1960s. These locations included Garden State Plaza, the Menlo Park Mall, the Monmouth Mall, the Cherry Hill Mall and the Willowbrook Mall, and became an important source of revenue for the company. In the late sixties, the three-story East Brunswick, NJ, location opened as a stand-alone store. By 1970, it had become the first anchor store of the Brunswick Square Mall, which was built off its northern side. By the mid-1970s, the Garden State Plaza store, in Paramus, NJ, became the chain's largest outlet in terms of sales volume and floor area. During this period, space in the downtown Newark store was used for the corporate office.
Sales volume at the downtown Newark store was affected by the Newark race riots of 1967, and during the 1970s, shoppers declined to shop in downtown Newark altogether. Further hurting the appearance of the building were security decisions to close more than half of the store's nine public entrances, and most of the display windows. As evening hours were eliminated downtown in 1979, the hope was that Sunday sales, which were legalized in 1980, would give the location additional selling time. However, Sunday hours did not draw enough business to justify their cost, and were cut back to the Thanksgiving-Christmas shopping season.
By 1981 selling floors at the downtown Newark store ran from the first lower level to the fifth floor, and by 1984 from the lower level to the fourth floor. In 1986, all Bamberger's stores were renamed Macy's, and the Newark store operated as Macy's until it was closed in 1991. During its final seven years, the Newark store focused on "value" merchandise and clearance items, rather than designer merchandise.
WOR radio was established by Bamberger Broadcasting Service in 1922. The broadcast studio was located on the sixth floor of its downtown headquarters. The radio station was included in the sale to R.H. Macy & Co. in 1929. Its FM station, W71NY (now WEPN-FM) began broadcasting in 1941, simulcasting WOR's programming. On October 11, 1949, WOR-TV (channel 9) signed on the air, becoming the last of the New York metropolitan area VHF television stations to begin operations. Transmission was from the WOR TV Tower in North Bergen, New Jersey, until 1953, and from the Empire State Building thereafter. The WOR-TV studios were located in the Roof Garden at the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street. Macy's/Bamberger's merged the WOR stations with the General Tire and Rubber Company in 1952.