The Emporium (San Francisco)

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Coordinates: 37°47′04″N 122°24′23″W / 37.78442°N 122.40638°W / 37.78442; -122.40638

The dome at the old downtown San Francisco location

The Emporium was a mid-line department store chain headquartered in San Francisco, California, which operated for 100 years—from 1896 to 1996. The flagship location on San Francisco's Market Street was a destination shopping location for decades, and several branch stores operated in the various suburbs of the Bay Area. The Emporium and its sister department store chains were acquired by Federated Department Stores in 1995, and many converted to Macy's locations.


The Emporium was a department store founded in 1896 in San Francisco by Adolph Feiss as a co-operative of individually owned shops in a building owned by the Parrott estate. Then in 1897, through the efforts of Frederick W. Dohrmann, a German immigrant who arrived in California in the 1860s and had made a reputation in the general merchandise and flour milling industries in the Bay Area, a merger was orchestrated with the Golden Rule Bazaar, founded in the 1870s by the Davis Brothers.[1]

In 1898, Dohrmann's son, A. B. C. Dohrman, became officially involved in day-to-day affairs and along with others was instrumental in the reorganization of the new Emporium; he was president of the company at the time of the elder Dorhmann's death in 1914. In 1927, the Emporium merged with the Oakland-based department store H.C. Capwell, forming a new holding company, Emporium-Capwell Co., but retaining their respective identities.[2][3] (Capwell founded his Oakland store in 1889 under the name The Lace House and changed it to his own name two years later.)

In the years after World War II, as the population of the Bay Area increased tremendously and spread out far beyond the urban cores of Oakland and San Francisco, several suburban branches of The Emporium were opened in newly developed shopping malls, mainly in San Mateo, Marin, Solano, Sonoma and Santa Clara counties. Capwell's focused its postwar suburban expansion closer to Oakland, opening branch stores in southern Alameda County and Contra Costa County.

Broadway-Hale Stores, later Carter Hawley Hale Stores, acquired Emporium-Capwell Co. in 1970,[4][5] and consolidated its San Francisco Bay Area operation under the (still separate) Emporium and Capwell names, finally merging them in 1980 under the Emporium-Capwell name,[6][7] later shortening the name to Emporium in 1990. In 1991, Emporium assumed operation of the Sacramento-based Weinstock's department store chain, which had a similar merchandising structure.

Finally in 1995 the chain and its parent (by then renamed Broadway Stores) were acquired by Federated Department Stores, which merged the Broadway, Emporium and Weinstock's stores with its own Macy's California and Bullock's stores to form Macy's West, renaming all the retained stores as Macy's. The Emporium location at Stanford Shopping Center was reopened by Federated's Bloomingdale's division in 1996, while after a decade of negotiation, bureaucratic red tape and intense physical reconstruction, the former flagship store of The Emporium on Market Street re-opened on September 28, 2006 as an expansion of the adjoining Westfield San Francisco Centre, which includes a new Bloomingdale's, the second-largest in the chain after its Manhattan flagship.

The dome during construction of Westfield San Francisco Centre Phase II

San Francisco and Oakland stores[edit]

The flagship location at 835 Market Street, between 4th and 5th Streets, was a destination for generations of northern California shoppers. It was designed by San Francisco architect Albert Pissis, one of the first Americans to be trained at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. It withstood the 1906 earthquake, but was destroyed by the subsequent fire and rebuilt in 1908. Many additions and renovations were made in the decades following.[8][9] It was also well-known locally for the holiday carnival on its roof and the annual parade when Santa Claus arrived by stagecoach or cable car to open the holiday season.[10][11]

In the late 1980s, the flagship Market Street store was connected to the new San Francisco Shopping Centre (now known as Westfield San Francisco Centre), a nine-story indoor mall anchored by a flagship Nordstrom location. The Emporium location closed permanently in February 1996, and after some controversy regarding the historic preservation of the building's facade and other elements, was redeveloped by Forest City Enterprises and The Westfield Group as an expansion of the existing San Francisco Centre with a West Coast flagship location of New York-based Bloomingdale's, which opened on September 28, 2006.[12] The previously much-altered interior has been gutted and rebuilt to meet seismic standards and conform to modern retail configurations. The Emporium's historic domed glass roof was restored and is the centerpiece of the new facility.

The newly expanded downtown mall has a total area of 1.5 million square feet, boasts the largest Bloomingdale's location outside of New York City, features a nine-theater Century Theatres cineplex, and an upscale Bristol Farms specialty foods store.[13][14]

The H.C. Capwell flagship store is located at Broadway and 20th Street in downtown Oakland and opened in August 1929. The landmark structure suffered minor structural damage during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and was closed for repairs, but reopened early 1990. It had been a landmark shopping destination for East Bay residents for decades. Emporium closed its doors in February 1996 and, in March, Sears assumed possession.[15][16] It remained in operation as Sears until its sale and closure in the summer of 2014, when it was scheduled to be renovated and converted to a high-tech retail/office space.[17] Uber bought the building in 2015 and renovated it under the name Uptown Station, with the office space to become the company headquarters, then sold it in December 2017 to CIM Group.[18][19]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco article on the Emporium's opening, originally printed October 14, 1935". Museum of the City of San Francisco.
  2. ^ "$12,000,000 Dept. Store Merger Closed On Coast: Gapwell's Of Oakland, Cal., And Emporium Of San Francisco Combined As H. C. Capwell Department Stores Co., Effective June 1—To Erect Oakland Building Containing Almost 12 Acres Of Floor Space". Women's Wear Daily. 34 (63). March 17, 1927. p. 1. Announcement made in Oakland by H. C. Capwell and here by the executive board of the Emporium Co. reveal the merger of the H.C. Capwell organization of Oakland and the Emporium of San Francisco, involving $12,000,000. The original Emporium was opened in May 1896, on a cooperative plan whereby each department was operated by a different owner. In July, 1897, the present Emporium was organized as a single corporation under the leadership of F. W. Dohrmann. Link via ProQuest.
  3. ^ "Emporium Corporation". Wall Street Journal. October 10, 1927. p. 5. A. B. C. Dohrmann, president of Emporium Corp. announces the formation of Emporium, Capwell Co., to hold common stock of Emporium Corp., capital stock of H. C. Capwell Co., of Oakland, stock of realty subsidiaries, formed or to be formed, and stock of The Eighth Street Store. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  4. ^ Auerbach, Alexander (June 26, 1970). "Arrangements Set for Broadway-Hale, Emporium Merger". Los Angeles Times. p. d13. Broadway-Hale Stores Inc. and Emporium-Capwell Co. Thursday announced a formal plan of merger and reorganization, following the lines of a preliminary merger plan announced May 11. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  5. ^ "Emporium Capwell Co., Broadway-Hale Stores Agree to a Merger: Emporium Will Give 1 1/8 Shares for Each Share of Broadway-Hale; Holders of Both Must Approve". Wall Street Journal. May 12, 1970. p. 16. Emporium Capwell Co. and Broadway-Hale Stores Inc., both West Coast retailers, announced an agreement in principle to merge. Emporium Capwell would be the surviving corporation, but its name would be changed to Broadway-Hale Stores Inc. In a joint statement, the companies said that Prentis C. Hale, chairman of Broadway-Hale, and Edward W. Carter, its president and chief executive officer, would serve as chairman and president respectively of the merged corporation. Emporium Capwell stores would be operated under their present management. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  6. ^ "Merge Emporium, Capwell Divisions". WWD. 140 (36). February 21, 1980. pp. 1–2. The Emporium and H.C. Capwell divisions of Carter Hawley Hale have been combined into a single division, Emporium Capwell, with a single management team. Hawley noted the two divisions, now operating as one, will be able to make a stronger impact in use of media and customers now will have charge accounts in 18 stores. Link via ProQuest.
  7. ^ "California: Carter Hawley Hale will link two Northern California chains". Los Angeles Times. February 21, 1980. p. f2. effective May 1, its Emporium and Capwell divisions will combine their operations and management in the San Francisco-Oakland areas. The 12 Emporiums and six Capwell's all will be known as Emporium Capwell. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  8. ^ "Albert Pissis — Architect Who Designed Health Sciences Library". California Pacific Medical Center. Archived from the original on February 9, 2002. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  9. ^ "Architects — Albert Pissis". San Francisco Architectural Heritage. Archived from the original on August 19, 2001. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  10. ^ Van Niekerken, Bill; Nolte, Carl (November 22, 2018) [December 22, 1995]. "When S.F. gave Emporium, and its Santa, a final Christmas farewell". San Francisco Chronicle (subscription required).
  11. ^ Russell, Melia (November 22, 2018). "Santa Claus is coming, but now it's for Instagrammable selfies". San Francisco Chronicle.
  12. ^ Colliver, Victoria; Leff Kottle, Marni & Buchanan, Wyatt (September 29, 2006). "Urban mall's gala celebrates arrival of shopping mecca". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  13. ^ "New Lease on Life: San Francisco Emporium getting connected to 200-store mall". Visual Merchandising and Store Design. May 21, 2003. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  14. ^ Levy, Dan (February 7, 2003). "S.F. mall would be biggest in West / Bloomingdale's brings in neighbor on project for Emporium site". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 6, 2015 – via
  15. ^ "Oakland History Timeline". City of Oakland, California. Archived from the original on June 15, 2013. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  16. ^ Lynch, Judith. "A Victorian Timeline: What Happened When?". Alameda Museum. Archived from the original on April 29, 2009. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  17. ^ Roth, Rob (August 29, 2014). "Changes coming to downtown Oakland's retail scene". KTVU. Archived from the original on September 13, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  18. ^ Brinklow, Adam (December 19, 2017). "Uber sells Uptown Station HQ to Oakland firm". Curbed SF. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  19. ^ Li, Roland (November 5, 2018). "Square eyes Uptown Station for Oakland office expansion". San Francisco Chronicle (subscription required). Retrieved November 22, 2018.

Further reading