G. E. M. Membership Department Stores

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Discount membership store
Industry Retail
Fate Closed
Founded 1956
Defunct 1973
Headquarters Detroit, Michigan

clothing, footwear, housewares, sporting goods, hardware, toys, electronics, appliances, cameras, drugs,and auto repair

homepage = None

G. E. M. Membership Department Stores, also known as G.E.X.[1] or G.E.S., was a chain of discount stores in the United States and Canada. The chain extended membership to direct and indirect government employees;[2] the name was an acronym for "Government Employees Mart."[3]

Appliance and electronics departments in G.E.M. stores were operated by Wards Company, which later changed its name to Circuit City.[4]

The stores closed during the discount store shakeout of 1973.

Canadian pharmacist Murray Koffler was an investor in the G.E.M. chain, bringing the first G.E.M. store to Toronto in 1959. He eventually subleased the G.E.M. drug department in several Toronto area stores. Following the G.E.M. discount model, Koffler later opened one of the first "big box" store chains, Shoppers Drug Mart.[3]

In the Buffalo, New York area, the Super Flea flea market on Walden Avenue was housed in a former GEX building until it was demolished in 2014 for a Walmart Supercenter. Locations extended at least as far south as Birmingham, Alabama. In the Washington, DC area in 1970, there were stores in Alexandria, Virginia Beach, Bethesda, Tysons Corner, Suitland, Hyattsville, and Baltimore East and West.

The G.E.M. Store at 9495 W. 75th Street in Overland Park, Kansas, closed in January, 1973. The original building now houses a JC Penney outlet store. That store has now closed in 2014.


In 1962 a branch was opened in Ottawa at Baseline and Merivale roads (Currently, 2012, Loblaws). In 1964 expansion started in Europe A branch was opened at Nottingham, England, south of the river. In 1965 another at Crossgates, Leeds. Further expansion sites were bought at Blackpool and Bournemouth but were never developed as the Crossgates store wasn’t a success. Plans for Germany and several other places on the European mainland were cancelled. G.E.M. (Government Employees Mart) was a membership only store. You had to be a government employee But getting a membership card wasn't as restrictive as it sounds. Anyone qualified as a municipal, provincial or federal government employee—including nurses, teachers, police officers, armed forces personnel, and even notary publics were welcomed. Like a regular department store, G.E.M. sold everything from end tables to record albums. But it also had a food supermarket, a bank, drug store, snack bar, dry cleaners, shoe repair and an auto service centre. G.E.M. itself owned little. Office equipment was leased. The departments were concessions paying rent based on turnover. The membership concept was centered on the conjecture that Americans, because of their rampant individualistic lifestyle had a subconscious need to belong to some group, or club, which gave them a sense of belonging. It seemed to be a fair supposition, as membership was urgently sought. The concept didn’t travel well to Europe.


  1. ^ G.E.X. was not related, it was owned by Bellas Hess Ardan.
  2. ^ "Discount Stores of the '60s". Wtv-zone.com. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  3. ^ a b Woodward, A. "Company History: Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation". International Directory of Company Histories. The Gale Group, Inc. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  4. ^ "Circuit City Stores, Inc. Company Timeline". Circuit City Stores, Inc. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2008-03-29.