H. & S. Pogue Company
The H. & S. Pogue Company was a Cincinnati, Ohio based department store chain founded by two brothers, Henry and Samuel Pogue. They first came from County Craven, Ireland to Cincinnati and worked in their uncle’s dry goods store. They later were able to buy him out and H. & S. Pogue Dry Goods Company was established in 1863. Brothers Thomas, Joseph, and William Pogue would eventually join the enterprise.
Growing with the Queen City
The original storefront mid-block on Fourth Street between Race and Vine Streets grew quickly, soon expanding into the storefront directly west of it. Renowned architect Samuel Hannaford was chosen to design the company's flagship store in 1916, expanding the enterprise westward to the corner of Race Street, the result being a graceful Edwardian structure with an impressive six acres of selling space. The downtown store would be expanded again in the late 1920s when an alleyway was enclosed to provide a new mechanical and ventilation tower that included ten service and passenger elevators connecting the building's nine floors of a basement, six selling floors, and two service/storage levels. The new structure also served to functionally connect the store northward into the new Carew Tower complex, where Pogue's would occupy the lower five floors of the structure's southern side, the northern side across the Carew Tower Arcade originally being occupied by competitor Mabley & Carew.
Suburban expansion came in 1959 with the opening of a 134,500 square foot two-story branch at Kenwood Plaza with a Camargo Restaurant designed on the model of the popular Camargo Room downtown.
In 1960, the downtown store modified its layout by expanded into the first and second floors on the northern side of the Carew Tower building when Mabley & Carew moved into their own building directly across Fifth Street, returning the third-fifth floors on the southern side of the building to Carew Tower for conversion to offices. The expansion area was commonly referred to as "Pogue's Fifth Street" or "The Fifth Street Store" in company publications.
The business stayed under family ownership and management as Cincinnati's unquestioned high-end department store until 1962 when Pogue's was purchased by Associated Dry Goods Corp, at one point the third largest general merchandise retailer in the United States with such nameplates as Lord & Taylor, Caldor (discount store), and Loehmann's in addition to the 16 regional upscale chains including Pogue's. That year also saw the opening of a 160,000 square foot branch at Tri-County Center in Springdale with both a Camargo Restaurant and an Ice Cream Parlour based upon the downtown store's Ice Cream Bridge, which had opened earlier that year to functionally connect the second floors of the store's Fourth and Fifth Street buildings across the east end of the Carew Tower Arcade. A massive new parking garage across Race Street saw it's levels named in different flavors of the locally popular Graeter's Ice Cream served at the Bridge.
During its heyday of the 1920s to the 1960s, Pogue's was well known by generations of Cincinnatians for their elaborate Christmas displays, including the Enchanted Forest in the Carew Tower arcade with "Pogie and Patter," artificial deer wired with microphones into which children would whisper their Christmas wishes. In the store's fourth floor auditorium, a miniature train wound through a holiday wonderland, convenient to the Toys, Books, and Music departments.
Pogue's several restaurants were popular with downtown shoppers and business people. In addition to the aforementioned Ice Cream Bridge, more formal dining was available at the Camargo Room on the store's sixth floor, where a fixed-price dinner buffet was served each evening when the downtown store offered extended hours. A snack bar in the Basement Store survived that level's conversion to non-selling space in the 1970s and remained open as the sole business in Carew Tower's lower arcade that had once included both Pogue's and rival Mabley & Carew's budget stores and the Mayflower Cafeteria of the Netherland Plaza Hotel. An upscale counter-service option dubbed Le Petit Café opened in the Fourth Street store's Fourth Street Market as Cincinnati's first champagne bar.
Associated Dry Goods and gradual decline
Whether to retire the debt for the expensive suburban expansion or as a result of its success, the business was sold to Associated Dry Goods (ADG) in 1962 after nearly a century of family ownership and direct management. Pogue's thus joined a national network of some of the nation's finest department stores, most notably Lord & Taylor (New York City), the Joseph Horne Company (Pittsburgh), Goldwater's (Phoenix), and J.W. Robinson (Los Angeles).
Kenwood Plaza would be expanded in the late 1960s to nearly 200,000 square feet and remain the largest and most successful Pogue's branch store through the chain's existence, and by 1980 was surpassing the downtown store in annual sales with a third the square footage. Efforts to update the Pogue image were apparent in 1970 when suburban expansion continued with a 153,000 square foot three-level store in Northgate Mall. The palatial design of the Kenwood and Tri-County stores with their gleaming white brick, floodlit exteriors and generous landscaping, typical of an ADG sister-store Lord & Taylor branch of the period, was dropped in favor of a Modernist design with a striking exterior entranceway and a new casual-concept dining option called The Balcony.
In 1972, the components of Pogue's end-game would start to take shape when ADG purchased L.S. Ayres (13 stores) and Stewart Dry Goods (7 stores) based in nearby Indianapolis and Louisville, respectively. Unlike the other ADG regional carriage trade chains, L.S. Ayres and Stewart's were the mid-market, dominant department stores in their marketplaces, more similar to Shillito's in Cincinnati or Lazarus in Columbus. ADG now had a 25-store cluster of stores across the Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky tristate, and cost synergies between the three, while operating independently, began to be implemented. As one of the two smallest chains within ADG, Pogue's was often the test ground for new CEO's and a parade of young store leaders on two to three year rotations would become commonplace in the Executive Office, unsettling to staff who had worked for up to five generations of Pogue family members who would famously roll up their sleeves and wade into the stockrooms and sales floors when peak business demanded it. Efforts to update the brand were clearly evident in the 1972 holiday catalogue, which featured a caftan-clad woman strumming a guitar rather than Pogue's traditional Christmas-themed illustrated covers.
The creation of a series of second level walkways, or Skywalks in the local usage, in the early 1970s benefited the downtown Pogue's store more advantageously than its rivals. To the west, the store was connected into the new Cincinnati Plaza Hotel, soon renamed the Westin Cincinnati, and Fifth/Third Center. To the south across Fourth Street, a Skywalk connected Pogue's second floor with that of competitor McAlpin's. To the north across Fifth Street, a Skywalk led to Mabley & Carew department store, the Terrace Hilton Hotel, the Skywalk Twin Cinemas, and a variety of restaurants. An existing bridge to the west connected the store to its massive parking garage, with the result that Pogue's second floor became a crossroads for downtown workers and tourists with a cross-current of shoppers that, especially at lunchtime, revitalized the aging store. Pogue's store planners carved out a series of shops along the Skywalks, including Pogue's Fine Services (fur storage, dry cleaning, and shoe repair) on the garage Skywalk, and Flowers by Pogue's on the Fifth Street Skywalk.
The final Pogue's branch store would open in 1976, a modest 112,000 square foot location in Florence Mall, the chain's only venture into Kentucky and the only one without a furniture department. As ADG continued to attempt to update its Pogue's unit in the late 1970s, Tri-County's Ice Cream Parlor would be moved into the store and reformatted to the Le Petite Café format which had proven successful in the Downtown store, and the sedate tea room-style Camargo Restaurants closed at both the Tri-County and Kenwood branches. An innovative, forwarding-looking redesign of the Downtown store saw the Fourth and Race Street show windows removed and the sales floor made visible to the street to showcase the instantly popular Fourth Street Market with updated Housewares and Gourmet Foods departments, including a branch of the local Servatti's Bakery, and an expanded Le Petit Cafe'. The upscale food bar featured a variety of pates, salads, and wines and would hold the same appeal for a new generation of fashionable Cincinnati shoppers that the Camargo Room had held for their mothers in a more genteel era, as Fourth Street Market gave the downtown store renewed vitality and a bustling lunchtime crowd that would, ironically, outlast Pogue's itself.
As the 1970s drew to a close, the Pogue's chain seemed destined for success with premier locations in the city's five top retail markets, most notably in a revitalized downtown Cincinnati. But a harbinger of the difficult decade ahead was in 1978 when the Mabley & Carew stores, a rival of Pogue's dating to 1877, were purchased by Dayton-based Elder-Beerman and converted to their nameplate. Twenty years later, a Cincinnati retail landscape that had lasted a century would have vanished.
Decline, merger, and closure
As the Ohio Valley suffered in the recession of the early 1980s, compounded by the deindustrialization of the Great Lakes region, the Pogue's division of ADG's profits suffered. The downtown store, in particular, had suffered severe sales declines since 1983 when a city-subsidized Saks Fifth Avenue store opened directly across Race Street. Saks' demands that Pogue's reduce their Race Street loading docks dramatically hurt the viability of the downtown store which had served as the receiving and distribution center for all five stores. A new standalone receiving facility in northern Kentucky added to the expenses of the H.& S. Pogue Company division, and in 1983 Pogue's was merged into their Indianapolis ADG sister division L.S. Ayres & Company in a successful effort to keep both struggling chains afloat. ADG's annual report to its shareholders would note that the first full year of the merger saw sales increase 22%, and profits nearly 50%, at the five Cincinnati-area stores with market share being moved from all three major competitors. The merger had been anticipated by ADG senior management for several years, with the Pogue's and L.S. Ayres logos each being modified for consistency between both chains, and the Pogue's merchandise assortment being down-scaled throughout the early 1980s to the more mid-market range of L.S. Ayres.
The corporate merger was accomplished with little fanfare and L.S. Ayres continued to operate the former Pogue locations with minimal changes for an additional three years. The Fourth Street Market continued to be so popular in the former downtown Pogue's location that the concept was incorporated into larger L.S. Ayres stores and a private label line of wines and gourmet foods, "Fourth Street Market," developed. Larger L.S. Ayres stores would also incorporate Pogue's successful Center for the Executive Woman, which had been noteworthy enough to make the cover of an ADG annual report of the period.
With shopping habits changing and the age of the carriage trade department store slowly drawing to a close, ADG merged L.S. Ayres and Louisville's Stewart Dry Goods in 1985 in yet another effort to keep the regional chains profitable. In October 1986, ADG was itself acquired for US$2.2 billion by May Department Stores. A few month later, long-time competitor John Shillito Company was merged into Columbus-based F. & R. Lazarus, and the iconic Shilito name also disappeared from Cincinnati's retail landscape. The last local Cincinnati department store would vanish a decade later when McAlpin's would be purchased by Arkansas-based Dillard's.
Within months, May Company decided to sell the Kenwood, Tri-County, and Northgate former Pogue's suburban locations to JC Penney and the Florence store to Hess Brothers in 1987 and 1988, and to close the downtown store. The Samuel Hannaford-designed building on Fourth Street was demolished to make way for Tower Place Mall, which would eventually fail and close in 2012; the street level of the Carew Tower sections of the store was subdivided into various nameplates of The Limited, Inc., conglomerate and the second floor converted to offices. Pogue's showplace Kenwood Plaza store would be demolished and replaced with a Nordstrom store; the Tri-County store gutted with the first level converted into a new mall entrance, a BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, and an Ethan Allen furniture store, and the second level empty as of 2015. The Northgate store was demolished in 2008 to make way for a cinema complex that did not materialize. Ironically, only the smallest Pogue's location continues as a department store as of 2015: The Florence Mall location sold to Hess's in 1988 would, in 1993, become a Home Store site for the F.& R. Lazarus division of Federated Department Stores, with all Lazarus stores being rebranded as Macy's in 2005.
A Facebook page for fans and former employees of the H. & S. Pogue Company was started in 2010 as "H&S Pogue Company of Cincinnati." As of 2015, the page numbers over 600 fans including descendants of both Henry and Samuel Pogue. A history of the store, "Remembering Pogue's," is under discussion for 2017 printing.
- Grace, Kevin (Oct 29, 2012). Irish Cincinnati. Arcadia Publishing. p. 28. Retrieved 2013-05-06.