Joseph Magnin Co.
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Joseph Magnin was the son of Isaac and Mary Ann Magnin. Mary Ann Magnin was the founder of the I. Magnin & Co. high-end specialty department store she named after her husband. Joseph Magnin was active in the running of the I. Magnin Co. until 1913. He had been passed over by Mary Ann, offering more prominent company positions to her other three sons John, Samuel and Grover. Joseph left I. Magnin and cashed in his share of ownership. He initially went into real estate before returning to retail. He bought into a store named Newman-Levinson and changed it to Newman-Magnin. Eventually he bought out his partners and changed the name to Joseph Magnin Co.
The store was located at the corner of Stockton and O’Farrell Streets. At the time, I. Magnin Co. was located at Grant and Geary Streets, however in 1948 when I. Magnin built the new flagship store at Stockton and Geary streets, the two flagship stores were less than a block apart. Initially Joseph Magnin was a midrange purveyor of apparel and millinery and was viewed as a second-rate I. Magnin. Within the garment industry, Joseph Magnin Co. was known as “the other Magnin.” For many years Joseph Magnin Co. operated in the shadows of I. Magnin. I. Magnin had many established providers of better fashions and demanded exclusivity; the sellers were barred from selling to Joseph Magnin if they wished to continue to do business with I. Magnin. Joseph Magnin at times did use consumer confusion on the Magnin name to their advantage by calling the store J. Magnin in signage, advertisements, and store bags. The store also self identified as JM.
After World War II, under the leadership of Joseph’s son Cyril Magnin, the Joseph Magnin Co. went more upscale and began courting the younger woman’s market. JM advertisements were distinctive as being glamorous, sophisticated, trendy and youthful. One newspaper ad went to print without the Magnin name. Cyril was furious until he was told the item had sold out; everyone knew it was a JM ad. Marilyn Monroe purchased the suit she wore when she married Joe DiMaggio in 1954 at JM. As of 1960 the store was one of the first in San Francisco to employ Asian-Americans in customer service.
In 1967 JM was responsible for buying Lynda Bird Johnson’s trousseau. The store also included the Wolves Den, for men only. Men could shop in a clublike area while seated, served martinis, smoking cigars, and being shown merchandise by JM's most attractive women. In 1969 Cyril Magnin arranged for the Joseph Magnin Co. to be purchased by Amfac, Inc. of Hawaii. Amfac owned Liberty House, among other stores, on the West Coast and Hawaii. Cyril remained the chairman of the board of JM. Joseph Magnin grew to a chain of thirty-two stores. In 1984 Amfac closed the Joseph Magnin Co., the same year as the West Coast Liberty House stores were closed.
As of April 2011, Strategic Marks, LLC has obtained the 'Joseph Magnin' trademark and plans on re-introducing the famous department store name as part of a virtual mall, along with other nostalgic stores such as The Bon Marche, The Broadway, Robinson's Department Store, Filene's, Abraham and Strauss and many others. The goal is to bring back the great department stores of the 20th century, with the hopes of re-opening the actual 'Brick and Mortar' stores throughout the US.
- Birmingham, Nan Tilson, Store, copyright 1978, ISBN 978-0-399-11899-9.
- Frick, Devin, I. Magnin & Co. A California Legacy, copyright 2000, ISBN 978-0-9663493-1-3
- Hendrickson, Robert, The Grand Emporiums, copyright 1980, ISBN 978-0-8128-6092-4
- Magnin, Cyril and Robins, Cynthia, Call Me Cyril, copyright 1981, ISBN 978-0-07-039492-6
- Mullane, James Thomas, A Store to Remember, copyright 2007, ISBN 978-0-9788513-0-9
- Steger, Pat, "A Fitting Tribute" San Francisco Chronicle, April 6, 1999