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FateAcquired by Macy's
Founded1871; 148 years ago (1871)
DefunctSeptember 9, 2006; 12 years ago (September 9, 2006)
HeadquartersPittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Key people
Jacob Kaufmann, Isaac Kaufmann, and Edgar J. Kaufmann
ProductsClothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, housewares, and auto centers
ParentFederated Department Stores (2005–2006)
The May Department Stores Company (1946–2005)
WebsiteArchived official website at the Wayback Machine (archive index)
The flagship store in downtown Pittsburgh in 1984, with a trolley car stopping in front

Kaufmann's was a department store that originated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was owned in the early 20th century by Edgar J. Kaufmann, patron of 'Fallingwater'. In the post-war years, the store became a regional chain in the eastern United States, and was last owned by Federated Department Stores. At the height of its existence, it had some 59 stores in 5 states. Formerly part of May Department Stores prior to that company's acquisition by Federated on August 30, 2005, Kaufmann's operated as part of the Filene's organization in Boston, Massachusetts.[1] On February 1, 2006, the Filene's/Kaufmann's organization was dissolved and the management of its stores was assumed by Macy's East and the new Macy's Midwest. On September 9, 2006, Macy's retired the Kaufmann's name as Federated Department Stores converted the former May Company brands to its masthead.[2] In 2015, Macy's closed and sold the iconic Pittsburgh store for redevelopment as part of the company's ongoing reorganization of its owned properties. Core Reality of Philadelphia, the new owners of the building, have named the proposed mixed-use property "Kaufmann's Grand on Fifth" in honor of the historic property.[3]


Kaufmann's was founded in Pittsburgh in 1871 by Jacob and Isaac Kaufmann as a small South Side men's store.[4][5] In 1877, the brothers moved downtown to a location that became known as The Big Store.[6] In the first half of the 20th century, the store was owned by Edgar J. Kaufmann.[7]

For a time Kaufmann's was the most prominent of seven department stores in downtown Pittsburgh which included: Kaufmann & Baer, founded by cousins of the original 'Kaufmann's' founders (became Gimbel Brothers in 1925); Horne's; Boggs & Buhl; Frank & Seder's, Rosenbaum's, and Boggs & Buhl of Allegheny Center.[4]


In 1913, several cousins of Edgar Jonas Kaufmann, son of founder Morris Kaufmann, left the store and established their own company known eventually as Gimbels. [8] Gimbels later purchased Kaufmann Baer Co. in 1925. [9] Batus Inc., a tobacco conglomerate, purchased the entire Gimbels chain. In 1986, after years of declining sales, BATUS announced that Gimbels was for sale.[10] Unable to find a buyer for the entire chain, Batus closed the unprofitable Gimbels-Pittsburgh division, closing all of its locations and selling the properties, except for some of the high profit Gimbels locations in shopping malls rebranded as Kaufmann's stores.[4]

May Company[edit]

With Edgar J. Kaufmann remaining as president, the Kaufmann's chain was acquired by the St. Louis Missouri based May Company Department Stores in 1946. The Kaufmann's division operated stores in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.[11]

The Kaufmann's chain dominated its local region, absorbing several other department stores including Strouss (1986) based in Youngstown, Ohio; Sibley's (1991) based in Rochester, New York; May Company Ohio (1992) based in Cleveland, Ohio (which had merged with O'Neil's (1989) in Akron, Ohio); and in 1995 the remnants of McCurdy's stores of Rochester and Hess's of Allentown, Pennsylvania.[12][13]

Into the 21st century[edit]

In 2002, the Kaufmann's stores' Pittsburgh business headquarters closed, and its back-office operations were consolidated into those of Filene's Department Stores in Boston.[14] In 2005, Federated Department Stores Inc., agreed to buy May Department Stores Co. for $11 billion. [15]

Kaufmann's Flagship Store[edit]

Designed by architect Charles Bickel,[16][17] the Kaufmann's flagship store was built in 1887 at 400 Fifth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh.[18] Known as The Big Store,[19] it continued to undergo several expansions and renovations in later years.[19] By 1916, the architects Janssen & Abbott designed a larger white terra cotta-sheathed addition that included a large public clock at the corner.[20] In the late 1920s, Edgar G. Kaufmann commissioned a redesign of the main floor of the department store. Local architect Benno Janssen and his partner William Cocken rose to the challenge to complete the project.[citation needed] At one point, the building was the largest department store in Pittsburgh with twelve retail floors, and spanning an entire downtown city block.[19] It eventually reached 13 floors and covered 1.2 million square feet.[21] Kaufman commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design his executive offices on the top floor of The Big Store, as well as his country house 'Fallingwater' (1934) at the company's Bear Run retreat in Pennsylvania.[22][23] The office interior was saved and reinstalled in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.[24] He also commissioned architect Richard Neutra to design the desert Kaufmann House (1946) in Palm Springs, California.[25]

Meet Me Under Kaufmann's Clock[edit]

Kaufmann's famous historic clock

Kaufmann's flagship Big Store had a landmark outdoor clock at Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street that existed since the building was first contstructed.[26] The original clock was installed in 1887 and was free-standing with four dials.[27][28][29] With the expansion of the store in 1913, the current clock was installed.[30] The clock is a Pittsburgh icon, and is often featured in visual materials representing and marketing the city. It immediately became a popular downtown meeting place, with the oft-used phrase "Meet me under Kaufmann's clock." [31] In 1983, the clock was the site of a political media spectacle between City Councilman "Jeep" DePasquale and Councilwoman Michelle Madoff, wherein Madoff challenged DePasquale to meet her under the clock and make good on a promise after a tax she proposed raised funds he didn't believe possible.[32] Both the Kaufmann's flagship building and the clock are designated as Pittsburgh Historical Landmarks.[33]

The Kaufmann's Clock celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013. To celebrate, Macy's sold merchandise and redecorated the store's windows along Smithfield Street with photos of the iconic clock from over the years, including one that featured the results of a contest held by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in which readers submitted their best memories of "Meeting Under Kaufmann's Clock". Macy's also held a weekend of festivities including a block party on Smithfield Street in front of the store.[34]

Rebrand to Macy's[edit]

Following the purchase by Macy's in 2006, USA Today ran an article about the regional chains merging into Macy's which featured memories from Pittsburgh residents about the store and the clock: "As girls in their best dresses and Mary Jane shoes, they rode streetcars downtown to the 11-story Kaufmann's department store here. Jean Wenner, 81, and her friends grew up on Kaufmann's, meeting under the store's ornate clock, lunching at the Tic Toc restaurant and bringing their own children to the Secret Santa."[31]

Kaufmann's Parade[edit]

Kaufmann's was the main sponsor of the Celebrate the Season Parade, which ran through downtown Pittsburgh, at its inception in 1980.[35] The parade was held the Saturday after Thanksgiving for 32 years, with Macy's taking over the sponsorship after purchasing Kaufmann's in 2006.[36] The parade included balloons, musical acts, and celebrities for the main acts in front of the Kaufmann's Fifth Avenue flagship store.[35] In February 2014, Macy's announced it would end its partnership with WPXI as main sponsors of the parade. Pittsburgh Public Schools sponsored the parade with WPXI from 2014- 2016. [37]

Though converted a year prior to this image's creation, this Macy's store located at The Waterfront still had Kaufmann's signage. The current Macy's sign can be seen slightly behind the trees. Macy's has since put a sign over this, but Kaufmann's is still readable beneath. This Macy's closed in 2018.

Acquisitions and closure[edit]

The Kaufmann's flagship store was rebranded as Macy's after the company acquired Kaufmann's parent company in 2005.[38] Several Kaufmann's holiday traditions continued to prevail after the company was taken over by Macy's, including animated Christmas windows and Santa Land.[39] As of 2006, several Kaufmann's plaques were still visible on the building.[21]

On July 13, 2015, Macy's announced it sold the downtown property to Core Reality, ending the building's use as a department store after 128 years on September 20, 2015 with plans to redevelop the building for mixed use.[40] The new development, which includes apartments, restaurants and a hotel, was slated to open in late 2017, but was delayed because the building was without a permanent power source.[41] As of August 2018, restaurant, hotel and apartment owners were expecting to be able to allow occupants by the end of the year.[42]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Abelson, Jenn; Palmer Jr., Thomas C. (July 29, 2005). "It's official: Filene's brand will be gone". The Boston Globe.
  2. ^ Lindeman, Teresa F. (September 9, 2006). "Party ushers out Kaufmann's and welcomes Macy's". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  3. ^ "The Grand at Fifth Avenue". December 29, 2016. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Stouffer, Rick (March 1, 2005). "'Kaufmann's is gone,' analyst predicts". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  5. ^ "Store Planned for Pittsburgh". The Vindicator. Youngstown, Ohio. United Press International. March 13, 1990. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  6. ^ Macy's to continue Christmas-shopping extravaganza[permanent dead link], Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 7, 2006
  7. ^ "Kaufmann's, Pittsburgh, and the End of an Era - Belt Magazine". beltmag.com. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  8. ^ "The Kaufmann Legacy". Retrieved 2018-06-25.
  9. ^ "GIMBELS PURCHASE PITTSBURGH STORE; Kaufmann & Baer Company, a $16,000,000 Business in 1924, Now Owned Here". Retrieved 2018-06-25.
  10. ^ "11 GIMBELS STORES ARE SOLD BY BATUS". Retrieved 2018-06-25.
  11. ^ "Macy's History: 1900-1949". Macy's. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  12. ^ "Kaufmann's gave start for many". old.post-gazette.com. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  13. ^ Savage, Letitia (2016). Kaufmann's: The Big Store in Pittsburgh. Charleston SC: The History Press.
  14. ^ Schooley, Tim; Elliott, Suzanne (May 13, 2002). "Loss of Kaufmann's HQ wounds Downtown emotionally, economically". Pittsburgh Business Times. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  15. ^ Byron, Ellen (25 June 2018). "Federated Agrees To Acquire May In $11 Billion Deal".
  16. ^ Toker, Franklin (2007-12-18). Fallingwater Rising: Frank Lloyd Wright, E. J. Kaufmann, and America's Most Extraordinary House. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 9780307425843.
  17. ^ "Offices, public green space, trail link planned for South Side terminal". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  18. ^ "Downtown Pittsburgh Losing Its Last Flagship Department Store". Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  19. ^ a b c "The Downtown Kaufmann's". Old Pittsburgh photos and stories | The Digs. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  20. ^ "Buhl Building ready for its closeup". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  21. ^ a b "Soon-to-be shuttered Macy's holds treasure trove of Pittsburgh's history". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  22. ^ Rademacher, Susan (2014-11-18). Mellon Square: Discovering a Modern Masterpiece. Chronicle Books. ISBN 9781616893958.
  23. ^ "Glimpses through the trees introduce Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Fallingwater". National Post. 2015-05-25. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  24. ^ "Kaufmann Office; Frank Lloyd Wright Room". Victoria and Albert Museum. December 1, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  25. ^ "Kaufmann House". 7 October 2007.
  26. ^ "Kaufmann's Clock: The History of Downtown's Iconic Timepiece". Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  27. ^ "Under the clock: Kaufmann's clock anecdotes". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 7, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  28. ^ Pitz, Marylynne (April 21, 2013). "Meet me under the clock: The Kaufmann's Clock turns 100". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  29. ^ Dayton, Rick (May 17, 2013). "Kaufmann's Clock Turns 100 This Year". KDKA-TV News. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  30. ^ Vondas, Jerry (June 27, 1987). "Kaufmann's clock taking some time off". Pittsburgh Press. p. B5. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  31. ^ a b O'Donnell, Jayne (August 6, 2006). "Beloved stores get a lot more than a new name". USA Today. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  32. ^ "Political kiss canceled". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. January 25, 1983. p. 3. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  33. ^ "Kaufmann's Second Chance: a Pittsburgh Icon Goes High Tech". Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  34. ^ Karlovits, Bob (May 13, 2013). "Iconic Downtown Pittsburgh clock is closing in on the century mark". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  35. ^ a b Harrop, JoAnne Klimovich. "Annual Holiday Parade to celebrate all things Pittsburgh". TribLIVE.com. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  36. ^ EndPlay (2014-02-27). "Macy's ends sponsorship of WPXI's holiday parade". WPXI. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  37. ^ EndPlay (2014-02-27). "Macy's ends sponsorship of WPXI's holiday parade". WPXI. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  38. ^ Hazen, Bob (2015-09-14). "It's the final week for downtown Macy's store". WTAE. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  39. ^ "Miracle on Grant Street? Macy's holiday tradition to continue despite Downtown closure". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  40. ^ Hazen, Bob (September 14, 2015). "Macy's to close landmark downtown Pittsburgh store". WTAE-TV News.
  41. ^ "After struggle to get power, is the Macy's/Kaufmann's development back on track?". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  42. ^ "As the Kaufmann's clock keeps ticking, deadlines pass for former department store redevelopment". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2018-08-21.