The Bon Marché

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The Bon Marché
FateMerged with Macy's
Founded1890, Seattle
HeadquartersSeattle, Washington, U.S.
ProductsClothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and housewares
ParentFederated Department Stores
The Bon Marché
Bon Marché flagship store, Seattle (2000).jpg
The Bon Marché's flagship store,
in downtown Seattle, in 2000
LocationSeattle, Washington
DesignatedOctober 16, 1989[1]

The Bon Marché, whose French name translates to "the good market" or "the good deal", was a department store chain launched in Seattle, Washington, United States, in 1890 by Edward Nordhoff.[2] The name was influenced by Le Bon Marché, the noted Parisian retailer.

In 1929, The Bon Marché was acquired by Hahn Department Stores and reorganized as Allied Stores, a few years later.[2] A solid middle-range store, The Bon served largely working-class Seattle. Branches were also added in several Northwestern cities. Among them were Spokane, Tacoma, Yakima, Kennewick, Longview, Walla Walla, Olympia, and Bellingham, Washington, Missoula, Montana, Great Falls, Montana, Idaho Falls, Idaho and Boise, Idaho. Commonly known to customers as The Bon, the company dropped the Marché from their name in the late 1970s before reinstating it by the mid-1980s.

The Bon was known for their catchy jingles, such as the following to the tune of "The Banana Boat Song": "Day-o, One Day Sale, One day only at The Bon Marché! Save 20, 30, 40 percent (example savings)! Saturday only at the Bon Marche. Prices are down in every department! Saturday only at the Bon Marche!..." This jingle continued after the name was changed to Bon-Macy's, with the appropriate changes. In the 1960s, The Bon also used some cuts from PAMS' Series 23 jingle package, "Ani-Magic" in the 1960s.

Allied Stores was merged into Federated Department Stores in 1989. As part of its national rebranding program, Federated changed the name to Bon-Macy's in 2003.[2] On March 6, 2005, the Bon-Macy's name was eliminated, with the stores renamed as the Macy's Northwest division of Federated.[2] On February 6, 2008, the Macy's Northwest division was merged with the Macy's West division, based in San Francisco.


Origins and establishment[edit]

Edward Nordhoff was born in Germany in 1858, and moved to Paris as a young man. In Paris, he worked for the Louvre Department Store, but developed great admiration for its rival, the Maison of Aristide Boucicaut "Au Bon Marché" (now part of the LVMH group). Nordhoff admired the values of this rival store's owners, who built their business with a foundation in customer service. He dreamed of opening his own store along these lines.

In 1881, Edward emigrated to the U.S. While managing a popular Chicago department store he met Josephine Brennan, who worked on the sales floor. They married in 1888, and 2 years later set off for the West Coast with their baby, Eleanor.

An older Bon Marché logo

Arriving in Seattle the year after the 1889 fire, the Nordhoffs found rental space scarce. They leased a one-story structure at the corner of First and Cedar in Belltown, for $25 a month. Their entire savings of $1,200 was soon invested on merchandise for their store. Mrs. Nordhoff, not yet 20, stocked shelves, kept the books, cleaned and mopped. She learned the Chinook language so that she could better wait on Native American customers. Though the store was blocks out of the way, townsfolk began to trade with the hardworking young couple.

The panic of the early 1890s struck Seattle hard. Every cent was precious. Returning from his first buying trip east, Ed Nordhoff brought back something new—sacks of pennies. Until then, change had been made only to the nearest nickel locally. Now customers walked for blocks to save pennies at The Bon Marché's sales. Their growing success allowed the Nordhoffs to relocate their store closer to the business heart of the city in 1896. They chose a one-story L-shaped building at Second and Pike.

Initial growth and expansion[edit]

The 1902 Bon Marché, pictured here in 1907…
…and seen here in 1919, with the 1911 addition to the south.

In 1899, at age 40, Edward died of an illness his doctor called phthisis, probably tuberculosis (Phthisis pulmonalis). Josephine remarried two years later. Her new husband, Frank McDermott, joined her and Rudolph Nordhoff, Edward's brother, in operating The Bon Marché. The store entered a period of rapid growth under the management of this trio. Sales increased from $338,000 in 1900 to $8 million in 1923.[3] The store was enlarged twice at its Second and Pike location, in 1902 and 1911.[4] In 1929, The Bon Marché opened at its current downtown location at Third and Pine. That year, the store was sold to Hahn Stores of Chicago. Five years later, Allied Stores bought the Hahn chain. Both corporations continued to operate the store under its original name. In 1937, The Bon Marché opened its first store outside of Washington when Allied Stores merged Boise, Idaho-based C.C. Anderson's into The Bon Marché. The downtown Boise store remained in operation for more than 70 years, until early 2010, albeit as a Macy's for its final few years.[3]

The Bon began opening additional stores after World War II. In 1949, it provided the anchor store for one of the world's first modern shopping centers, at Northgate Mall. By 1986, when Campeau Corporation acquired Allied Stores, the Bon Marché was one of the best-known retailers in the Northwest, with about 40 stores throughout the region. In 1978, the company acquired nine stores including Missoula Mercantile of Missoula, Montana. The Missoula store closed as Macy's in 2010.[5]

The Bon also opened and operated three stores in Utah: The largest one was in Ogden, at the Ogden City Mall. The second was in Layton Hills Mall in Layton, a bedroom community north of Salt Lake City. Third was the smallest store in the entire chain - Logan. This store was located in the Cache Valley Mall. The stores in Ogden and Logan were sold to Lamonts department stores in 1988 because they weren't performing well for the company.[6] Layton's location remained open until 1993, when it was sold to J.C. Penney.[7]

After yet another change in corporate ownership in 1992, the Bon ended up in the hands of Federated Department Stores, a Cincinnati-based company which also owns the Macy's and Bloomingdales chains. In 2001, The Bon Marché debuted a prototype store in Helena, Montana. The 65,000-square-foot (6,000 m2) store featured everything a typical Bon Marché had plus centralized checkouts.[8]

Name changes[edit]

Bon-Macy's logo used from 2003-2005

In August 2003, Federated "rebranded" The Bon Marché, turning it into Bon-Macy's. Federated also tacked Macy's onto the names of four other regional chains under its umbrella (Burdines in Florida, Lazarus in the Midwest, Goldsmith's in Tennessee, and Rich's in the Southeast).[9] Customers had about a year to get used to that change when, in September 2004, Federated announced that all its regional chains would be renamed Macy’s.[10]

As of 2004, Bon-Macy's consisted of 50 stores in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. New store signs, reading simply Macy's, were in place by January 2005.[2] The former flagship store in downtown Seattle retains one small, original example of The Bon Marché signage; this can be seen above the north entrance of the store, at the corner of 4th Ave & Olive Way.

On February 6, 2008, Terry Lundgren announced the localization strategy and the company's plan to shed 2,550 jobs. This included laying off the Macy's Northwest headquarters and merging all of the former The Bon Marché stores under the Macy's West division.[11]

Macy's sold the upper 6 levels of the flagship store between 2015-2017 to Starwood Capital. That portion of the building was remodeled as 300 Pine, a 475,000sq ft office complex housing As of 2018, Macy's remains on the lower two floors and in the basement.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Landmarks and Designation". City of Seattle. Retrieved March 4, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Eskenazi, Stuart (February 5, 2005). "Seattle bids shopping institution a Bon voyage". Seattle Times. p. A1. Retrieved November 20, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Sewell, Cynthia "Downtown Boise loses an anchor with Macy's closure" Idaho Statesman January 6, 2010. Retrieved 2010-00-21.
  4. ^ "Summary for 110 Union ST / Parcel ID 1975700580". Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. Retrieved February 3, 2019.. The article is about a different nearby building, but mentions the dates for the rebuilding of the Bon Marché.
  5. ^ Briggeman, Kim "Chapter closes at old Missoula Mercantile building as Macy's to close" Missoulian February 5, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  6. ^ "Bon Voyage! Two Out-Of-State Stores To Become Lamonts". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. October 26, 1988. Retrieved February 26, 2009.[dead link]
  7. ^ "Shoppers, leaders watch as Penney's grandly opens its Layton Hills store". Deseret News. (Salt Lake City, Utah). November 10, 1993. p. B7.
  8. ^ Batsell, Jake (November 1, 2001). "Bon thinking outside the box: Experimental store to offer centralized checkout, faster shopping". The Seattle Times, p. C1.
  9. ^ Batsell, Jake (August 2, 2003). "It's now Bon-Macy's, but it's hard for customers to tell". The Seattle Times. p. C1. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  10. ^ Soto Ouchi, Monica; Torres, Blanca (September 14, 2004). "Day-o soon over for Bon name—NW chain to be Macy's". The Seattle Times. p. C1. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  11. ^ Martinez, Amy (February 7, 2008). "Macy's to close NW office; 750 jobs lost". The Seattle Times. p. C1. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  12. ^

Further reading[edit]

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