The Broadway

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The Broadway
Department store
FateConverted to Macy's
FoundedFebruary 24, 1896; 123 years ago (1896-02-24)
FounderArthur Letts, Sr.
Defunct1996; 23 years ago (1996)
HeadquartersLos Angeles, California
ProductsClothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and housewares.
A former Broadway department store at the Hawthorne Plaza Shopping Center in Hawthorne, California
Broadway advertisement in December 1909

The Broadway (1896–1996) was a mid-level department store chain headquartered in Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1896 by English born Arthur Letts, Sr.,[1] who later went on to develop Holmby Hills, the Broadway became one of the dominant retailers in Southern California and the Southwest. In 1950, the company merged with Sacramento-based Hale Brothers to form Broadway-Hale Stores.

The Broadway bought out competitors in Los Angeles (B.H. Dyas, Milliron's, and Coulter's), San Diego (Marston's), and Phoenix (Korrick's). In later years the Broadway opened stores in Nevada (Las Vegas), New Mexico, and Colorado. In 1979, it was split into two divisions: The Broadway Southern California, based in Los Angeles; and Broadway Southwest, headquartered in Phoenix (for the non-California stores).

The Broadway's parent Carter Hawley Hale Stores ran into financial difficulties which resulted from poor management decisions and hostile takeover attempts. In 1996 the chain was acquired by Federated Department Stores and the majority of locations were converted to the Macy's nameplate. Several stores in affluent areas where Macy's already had locations were closed, refurbished and reopened as Bloomingdale's, while Federated sold many of the remaining stores to Sears.

Though the chain had been closed for over seven years, The Broadway Building in Hollywood, including its iconic "The Broadway" sign was featured in the climactic final scenes of the 2003 film Hollywood Homicide starring Harrison Ford.


Letts started the Broadway Department Store on February 24, 1896, by purchasing the name, assets, fixtures, and the building lease from the bankrupted firm of J.A. Williams and Co. for a sum of $8377.[1][2][3] The previous owners had a good location in a recently constructed building at the corner of Broadway and Fourth Streets,[4] but had all of its assets seized by their creditors for failure to pay its bills after just four short months of operations.[5][6][7] In contrast, Letts was able to pay off all of his creditors in a short period of time after acquiring the assets for the failed store by the quick sale of the same assets and by watching his expenses.[8][9]

In a short period of time, the business was doing so well, that it had to expand into adjacent store fronts. A decade later, it had outgrown its home in the Hallett & Pirtle building and required a new home.[2] It was decided to have a new nine-story building with nearly 11 acres of floor space to be built in several phases at the same location with construction starting in 1913 while the current store remained in business.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Groves, Martha (February 12, 1991). "The Broadway: Bright History, Uncertain Future". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ a b Richardson, Eric (November 16, 2011). "38 Years Ago: Broadway Department Store Moved Off Namesake Street". Blogdowntown. KPCC.
  3. ^ "City News In Brief". Los Angeles Herald. 45 (134). February 22, 1896. p. 7 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection. The stock of the Broadway store has been sold by the board of trade to Arthur Letts for the sum of $8377.
  4. ^ "Hallett And Pirtle Block". Los Angeles Herald. 44 (115). August 4, 1895. p. 6 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection. The Superb New Broadway Structure at The Corner of Fourth Office and Mercantile Apartments of Modern Proportions The Upper Story to Be Utilized as a First Class Lodging Hotel With a Roof Garden
  5. ^ "Grand Opening Today; Finest Store of the Kind on the Pacific Coast Designed Like "The Fair"; Eighteen Departments Will Be Maintained". Los Angeles Herald. 44 (140). August 29, 1895. p. 5 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection. The new institution will be styled J.A. Williams & Co., the members of the firm being Mr. J. A. Williams, and Mr. B.F. Overman. The place of business will be styled the Broadway Department Store, and it will occupy apartments in the Hallett & Pirtle building, at the corner of Fourth and Broadway.
  6. ^ "A Los Angeles Failure". San Francisco Call. 79 (55). January 24, 1896. p. 3 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection. Broadway Department Store Attached by Several Creditors Yesterday.
  7. ^ "For Sale: Stock and Fixtures of Broadway Department Store". Los Angeles Herald. 45 (125). February 13, 1896. p. 4 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection. The Creditors' Committee in the matter of J.A. Williams & Co. will receive sealed bids for the stock, fixtures and fittings of the Broadway Department Store, Pirtle Building, southwest corner Broadway and Fourth Street.
  8. ^ "Broadway Department Store". Los Angeles Herald. 45 (135). February 23, 1896 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection. The entire stock of J.A. Williams & Co. will be placed on sale Monday, February 24th, and must be Closed Out in Thirty Days...Broadway Department Store; Arthur Letts, Assignee; Corner Fourth and Broadway.
  9. ^ a b Findlay, Paul (February 1918). "How They Did It". System: The Magazine of Business. 33 (2). pp. 200–202.