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View Full Version : Marshall Field & Co - a Chicago institution


ElyseC
09-20-2005, 11:14 AM
I heard on the news today that Federated the company that owns both the Macy's and Marshall Field lines of department stores will soon convert all Marshall Field & Co. stores to become Macy's. The name Marshall Field & Co. will cease to exist after over a century of being a Chicago institution. It was, especially in its early days, a major tourist attraction, drawing even foreign royalty.

My mom was born and raised in Chicago and has told me her memories of the place. A few years ago, while researching books by one of my favorite authors, Emily Kimbrough, I discovered Miss Kimbrough's book Through Charley's Door (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/9997500490/qid=1127242439/sr=8-11/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i11_xgl14/104-8671705-2512721?v=glance&s=books&n=507846). It's her account of getting a job there in the 1920s, starting out in the advertising department, knowing absolutely nothing about advertising. She had a bunch of trials by fire right from the beginning: being thrown into the frenzy of getting out the weekly newspaper ads, dealing with difficult clients (the department heads), having to stay up all night for photo shoots, learning to write ad copy, and eventually taking over as editor of the company's "Fashions of the Hour" magazine. Delightful and hilarious adventures she had, many that many of us here can relate to one way or another.

I've read the book many times since I found it at a rare & used bookseller's several years ago and enjoyed family stories of the place, so I feel a little wistful at the news that the Marshall Field and Co. name will soon be mere history. It was quite a place, by all accounts.

jrabold
09-20-2005, 11:29 AM
And then there was the Stan Freberg sendup of the 40s and 50s radio western serials: "Bang Gunley, U.S. Marshall Field".

ElyseC
09-20-2005, 03:07 PM
And then there was the Stan Freberg sendup of the 40s and 50s radio western serials: "Bang Gunley, U.S. Marshall Field".Never heard that one.

ktinkel
09-20-2005, 04:27 PM
I heard on the news today that Federated … will soon convert all Marshall Field & Co. stores to become Macy's. The name Marshall Field & Co. will cease to exist after over a century of being a Chicago institution. As have many of the great New York stores, and my childhood fantasy store, Frederic & Nelson’s (a Marshall Field subsidiary in Seattle). It happened that I was visiting Aldus in Seattle when F&N closed, and I went to the final sale. It made me very sad.

Growing up in Anchorage in the 1940s and 50s, most of our possessions came from the Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs. The only local store (besides the PX, where we had limited access) was the Northern Commercial Company, full of really wonderful but expensive stuff that my parents resisted — for us kids, at least.

But my relatives in Seattle sent presents from F&N, and when we went to visit my grandparents during the summer, we went there to shop. It was the fantasy store of my childhood, where I first encountered escalators and those wonderful pneumatic overhead machines that took your money and returned a receipt and change with a lovely whoosh.

The age of the department store is over. Alas.

Can’t find what you need at Target or Kohl’s or Walmart? Hire a tailor! <g>

ElyseC
09-20-2005, 06:01 PM
The age of the department store is over. Alas.Yes. Amazing things they were when they began. I'd bet good money you'd enjoy reading that book, if you could ever lay your hands on one.

Can’t find what you need at Target or Kohl’s or Walmart? Hire a tailor! <g>Or find a catalog store you like and avoid downtown and the malls altogether. My answer for my own stuff? Lands' End. Still have to shop at Penny's and Target for the kid and for the husband.

marlene
09-20-2005, 09:02 PM
Federated is doing something similar here. They are converting all the Hecht Company stores to Macy's.

Hecht's has been a Washington, D.C. institution for many years (I think they first opened in 1896), and AFAIK is the only department store still operating a location in downtown D.C. It has managed to outlive many other local department stores (Woodward & Lothrop, Garfinckel's, Lansburgh's, Kann's).

It's the end of an era.

mxh

ElyseC
09-21-2005, 06:14 AM
It's the end of an era.It is. Those large department stores had a huge effect on American history. I never realized how much until I read Emily Kimbrough's book. Especially in the early decades, their mission was service, serving the customer. It still exists, but only in small, family-run businesses. Anything bigger and true service and respect for the customer is a lost art.

I have little affection for Federated. In the early 80s they strung my husband along saying they were going to hire him, shuffled all sorts of papers around, then suddenly said, nope, we changed our minds. He'd just graduated from a tech school, second in his class in computer programming. They hired someone from much lower down in the class rank and paid them a pittance compared to what they'd offered my husband.

It's nice to be back here in the rural Midwest, because here true service and customer care is a lot easier to find. Geez...my father died a year and a week ago today, the day our moving van left California for here. We drove and arrived here one year ago yesterday to find that our new bank (I'd set up our accounts by phone, fax and mail before we left CA) had sent me a sympathy card -- it was waiting for us at our new home (which we signed the papers for a year ago today :-)). I never told them my maiden name, but someone there was reading the obits in the local papers, saw my name listed as a "survived by" and figured out that was me, their new customer. I was floored and impressed all to heck!

Stephen Owades
09-21-2005, 06:55 AM
Federated is doing something similar here. They are converting all the Hecht Company stores to Macy's.

Hecht's has been a Washington, D.C. institution for many years (I think they first opened in 1896), and AFAIK is the only department store still operating a location in downtown D.C. It has managed to outlive many other local department stores (Woodward & Lothrop, Garfinckel's, Lansburgh's, Kann's).

It's the end of an era.

mxhIn the Boston area, they're converting the Filene's stores into Macy's, as they already did with Jordan Marsh a couple of years ago. Downtown Boston has always had two big department stores facing each other, and only one will survive. The big speculation is about which location they'll stay in and what will end up in the other building--perhaps a WalMart!

This doesn't affect Filene's Basement, by the way, which is now owned by a different company. The original Filene's Basement store is in the basement of the downtown Filene's location, and its lease will last for some years regardless of what Federated does with the upstairs.

JohnC
09-21-2005, 08:21 AM
Add the Bon Marché in Seattle. It was renamed to Macy's in January (and had been renamed "Bon Macy's" for a year or so prior to that). And they changed the name from Bamberger's to Macy's in New Jersey about 25 years ago. Nothing really new, just taking their time...

I'm sure it helps them consolidate advertising costs to not have some many different store names with similar merchandise and sales circulars.

Nordstrom's still seems to be going along OK out here.

John

marlene
09-22-2005, 05:57 PM
...their mission was service, serving the customer. It still exists, but only in small, family-run businesses.

Yep, good customer service is hard to find these days, even more so in the big companies, including the grocery stores.

That's a great story about your new bank sending you the sympathy card. That kind of thing is almost unheard of these days, unfortunately.

mxh

Richard Waller
09-22-2005, 11:41 PM
Good customer service is hard to find these days,We run a compeition throughout SE England for Customer SAervice. We have a separate prise for shops and servicers in Goring.

Among the things we look for:
- eye contact
- concentrating on one customer at a time
- knowing the product
- - and having a hook outside the shop so I can tether my dog.

Interestingly, both the recent winners have since changed owners and it will be interesting to see this year whether they score highly again.

ElyseC
09-23-2005, 05:47 AM
That's a great story about your new bank sending you the sympathy card. That kind of thing is almost unheard of these days, unfortunately.I've found that's pretty much the norm here. I showed the card to Mom at Dad's memorial service and she wasn't at all surprised. She got one, too, it turns out and she and Dad have never been customers of that bank. My sis 35 minutes away from my folks also got a card, but she is a customer of their branch near her home.

Howard White
09-23-2005, 06:01 AM
<<perhaps a WalMart!>>

More likely a Tar-zhay ...

HW

Stephen Owades
09-25-2005, 11:53 AM
<<perhaps a WalMart!>>

More likely a Tar-zhay ...

HW
There was a lot of speculation about Target taking over one of the Downtown Crossing department store locations in Boston, but the latest rumors/reports are talking about WalMart. I believe the surviving "Macy's" is now supposed to be in the current Macy's store location (on which Federated has a long lease) rather than in the current Filene's store (which Federated owns outright). They lease the basement of the Filene's store to "Filene's Basement" (now owned by a separate firm), and whatever company leases or buys the upstairs will have to honor that lease. Federated has said that they're not going to bring any of their other brands (Bloomingdale's or Lord & Taylor) to Downtown Crossing, and that they're thinking of selling off the Lord & Taylor chain entirely.

Molly/CA
09-25-2005, 05:31 PM
Sears is now being bought by K-Mart. Though renamed?

Molly/CA
09-25-2005, 05:34 PM
I never go into a Macy's if I can possibly help it. If I want Target quality I'd as soon inflict Target on myself.

But I'd go into a Marshall Field any day of the week. It was once a symbol of solid if somewhat staid quality for me.

JVegVT
09-25-2005, 06:43 PM
I'm in shock! I grew up around Chicago and shopped in Marshall Field's downtown store many times. Well, not so much shopped as looked around because things were pricey there. But if you wanted something of high quality, you knew you'd get it there.

It was a wonder at Christmas time, with a huge tree going up several stories. There was a big open space in the middle of the store . The store windows had magical decorations.

Eating in the Tea Room made me and my friends feel very sophisticated.

Things started changing when suburban shopping malls came on the scene. Marshall Field's opened some mall stores, but they didn't have the lustre of the "real" store. Not much difference between Field's at the mall and Sears.

Shopping sure has changed, and not for the better, IMHO.
--Judy M.

ElyseC
09-27-2005, 06:56 PM
Sears is now being bought by K-Mart. Though renamed?What?? So K-Mart is going to own Lands' End?? No-o-o-o-o! <SIGH>

ElyseC
09-27-2005, 07:01 PM
Then you'd really enjoy reading the Emily Kimbrough book if your library has or can get a copy.

My mom grew up in Chicago and MF featured prominently in their lives. Her mom, my grandma, could sew like nobody I know today and loved noting the grown-up fashions in the MF windows and displays. When they got back home she'd cut her own patterns out of newspaper and sew miniature versions for her two little girls.

Michael Rowley
09-28-2005, 07:56 AM
Elyse:

K-Mart is going to own Lands' End?

Perhaps K-Mart will do something about that damned apostrophe at last.

JohnC
09-28-2005, 08:40 AM
What's all the surprise here? K-Mart and Sears announced this in November of last year. It was one of the biggest business news stories of last year.

There were some news stories earlier this year (around March, before the shareholders voted) that Sears might be looking to sell off Lands' End. But that didn't happen. The new company did get rid of the Lands' End CEO this past August, though.

John

ElyseC
09-29-2005, 06:32 AM
Elyse:

K-Mart is going to own Lands' End?

Perhaps K-Mart will do something about that damned apostrophe at last.Nope. It was a printing error that had to be lived with when the company was still young and struggling and couldn't afford to reprint. See the official story. (http://de.landsend.com/apostrophe.html)

ElyseC
09-29-2005, 06:46 AM
What's all the surprise here? K-Mart and Sears announced this in November of last year. It was one of the biggest business news stories of last year.Because I don't read the financial section, heck, I rarely read a newspaper or news magazine. I'm too busy with other reading that is more immediately important. :-)

marlene
09-29-2005, 07:30 AM
We run a competition throughout SE England for Customer Service.

If they had a similar competition here, they probably wouldn't get a lot of entries. I get better customer service on eBay than I do in local stores.

mxh