> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: One of the most beautiful department
> stores I ever saw was the old Wannamaker's store in Philadelphia,
> with its wonderful pipe organ on the upper floors of the main court,
> one of the largest organs in the world at the time. The last I heard,
> Lord and Taylor had taken over the store, and moved all the retail
> area to the lower floors, and closed off the upper floors entirely.
> It was Wannamaker in the 1960's, then Lord and Taylor sometime in
> the 1970's; I guess Philadelphia has gotten as bad as Chicago since
> those days. Is anything left there at all? PAT]
As of now, the Lord & Taylor is still there, just using a small part
of the building as you say, and they still play the organ and have a
Christmas light show. How long this will continue remains to be seen.
When the store was really Wanamaker's, it was a classic elegant full
service department store. Not that now.
Strawbridge's still has a store downtown in the classic sense. What
will happen after the merger remains to be seen.
Phila (actually based in Reading PA) has a regional chain, Boscov's,
that seems to be doing ok despite being relatively small compared to
the nationals. It is a "merchant prince" type dept store owned by the
descendants of the founder. The owner personally takes his executive
staff and goes around visiting every store to check on things -- not
only data on the printouts, but the appearance of displays and sales
staff. I like shopping in that store and hope they can survive
against the majors.
I don't like the big impersonal chains. They're too homogenized and
remote from their customers. I feel like I'm buying from a govt
agency*. When the dept stores were locally owned, they had a much
more of a personal feel to them (regardless if they were elegant or
low-end). Federated is converting all their stores into Macy's while
May Co. left more of some local flavor in them.
Indeed, where I am Macy's had a unit called Bamberger's that they
owned since the 1930s, but it operated independently. In more recent
years, they dropped the name and indepedence and merged into Macy's.
I felt quality of goods and service went down at that point.
Nobody seems to have any anti-trust concerns about this merger, which
puzzles me. To me it represents all the reasons we developed
anti-trust laws in the first place, and the same rationale we were
told to justify breaking up the Bell System.
*In my state, wine and liquor are sold only by the state govt (or in
bars by the drink). They used to be "State Stores" and as Soviet as
you could imagine (partly by design to discourage drinking). Now
they're still govt owned, but modernized as "Wine & Spirit Shoppe" and
much better. The debate over them rages on; some like the system the
way it is, others want to do like other states. See:
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: When Wanamaker had the store, the organ
was one of the largest in the world (several hundred ranks of pipes)
similar in stature to the Atlantic City Auditorium instrument or the
one in Methuen, Massachusetts or the Mormon Tabernacle. When the store
was sold to Lord and Taylor, the organ technically was _not_ included
in the sale. Its "price" was given as in excess a half million
dollars, which is typical for those older, very large
instruments. Wanamaker donated it to a Trust, I think the 'Wanamaker
Organ Trust' for perpetual care, and Lord & Taylor, under the terms of
the Trust is or was obligated to give recitals daily. I think the
Wanamaker Endowement Trust still 'owns' the instrument, and pays for
and supplies the repair work, but L&T pays for the organists. Left to
their own devices, Lord and Taylor would either dismantle it or let it
fall into total disrepair, as happened in Atlantic City. I've got a
couple of CDs here which are re-issues from the 1950's when Virgil Fox
played the Wanamaker Organ. Can you even begin to imagine a modern day
'low price' chain (Walmart comes to mind) providing that sort of
entertainment for their customers?
Here in Kansas, the state also operates the liquor stores, but the
'convenience mart' places -- like gas station grocery stores, etc --
are allowed to sell beer, just not the 'hard stuff', and taverns can
sell 'by the drink' of course.