Emporium Department Store

Emporium Department Store

Anne Evers Hitz

Language: English

Pages: 130

ISBN: 1531677061

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Emporium--"California's Largest, America's Grandest Store"--was a major shopping destination on San Francisco's Market Street for a century, from 1896 to 1996. Shoppers flocked to the mid-price store with its beautiful dome and bandstand. Patrons could find anything at the Emporium, from jewelry to stoves, and it was a meeting place for friends to enjoy tea while listening to the Emporium Orchestra. Founded as the Emporium and Golden Rule Bazaar, the store flourished until the disastrous 1906 earthquake. Once it reopened in 1908, it dominated shopping downtown until mid-century. Many San Franciscans remember with great nostalgia the Christmas Carnival on the roof, complete with slides, a skating rink, and a train. Santa always arrived in grand style with a big parade down Market Street. After World War II, the Emporium, which had merged with H.C. Capwell & Co. in the late 1920s, began its push and opened branch stores throughout the San Francisco Bay area. However, as competition increased, the company's financial situation worsened, and the Emporium name was no more in 1996.

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perfumes, and cosmetics? Nearly 2,000 employees worked the Emporium’s 600,000-square-foot store. Sales reached $16.8 million in 1925. It was an exciting time for America and for retail.   In 1927, plans were in the works for a Bay Bridge linking San Francisco to the East Bay (completed in 1936), and expanding to the East Bay made sense. That year, to great fanfare, the Emporium merged with the H.C. Capwell Company of Oakland, forming a holding company, the Emporium-Capwell Company.   Harris

intended to celebrate San Francisco’s 200th birthday. Displayed in the rotunda of the Market Street store, it was topped by a five-foot phoenix—San Francisco’s symbol—and surrounded by 200 electric candles. The icing had scenes of San Francisco: Miwok Indians, Spanish explorers, Franciscan friars, Mission Dolores, miners, clipper ships, Coit Tower, and more. (Cake by Centennial Cake Co.; Author’s collection.) 110 When the Emporium on Market Street was razed in 2003, the only two architectural

and stores dominated the square, pushing out residences and churches. Located two blocks north of Market Street and the Emporium, it was, and still is, the center of San Francisco’s retail district. (Photograph by Albert Dressler; courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California.) The Emporium was an incredibly elegant store. The San Francisco Chronicle published an article on May 23, 1896, entitled “The Finest Store in All the World,” which stated, “San

(Both photographs by Detroit Publishing Co.; courtesy of the Library of Congress.) 39 Again, from eyewitness Charles Sedgwick, observing the earthquake’s aftermath on Market Street, “Now the grand old street was scarcely recognizable—a sad scene of destruction. Buildings by the dozen were half down; great pillars, copings, cornices and ornamentations had been wrenched from the mightiest structures and dashed to the ground in fragments; the huge store windows had been shattered and costly

shoppers a day coming through their doors. Window shopping became a leisure activity.   Almost anything could be bought in these department stores. What made a great department store? A central location serviced by mass transportation, a great variety of goods, lower prices, free services such as deliveries, liberal credit arrangements, and merchandise return privileges. The stores were strictly departmentalized, appealed to the masses, offered many services, and were big advertisers.   On the

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