Sunday, November 22, 2009
A shot of Newark's empty Hahne & Company department store, which I took on the way to a faculty dinner this past Tuesday. And below, another long-gone emporium: Baltimore's Hutzler's, the subject of my brother Michael's book, which is reviewed in today's Baltimore Sun.
From Hutzler's: Where Baltimore Shops
MIchael J. Lisicky
I don’t quite understand my passion for department stores. I think I’ll blame it on my mother.
As a child my mother would pack the car with my brothers and me and we would be off on a road trip that usually centered around shopping. I didn’t necessarily enjoy the shopping but I did love spending time with my family while discovering new cities, new restaurants and new stores.
I grew up in southern New Jersey directly across the river from Philadelphia. My mother loved Philadelphia’s Strawbridge & Clothier department store. Her first job was at Strawbridge’s and for a number of years she sang in the Strawbridge & Clothier Chorus. She eventually stopped working at the store but it was always” her store”. Even as a small child I always knew when it was ‘Clover Day’ at Strawbridge’s. Clover Day was a tradition and that’s what Strawbridge & Clothier stood for, tradition.
There were other stores in Philadelphia. My mother bought her shoes and tires for the car at Lit Brothers. She also spent a lot of time buying her kids’ clothes in Gimbels’ Budget Store. (I don’t think I even went to the main floor of Gimbels until I graduated from high school.) We also had John Wanamaker but for some reason it always seemed out of our reach. I don’t know quite why.
When you live in the Philadelphia area you can travel to many different cities, large and small, within a two hour drive. I loved how each city seemed to have its own personality. Since my mother would always take us shopping I always paid attention to the different stores. I loved all of the different names. I loved all of the different logos. I truly felt like I was ‘out of town’. When I saw ‘Hess’s’ I knew we were in Allentown. When I saw ‘Dunham’s’ I knew we were in Trenton. When I saw ‘Hutzler’s’ I knew we were in Baltimore.
Hutzler’s always seemed so invincible. Its downtown store seemed so monumental yet personal. As a child, I was always concerned how Clay Street ran right through the building. I was also a little scared at the way the store spelled out ‘HUTZLER’ with its Art Deco lettering. (I always thought ‘Why not Hutzler’s?) No visit to Baltimore was complete with a stop at the Towson Hutzler’s on the way back home. At the time it seemed that Towson was nothing more than Towson University and Hutzler’s. I couldn’t imagine that that would ever change.