Thursday, March 23, 2006

Strawbridges - Another Landmark Department Store Gone

We made a trip to the Strawbridges in the Deptford Mall this past weekend to take advantage of the huge savings they're advertizing. What you'd save on is anyone's guess. The first floor was just about empty except for some Oriental rugs, and what was to be had on the second floor wasn't great selection-wise.

Deptford Mall? "That isn't Philly" you may be saying. True. Like many here, I go across the river because you don't have to pay to park at the mall, and it's nicer than at the Gallery in Center City. But looking through the carcass that has become the Deptford store, I remembered the various department stores that once made Philly a great place go shop. Gimbels, John Wanamaker, Strawridge & Clothier and Lit Brothers were the ones I remember, and quite vividly. Each year on December 8, my mom would bring us to the CC stores as a pre-Christmas event. We'd see the light show at Wanamakers and ride the monorail in the toy department. Then we'd have lunch in the restaurant in the store. Afterward, we'd march down Market Street to Lit's to tour the Enchanted Village. Where has it all gone?

Walking down Chestnut Street yesterday, I walked into Lord and Taylor (formerly Wanamaker's) just to get a look at what it had become. I saw the eagle was still in the Grand Court, and that a quote from John Wanamaker was still etched into one of the columns. Hopefully when Macy's takes over, they'll stay. A lot has been lost with the closing of those stores that I've mentioned. Chains take over, stores are closed or renamed, and much of what we remember from the younger years is gone. I have fine memories of those places. I'm sure many Philadelphians over 40 still do.

"Walk right in, feel at home, Gimbels is the place to shop" - TV commercial jingle for Gimbles, circa late 1970s.

"Hats trimmed free" - Sign on the facade of the Lit Bros. building at 9th & Market. It's still found there, along with the original store name.
"Third floor, furniture!" - A time when each elevator in each store had someone taking you up or down, calling each floor and the type of merchandise found on it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane. It's been a long time since I was in Philly for shopping. I hate to think the wonderful stores are gone or mutated into something else. If I ever get back there, I'll "meet you at the Eagle" and we'll have lunch. I'll even wear a hat.

Brian said...

Thanks! I hope you will someday make it back this way. You'll find a much different city if you've been gone for more than 20 years, maybe less than that.

Even with the multitude of changes in the retail scene here in Philadelphia area, one thing remains the same - the eagle! The great eagle that stood in the court of the once great John Wanamaker's store survived the transition through all of the stores that have since occupied that building. Lord & Taylor, now Macy's, and whoever came before any of them, knew the value of that landmark.

Watching a tape recently of a show recorded in the 1980's, I saw a commercial for another long-gone store, Bamberger's. I had forgotten all about that store. Althought I've never shopped at one, they were much apart of this area.

Steve Olenski... said...

LOVE the blog but... and I was guilty of this on my own blog... the white text on black background is brutal! Like I said, I did the same thing on my blog ( falling in love I suppose with the "cool" night-esque effect, but many, and I mean many readers protested, some even saying they would stop reading if I didnt change it! Just my $.02... Steve O

Brian said...

Thanks Steve! Your $0.02 is worth much more to me than you'd think. It's when you don't listen that you screw things up. This is the first time I've had someone note the black background/white text to be "brutal". But if one says it, who knows how many don't complain but still are annoyed? I will seriously consider your advice.

Sorry there hasn't been much new here lately. I need to get busy where I can.