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Bamberger's
Former type department store
Fate Rebranded as Macy's
Founded 1893
Defunct 1986
Headquarters Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Industry Retail
Products Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, electronics and housewares.
Website None

Bamberger's was a Newark, New Jersey headquartered department store chain with locations primarily in New Jersey, but also Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Contents

History

Founded in 1893 by Louis Bamberger as L. Bamberger & Company in Newark, New Jersey, in 1912 the company built its landmark flagship store designed by Jarvis Hunt at 131 Market Street (Hunt would also design the Newark Museum following a gift from Bamberger). In 1929, Bamberger's was purchased by R.H. Macy Co. Early suburban branch stores were built in downtown Morristown and in Plainfield and at the Princeton Shopping Center in Princeton, NJ. With the post-World War II population shift, Bamberger's built additional stores in suburban locations such as Garden State Plaza, Monmouth Mall, Nanuet Mall and Menlo Park Mall. The 1960s and 1970s saw expansion throughout New Jersey and into the Greater Philadelphia Metropolitan area, while the 1980s brought entry into the Baltimore, Maryland Metropolitan area. On October 5, 1986, the Bamberger's stores adopted the name Macy's New Jersey, and in 1988 Macy's New Jersey was consolidated with sister division Macy's New York to form Macy's Northeast (now Macy's, Inc.).

Flagship store

The historic Bamberger's flagship store located at 131 Market Street in downtown Newark once ranked among the nation's largest. The massive building covered an entire city block, bounded by Market, Washington, Bank and Halsey Streets. The phone exchange 565 was for the exclusive use of Bamberger's, and it had direct dial numbers for most of New Jersey's suburbs for phone ordering services known as "tele-service". The building's loading dock was located well below ground on the fourth basement level, thus avoiding delivery trucks blocking the busy city streets. Two massive elevators would carry fully loaded 18-wheelers from Washington Street down to the loading docks.

Selling space, and escalator service, ran from the second basement level to the ninth floor, and the tenth floor contained a beautiful wood-paneled dining room, and several private banquet rooms. The eighth floor featured an extensive toy, game, and sporting goods departments featuring unique imported merchandise from overseas buying trips. Services offered included dry cleaning, pharmacist, fur storage, travel services, ticket services, watch and jewelry repair, personal shopping services, and a butcher department. Two elevator banks and two escalator banks served the store.[1]

After RH Macy and Co., purchased Bamberger's in 1929, the store started to focus more on serving a middle-income shopper, and some of the higher end services were eliminated, or modified. In the immediate post-World War II years, selling space was reduced to run from the second basement to the seventh floor, and the tenth-floor restaurant complex was leased to a third party and became a private dining club, The Downtowner Club (Bamberger's would use the space on Saturdays for occasional special events). Dining options for its customers continued at The Dinette, a counter style room on the 1st lower level and snack bars on the first and fourth floors. At some point the lower-level eatery was renovated into a classy restaurant named the Garden State Tea Room.

Like every city downtown, Newark had its "shopping night" when stores would remain open into the evening. In Newark's case this day was Wednesday, and starting during the years of World War II, Bamberger's remained open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings, and created a "night shift" for people looking to work part time. This shift of Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening, plus all day Saturday became very popular with women looking to work part time, and remained popular into the early 1970s, when the store started to slowly curtail evenings hours downtown, eliminating them entirely in 1979.

As northern New Jersey's population began its suburban migration, Bamberger's followed in a more aggressive manner than its rivals Hahne and Company, or Kresge-Newark. The first three small suburban branches of Bamberger's: Morristown, Plainfield, and Princeton, were followed by large shopping center-based branches in the 1950s and 1960s. These included locations at Garden State Plaza, the Menlo Park Mall, the Monmouth Mall, the Cherry Hill Mall and the Willowbrook Mall) and became an important source of revenue for the company. By the mid-1970s, the store at Garden State Plaza in Paramus became the chain's largest outlet, not only in terms of sales volume, but also in floor space due to the fact that more and more space in the downtown Newark store was being used for the corporate office.

Sales volume at the downtown Newark store was also affected by the Newark race riots of 1967, and as the 1970s progressed, shoppers started to avoid downtown Newark all together. Further hurting the appearance of the building were security decisions made to close more than 1/2 of the store's nine public entranceways, and most of the display windows. As evening hours were eliminated downtown in 1979, the hope was that Sunday sales allowed starting in 1980 would give the location additional selling time; however, it did not draw enough business to justify Sunday openings, and Sunday hours were cutback to the holiday selling period only.

By 1981 selling floors at the downtown Newark store ran from the first lower level to the fifth floor, and by 1984 the lower level to the fourth floor. In 1986, all Bamberger's stores were re-bannered as Macy's, and the Newark store operated as Macy's until it was closed in 1991. During the last seven years it was open, the downtown store focused more on value merchandise and clearance items with no better or designer merchandise carried.

Today the building serves as a base for telecom, and computer support industries. The first level is now a Rite-Aid.[2]

WOR history

WOR radio was started by Bamberger Broadcasting Service 1922 in an effort to sell more radios. The broadcast studio was located on the sixth floor. The radio station was included as part of the sale to R.H. Macy Co. in 1929, and Bamberger Broadcasting Service became a division of the company. WOR-FM began broadcasting in 1948 simulcasting the AM programming. WOR-TV, Channel 9 signed on the air on October 11, 1949, becoming the last of the New York City VHF television stations to begin operations. WOR-TV studios were located on 42nd Street in New Amsterdam Theater. Macy's/Bamberger's sold the WOR stations to the General Tire and Rubber Company in 1952.[3]

References

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