Kaufmann's: Wikis


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Fate Merged into Macy's
Successor Macy's
Founded 1871
Defunct 2006
Headquarters Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Key people Jacob Kaufmann, Isaac Kaufmann, and Edgar J. Kaufmann
Industry Retail
Products Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products and housewares
Parent Federated Department Stores, Inc(2005-2006) The May Department Stores Company(1946-2005)
Website None

Kaufmann's was a department store that originated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The store became a regional chain in the eastern United States, and was last owned by Federated Department Stores. At the height of its existence it had some 59 stores in 5 states.

Formerly part of May Department Stores prior to that company's acquisition by Federated on Aug. 30, 2005, Kaufmann's operated as part of the Filene's organization in Boston, Massachusetts.[1]

On Feb. 1, 2006, the Filene's/Kaufmann's organization was dissolved and the management of its stores was assumed by Macy's East and the new Macy's Midwest. On Sept 9, 2006, the Kaufmann's name was retired as Federated Department Stores converted the former May Company brands to the Macy's masthead.[2]. On August 12, 2006 a sign was installed on the corner of Smithfield Street and Fifth Avenue outside the original store in Downtown Pittsburgh reading Kaufmann Way.[3]



Kaufmann's, at one time, was one of seven department stores in downtown Pittsburgh that included Horne's; Gimbel Brothers; Boggs & Buhl; Kaufmann & Baer, founded by cousins of the original Kaufmann's; Rosenbaum's; and Frank & Seder's.[4]

Kaufmann's was founded in Pittsburgh in 1871 by Jacob and Isaac Kaufmann.[4] In 1877, the brothers moved downtown to a location that became known as "The Big Store."[5]

May Company purchase, regional growth

With Edgar J. Kaufmann as president, the Kaufmann's chain was acquired by May Company in 1946. The chain operated in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.[6]

The chain dominated its local region, absorbing several other department stores including Strouss, based in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1986; Sibley's, based in Rochester, New York, in 1991 (which had merged with Hengerer's of Buffalo in 1981); May Company Ohio, based in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1992 (which had merged with O'Neil's in Akron, Ohio, in 1989); and remnants of McCurdy's stores of Rochester and Hess's of Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1995.[7]

Gimbels/Horne's relationship

Ironically, Gimbels Brothers history in Pittsburgh had originated with their purchase of the Kaufmann & Baer department store in 1926, founded by a rival faction of the Kaufmann family.[4]

In 1970, the entire Gimbels chain was purchased by the tobacco comglomerate BATUS. In 1986, after years of declining sales, BATUS announced that Gimbels was on the block. Unable to find a buyer for the entire chain, BATUS closed down the unprofitable Gimbels Pittsburgh division, selling or closing all locations. Some of the more attractive mall locations were taken over by Kaufmann's, which effectively caused the shuttering of the Gimbels Pittsburgh division.[4]

In October 1986, May Company acquired Joseph Horne Co., as part of their merger with Associated Dry Goods. Due to anti-trust concerns and legal action by the City of Pittsburgh, Horne's was promptly sold in December 1986 to a local investor group. After several years of private ownership, it was announced that Dillards would buy the chain to combine it with the Dillard/DeBartolo co-owned Higbee's stores based in Cleveland. The deal collapsed and was not completed. The Joseph Horne Co. was sold off in parts, with Dillard's acquiring its five Ohio stores in 1992 and Federated Department Stores's Lazarus division acquiring its remaining nine Pennsylvania stores in 1995. Federated eventually merged all its divisions (including the former Joseph Horne/Lazarus locations) into Macy's.[4]

21st century

In 2002, the store's Pittsburgh business headquarters was closed, and its back-office operations were consolidated into Filene's.[8]

Flagship Store

The former flagship Kaufmann's in Downtown Pittsburgh, now a Macy's

The Flagship store in downtown Pittsburgh was built in 1887 on the corner of Fifth Ave. and Smithfield St. and became known as the big store. It underwent several remodeling processes before receiving its current look. In 1913, architects Janssen and Abbott designed a larger white terra cotta-sheathed section with Renaissance Classical detailing and a large ornamental public clock at the corner. In the late 1920s, Edgar Kaufmann commissioned a redesign of the main floor of the department store. Local architect Benno Janssen and his partner William Cocken rose to the challenge and created an art-deco masterpiece. It is remembered for its striking black Carrara glass columns, bronze metalwork, terrazzo floors, a million dollars' worth of new elevators. The building was the largest department store in Pittsburgh spanning 12 stories750,000 square feet (70,000 m2) of selling space and covering the entire block. Kaufmann's started several holiday traditions that were carried on after it was taken over such as animated Christmas windows and Santa Land. Although Macy's has taken over the building, several signs remain in the parking garage and on the building itself that still read Kaufmann's.

Kaufmann's Clock

Kaufmann's famous historic clock.

‎ The flagship store in downtown Pittsburgh (also known as "The Big Store") has a large clock at one corner of the building (at Smithfield Street and Fifth Avenue). This clock became a popular meeting place, and prompted the coining of the phrase "Meet me under Kaufmann's clock." The clock has become a local icon, and is often featured in print materials about the city.

The clock has become famous and a central icon to the store. The clock, along with the downtown flagship store, are landmarks. When it was announced that the Kaufmann's name would turn over to Macy's Kaufmann's handed out tote bags featuring the clock and the phrase "Meet me under the Kaufmann's clock" to show the importance of the clock the stores 135 year history.

In 2006, USA Today ran an article about the regional chains being merged into Macy's, and the piece featured memories from Pittsburghers about the store and the clock: "As girls in their best dresses and Mary Jane shoes, they rode streetcars downtown to the 11-story Kaufmann's department store here. Jean Wenner, 81 [in 2006], and her friends grew up on Kaufmann's, meeting under the store's ornate clock, lunching at the Tic Toc restaurant and bringing their own children to the Secret Santa." [1]:

Celebrate The Season

Kaufmann's hosted the first 25 years of the Pittsburgh Celebrate the Season Parade. The first parade was held in 1980 and was sponsored by Kaufmann's. As of the parade in 2006, Kaufmann's has merged with Macy's, and Macy's has taken over title sponsorship, thus making the parade a smaller sister to the much larger Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade held two days earlier in New York City. WIIC, the local NBC station now known as WPXI, decided to air live coverage of the parade. Its original hosts were Mike Hambrick and Edye Tarbox. David Johnson and Peggy Finnegan took over the hosting duties in 1991 The Parade consisted of balloons, musical acts, and celebrities the main acts of the parade took place int front of the Kaufmann's flagship in downtown Pittsburgh on Fifth Ave.

Left Over Kaufmann's

Though converted a year prior to this image's creation, this Macy's store located at The Waterfront still had Kaufmann's signage. The current Macy's sign can be seen slightly behind the trees.

Although Kaufmann's has closed, some signs are left over from the Kaufmann's days. There are several plaques left on the flagship store that still read Kaufmann's including the name above the Macy's sign to mark the original store entrance. In the parking garage several signs also read Kaufmann's and have not been taken down.

Local Pop Culture

  • The phrase "Meet Me Under Kaufmann's Clock" became famous in Pittsburgh, as the meeting place for anyone shopping downtown. Shoppers would meet under Kaufmann's historic clock located at 5th Avenue and Smithfield Street.
  • The phrase "Does Horne's tell Kaufmann's its business?" was once used in Western Pennsylvania as a put-off to inquiring people, the implication being that a company does not give information out to its competitors.


Edgar Kaufmann was notable for commissioning Frank Lloyd Wright to design his home in Mill Run, Pennsylvania; that home, Fallingwater, became one of the most famous houses of the 20th century.[9]

See also


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