From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Maison Blanche (White House in french)
was a department store in New Orleans
and later also a chain of department stores. It was founded in 1897
by Isidore Newman, an immigrant from Germany.
Maison Blanche is perhaps best remembered for introducing the
locally popular Mr.
Bingle Christmas mascot and for its landmark flagship store on
Maison Blanche was acquired in 1923 by City Stores Company,
which merged Maison Blanche with Loveman's in 1950. City Stores Co.
filed for bankruptcy in July 1979. While in bankruptcy, they
initially intended to consolidate the seven Maison Blanche stores
with four B. Lowenstein's stores in Memphis, Tennessee to form the
Maison Blanche Department Stores group, but in early 1982 the
Memphis stores were shuttered.
Instead, three of the seven existing Maison Blanche stores, as
well as the name, were purchased by Goudchaux's, Inc. of Baton
Rouge, owned by the Sternberg brothers. (Goudchaux's should not
be confused with Godchaux's, a specialty store based in New
Orleans). Operating as Goudchaux/Maison Blanche, the new company
eventually reopened the original Canal Street flagship in 1984,
leasing three floors from the new owners.
In the late 1980s, two Florida based retail chains were
purchased allowing the company to enter the fast growing Florida market. In 1987
Goudchaux/Maison Blanche acquired the ten-unit Robinson's of Florida on Florida's Gulf
Coast from May Department
Stores; in 1988 they also bought the five-unit
Jacksonville-based "May Florida" (formerly May Cohens) from May.
The Goudchaux name was dropped at this time and all the stores were
renamed Maison Blanche. But the rapid expansion coupled with the
oil-related recession in Louisiana proved to be too much for the
company to manage, and in 1991 Maison Blanche sold eight west and
central Florida stores to Dillard's, leaving it
with eight Louisiana
stores and eight Florida stores.
Maison Blanche was purchased by Mercantile Stores
Inc. in February 1992 as a 16-store unit.  The
eight Louisiana stores continued to operate under the Maison
Blanche name, until Mercantile Stores was acquired by Dillard's in 1998.
Dillard's subsequently closed the Canal Street store after briefly
operating it. The acquisition of Maison Blanche came nearly a
decade after Dillard's had purchased another New Orleans area
retail institution and Canal Street landmark — D.H.
The Maison Blanche Building on Canal Street
Maison Blanche's original building was on Canal Street. This was
demolished around 1908. A distinctive new building, which still
stands, was constructed around 1908–1909. At one
time there were many medical and dental offices in the top floors;
later they became largely empty.
The Canal Street store was closed in 1982 by the City Stores
Company and reopened in 1984. In 1997 work began to use the upper
floors as part of a new Ritz-Carlton hotel. The original plan was
for the lower floors to continue to operate as a Maison Blanche
However, after Dillard's acquired the store with the purchase of
the remainder of the Maison Blanche chain, they closed the Canal
Street store. The whole building, along with the neighboring Kress
building, is now part of the New Orleans Ritz Carlton, which had a
grand opening on October 6, 2000.
The hotel was occupied during and immediately after Hurricane
Katrina. It suffered considerable damage; for example the
basement was flooded and the electrical systems, laundry, and staff
cafeteria, among other things, were damaged. The Ritz-Carlton
reopened on December 4, 2006, after a $106 million
Gambit Weekly, December 25, 2001. Last retrieved January
Native Mr. Bingle, The
Hometown Tradition, New Orleans Magazine, December
1989. Last retrieved January 21, 2007.
Mercantile Stores Co. reports
earnings for Qtr to Oct 31, The New York Times, November
14, 1992. Last retrieved January 21, 2007.
Canal Street - Picture
172, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Last retrieved
January 21, 2007.
Gambit Weekly, July 8, 1997. Last retrieved January 21,
Reinventing The Ritz, New
Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, December 2006. Last
retrieved January 21, 2007.
- Sternberg, Hans J. We Were Merchants: The Sternberg Family
and the Story of Goudchaux's and Maison Blanche Department
Stores. Baton Rouge, LA.:Louisiana State University
Press, 2009 ISBN 978-0-8071-3449-8