Monday, December 12, 2005


There's no crying in retail: the "creative destruction" of Marshall Field's


Federated Stores, the retail conglomerate that owns Macy's and Bloomingdale's, has bought out Marshall Field's. Apparently this buyout doesn't mean that Federated will add the venerable midwestern department store chain to its stable of brands; rather, it plans to erase Marshall Field's and replace all the stores with Macy's. (See here.)

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Time is running out on the Marshall Field's signature nameplate and clock.

I'm not one to get all weepy over the demise of a particular big business in the "creative destruction" (in Joseph Schumpeter's famous phrase) that is our capitalist system. On the other hand, retail establishments can become part of the cultural fabric of our lives. I hate it when the local businesses that ground a small community are wiped out by yet another Walmart on the outskirts. The demise and Macification of Marshall Field's is different, but not entirely: It's another victory in the inexorable march of national sameness over regional variation.

A holiday tradition: Xmas season lunch next to the tree.

Marshall Field's has been a mainstay of downtown Chicago for over a century. and one wonders what will happen to its elegant old interior. Apparently, the Macy's people -- whom you can see scurrying around with blueprints as you do your Christmas shopping -- are going to completely redo it.
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Some views of the classic atrium.

The chieftans of Federated are retail experts, and I'm not, but I can't help but wonder what they think they gain by shutting down the downtown Chicago flagship store for 6-8 months while they gut the place and rebuild it as Macy's. Not to mention all the other stores that will be shut down during the makeovers. And what about all the business goodwill associated with the Marshall Field's name? And are they just going to dump Frango Mints?

Please tell me that the business plan is something smarter than "we're going to ditch all those tight-fisted Marshall Field's nerds so we can bring in all the Macy's shoppers who are really hip and will spend lots of money."

The famous Tiffany ceiling. I said to B:
"If we have a girl, let's name her Tiffany Ceiling."

I'm not sure, but I think the "Nipper" stained glass windows still survive at the old RCA Camden factory after the GE takeover of RCA. Or maybe they don't. All I know is that I wanted one of them.

I hope the Macy's people decide to keep some of the pretty bits, or at least offer them to museums or something so that a remnant of the city's history can be preserved. It's a lovely ceiling. Crappy name for a kid, though. Worthy of that bad baby website.

However, I could see "Tiffany Ceiling" as the name of your future dog or perhaps a race horse.
well, I am right, and GE has sold the property and it's being turned into luxury condos. Thankfully, they left the stained glass in the tower, as you can see here, from the woman who did some additional work for "The Victor" condo complex.
I hate Macys... They took over Burdines in Florida when I lived there, now Marshall Fields while I live in Chicago. *sigh*
Wonderful photos!!!
Wonderful photos!!!
They'd better not dump the Frangos. My entire family will wither away from grief.
They're GUTTING it???

My preservation classes are kicking in. That's without a doubt an historically important building. Want to start a movement with me?
Yowza. I'd name her Tiffany Ceiling. And I've never even been there.

I was living in Philly when Lord and Taylor reopened the Wanamaker Building. I think they left much of the interior intact, as best they could (it was in bad shape, as seen in the film 12 Monkeys). Anyway, the project wasn't without critics, but it was a pleasant place to shop afterwards and the organ was still there, which everyone loved.
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