Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store
Cover of Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store, by Edward J. Branley
The cover of the Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store
And here it is! Here’s the back-cover text:
For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders, and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.
Krauss book drops on 25-September
I’m excited! This was a fun story to tell. So much here–Jewish retailing families, Storyville, the Creoles of Treme, transportation…even a Pontchartrain Beach connection! From Leon Fellman to the Krauss Brothers, to Leon Heymann, his son, Jimmy, grandson Jerry, Krauss was a family operation. Like many department stores, Krauss was a large extended family. Krauss to touched many people over the years.
The book chronicles the store’s how Leon Fellman decided to buy up the 1200 block of Canal Street. He built a store that the length of the block. Fellman leased that building to the Krauss brothers. They turned the building into a “veritable trade palace” whose lifetime spanned almost the entire 20th Century. Krauss rode the highs and lows of New Orleans, including two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the post-war boom years of the 1950s and 1960s. The store didn’t pop up at once, of course, growing back from Fellman’s original building. Krauss eventually filled up the entire block from Canal to Iberville Street, then the block behind that, Iberville Street to Bienville Street! The store was right in front of Storyville, right next to the train station, as well as in the hearts of many.
Krauss and the Union Passenger Terminal New Orleans
Union Passenger Terminal, New Orleans, 2016
The Union Passenger Terminal
The Union Passenger Terminal (UPT) is New Orleans’ train station. Constructed in 1952, it replaced five passenger terminals located at various points in the city. UPT has a direct connection to Krauss Department Store, in that one of the stations it replaced was Terminal Station, located at Canal and Basin Streets. Terminal Station was right next to Krauss from 1908 to 1954. When UPT was completed, the city demolished Terminal Station. Canal Street shoppers never fully realized just how big Krauss Department Store was, because Terminal Station obscured the store’s depth.
Terminal Station was still nine years away when Leon Fellman bought the buildings in the 1200 block of Canal Street in 1899, and five years away when Krauss opened in 1903. The station had a wonderful symbiotic relationship with the store for all those years. You forgot something for your trip to New Orleans, and there was this department store with absolutely everything right next door when you got off the train! The concierges and staffs at the downtown hotels also knew this, and regularly steered guests to Krauss for those last-minute essentials and other purchases.
Visitors to the City
There is so much more to the story of UPT, and we’ll go more in-depth on that at some point. When the landscape of even a few blocks changes, like the area around Krauss after Terminal Station vanished, it’s important to make the connections. Krauss had the next-door neighbor connection to the Southern Railway and Gulf, Mobile and Ohio, both of which came into the station on Basin Street. Passengers coming to Canal Street from Union Station on Howard Avenue came to S. Rampart and Canal, just a block from Krauss. The buyers at Krauss knew this, and made sure the visitors saw enticing goods as they passed by.
Home Furnishings for the Roaring Twenties!
New Orleans Item, November 6, 1921
Home Furnishings – Uptown and Downtown
Home Furnishings were an important part of the Krauss product line. While many dry goods stores at the turn of the 20th Century specialized in clothing, linens, etc., the Krauss brothers expanded out, offering a wider range of products. Rugs made perfect sense, since they were a fabric product, and the buyers were able to make the right connections in New York to get them. So, the store wasn’t satisfied with that, moving into other flooring options, like linoleum. Linoleum was common throughout the late 1800s. Invented in 1855, good linoleum was a practical and tough floor covering. The product is organic. Modern-day plastic flooring is often called “linoleum,” but that’s more a connection made by older folks who remember walking on the real thing.
Many of the same manufacturers who made rugs also made big blankets. After all, the setup of the production line isn’t all that different. The usually buying method used by Krauss was to negotiate with a factory for product. They’d go looking for one thing, identify other items out there at good wholesale prices, and bring them back to New Orleans. Sometimes they were marked as a special lot and sold as such. Other times that first purchase turned out to be a good thing for all, and the products entered the regular store inventory.
Krauss in 1921 looked a bit different than the big building at 1201 Canal Street now. The brothers expanded the original building back about fifty feet in 1911. That addition went up five stories. All of the expansions after that added on at five stories, goign to six in the back later. There were no escalators in 1921, so shoppers got to the upper floors via elevators.
Newspaper ads were the main way the store had to communicate with shoppers, even after radios became widespread.
1201 Canal Street, the old Krauss Department Store building.
I’m pleased to announce that my proposal for a book on Krauss Department Store has been accepted by The History Press! Krauss was a beloved institution on Canal Street. The Krauss brothers opened the store in 1903, and it closed in 1997. In just the preliminary looking around that Lady Duchess of the Red Pen, the lovely and talented Dara Rochlin, worked up, we’re finding out some interesting things about the Krausz/Krauss family.
This is how the process of doing a book for The History Press goes. You come up with an idea for the book. There are submission guidelines and a proposal template on the THP website. The proposal is pretty straightforward. I’ll blog about that on my Edward J. Branley site, since that’s where I talk about writing and process. An acquisitions editor at THP (or Arcadia, for one of the company’s other imprints) contacts you back, to let you know their interest in your proposal. If they’re interested, the editor brings the proposal to the publishing committee. If the committee approves the proposal, you go to work.
The lead time on a THP book is six months at a minimum. THP wants a Christmas-season release for this book, so I’ll need to have all the images for this book ready by February. Unlike the Images of America books, there’s a lot more text to a THP title, so I’ll need to have the 30-33K words done by March. Then the acquisitions editor passes the project off to a development editor who applies the red pen. (Naturally, Lady Duchess will look over the manuscript before I give it to THP, but I’ll pay for her review myself.)
Once the book is signed and sealed by the development editor, it goes to production. The book hits the stores! The marketing and PR people work with the author on all that. That whole process is a ways away, obviously.
I need your help with Krauss stuff!
If you have Krauss stuff–photos, Krauss-logo items, etc., please let me know. The best history book are those that use and develop primary sources. There’s an extensive archive of Krauss stuff at UNO, but the book becomes more personal with your stuff. If readers make a personal connection, they’re likely to buy the book.
If you have memories of Krauss–did you shop there? Did you work there? Did family members work there? I’d love to hear the stories! There’s more words in a THP book, therefore room for telling the story in this book than there was in my Maison Blanche book (an Images of America title). Please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get in touch!
Maroon Monday – 1944
This week’s Maroon Monday takes us back to World War II.
Maison Blanche ad from the Loyola Maroon, October 27, 1944.
October, 1944 – The Allies invaded Europe in June of that year, and the war in the Pacific was still hot and heavy. Still, Loyola University continued its mission, educating the men and women still at home in the United States. The Loyola Maroon, the student newspaper, still went to press. Even students needed to have a “business dress” wardrobe, for school functions, social events, etc.
“Definitely collegiate” the ad says, and that makes sense. Wool herringbone pattern fabric made for a more laid-back suit than, say, classic blue serge. Herringbone tweed is the classic “professor’s” sport coat. When I was on the Brother Martin High debate team in the mid-1970s, I absolutely loved my wool-herringbone suit. It was a dark green, and just perfect for scholarly pursuits like speech and debate. The ad’s suggestions show the level of formality of the time. Wearing a suit to “spectator sports?”
Naturally, the collegiate looking for a suit in 1944 would head to Canal Street for a suit. He’d likely pass on the higher-end men’s shops, like Porter’s or Rubenstein’s, in favor of one of the big department stores, like D. H. Holmes or Maison Blanche.
MB knew their prices would be better suited to the student budget. The young man in need of such a suit could jump on the St. Charles streetcar, ride it from uptown to Canal Street, and walk from Carondelet and Canal, cross Canal Street, then head one block up Canal to Dauphine and Maison Blanche. The men’s department of the “Greatest Store South” was on the first floor. The young man would be greeted by a salesman who would take his measurments, grab the suit that caught his eye in the proper size, and then mark it up for the tailor. It would be ready in a few days, and he would be ready for that next football game, or on-campus social function.
As a writer, this triggers all sorts of inspiration for a story. A young man, at MB, buying a suit, while other young men his age are in France and Belgium, fighting the Nazis. Why was he home? Why wasn’t he in a plane over Europe, or in a Higgins Boat, landing on islands in the Pacific, fighting the Japanese? Oh, the possibilities…
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
For more on the fascinating history of Maison Blanche, be sure to pick up my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores.