Canal Street Retail 1899

Canal Street Retail 1899

May meant big sales for Canal Street Retail in 1899.

canal street retail

Canal Street Retail 1899 – Sales!

Ads for Leon Fellman’s and A. Shwartz and Son from 14-May-1899 in the Daily Picayune. Both ads promote big sales for each store. While we look back now and see what appear to be typical advertising, there’s a lot going on for both stores.

canal street retail

Pickwick Building in 1948, just prior to its demolition. Leon Fellman’s moved to Baronne and Common, changed the store’s name to Feibleman’s, then sold to Sears in the 1930s.

Spring, 1899 was a transition time for Canal Street retail. It’s less than two years since some big changes in the Canal Street landscape. After the big fire on Valentine’s Day, 1892 that burned out most of the 701 block, A. Shwartz and Son moved up the street to the Mercier Buildings at 901 Canal Street. Leon Fellman left the Touro Buildings years earlier, as one of the first tenants at 901. After the Touro Buildings were rebuilt, A. Shwartz and Son wanted to move back. The youngest brother, Simon J. Shwartz chose to stay at 901 Canal. He acquired the entirety of the Mercier Buildings and terminated Fellman’s lease in early 1897. Later that year, SJ Shwartz opened the Maison Blanche.

Fellman took his store across the street. He acquired the Pickwick Building at 800 Canal. Leon converted the hotel into a department store. Two years later, L. Fellman & Co. still reminded shoppers of the new location.

1890s Diss Track?

canal street retail

The 14-May-1899 for A. Shwartz and Son took an interesting shot at younger brother Simon. After evicting Leon Fellman from 901 Canal, SJ Shwartz hit his father-in-law up for investment capital to bring the “department store” concept to New Orleans. Isidore Newman agreed with son-in-law Simon, and a local retail icon was born. The sheer size of the Maison Blanche made it a force from the beginning. Even though A. Shwartz and Son took over the corner of Bourbon and Canal Street, competing with a full department store was a challenge. Still, the original family store didn’t mind poking the bear. Since “Maison Blanche” translates to “White House,” the original store references the “White House” on Third Avenue in New York City. That allusion was what Simon had in mind when he converted SJ Shwartz Company to the French translation. He made it clear the New Orleans store was for New Orleans, with the French name. the family thumbed their nose at that.

Krauss to Fellman

Why talk about the Fellmans? Leon and his older brother Bernard (who never left the Touro Buildings) gave their nephews jobs at their store. Those nephews were the Krauss Brothers. After Leon settled in at 800 Canal Street, he purchased the entire 1201 block of Canal Street. Fellman built a two-story store there. He offered it to his nephews, who opened Krauss Department Store there in 1903.

 

Hanes Once-a-year sale at NOLA stores

Hanes Once-a-year sale at NOLA stores

Hanes hosiery co-op ads at various NOLA stores.

nola stores

NOLA stores and Hanes

In the 1970s, Hanes, known for ladies hosiery and underwear, held a “once-a-year” sale. Various NOLA stores, Maison Blanche, D.H. Holmes, Labiche’s, and Gus Mayer, participated in the sale. They leveraged ad budgets by placing Hanes-specific ads for the sale. These “co-op” ads were paid for mostly by the manufacturer. So, the store promoted their brand and the product brand at the same time.

The sale in 1973 took place over the weekend of 13-January. NOLA stores enticed women to come in for the pantyhose and other items on sale. It’s fun to look at the styles from the advertising and art departments of the local stores.

Maison Blanche

westside shopping center

Sign for Maison Blanche in the parking lot of Westside, August, 1958. Sonny Randon Photography via the West Bank Beacon.

OK, yes, I’m a homer. I wrote a book on MB, so we start there. “Hanes sheer-madness annual sale of fashion hosiery in popular shades.” Note the mail-order form as part of the ad. Stores in 1973 were 901 Canal Street, Airline Village, Clearview, Gentilly Woods (The Plaza wouldn’t open until 1974), and Westside.

Labiche’s

nola stores

The talented artists at Labiche’s opted for a bolder presentation than MB. A woman wearing nothing but a scarf in her hair and jewelry, and the pantyhose. Gorgeous. Stores for Labiche’s: 714 Canal Street, Carrollton (the old shopping center, where Costco is now), Gentilly Woods, and Westside.

Holmes

nola stores

Daniel Henry Holmes’ dry good store on Canal Street grew to a number of suburban locations after WWII. In addition to the flagship store, Holmes locations included Lakeside Shopping Center, Oakwood, Baton Rouge, and Houma. While Holmes didn’t have a Gentilly store, they opened a location in The Plaza in 1974.

Gus Mayer

Originally in the 801 block of Canal Street, just up from Holmes, Gus Mayer built a big store across the street in 1948, demolishing the old Pickwick Hotel building. They also participated in the Hanes sale promotion. Gus Mayer operated not only the Canal Street store, but one at Elysian Fields and Gentilly  Blvd., as well as Carrollton, Clearview, and Oakwood Shopping Centers. While Gus Mayer ATNM as NOLA stores go, they still have stores in Birmingham, Alabama.

Godchaux’s

nola stores

Godchaux’s originally occupied the 501 block of Canal, later moving to the 801 block, next to the Boston Club. By the 1970s, they expanded to Lakeside and Edgewater Plaza in Biloxi. Their take on Hanes was different than the other NOLA stores. Godchaux’s opted for a cold-weather appeal,

NOLA History Guy December (2) – the founders of Maison Blanche

NOLA History Guy December (2) – the founders of Maison Blanche

Our second installment of NOLA History Guy December features Maison Blanche.

nola history guy december

Maison Blanche Department Stores – NOLA History Guy December

Simon J. Shwartz was an experienced realtor. He grew up in the family business, A. Shwartz and Son. Simon was the third son of Abraham Shwartz. With two older brothers working with their dad to run the shop in the Touro Buildings, S.J. went up to New York City. He became the store’s buyer. He came home to work in the store in the late 1880s, and married the daughter of Isidore Newman, a successful banker.

After the devastating fire in the Touro Buildings (the 701 block of Canal Street) on February 14, 1892, S.J. moved the family business up the street to the Mercier Building at 901 Canal Street (corner Dauphine). The family then re-built the 701-block store. S.J. was at a crossroads.

Creating Maison Blanche

Shwartz restored the success of A. Shwartz and Son after the fire, but his brother wanted to bring the store back down the street. So, S.J. pitched an idea to his father-in-law. He wanted to open the first true “department store” in New Orleans. Up until this point, “dry goods” stores like his family’s, the Fellman’s, and Daniel Henry Holmes’ store, serviced the city. They were joined by boutiques, like the Krausz Brothers shop at 811 Canal Street. Shwartz wanted to acquire the entire Mercier building, and he needed an investor.

Newman liked S.J.’s concept and backed it. Shwartz purchased the building, evicting Leon Fellman (who moved his store to the Pickwick Hotel Building at 800 Canal). Shwartz remodeled his building’s interior. By the Fall of 1897, he was ready to open.

The “Brain Trust”

Newman’s investment had strings attached. He had Shwartz hire Gus Gus Schullhoefer, Newmman’s brother-in-law, and Hartwig D. Newman, his son. They were smart guys, and gave Newman some eyes loyal to him inside the business. When Maison Blanche opened on October 31, 1897, the Daily Picayune gave over most of their front page to the store’s opening. In addition to details on the store, they profiled the three top executives. Here’s the caption for the image in the paper from the book:

The Maison Blanche Brain Trust. Isidore Newman’s son-in-law, S.J. Shwartz, his brother-in-law, Gus Schulhoefer, and his son, Hartwig Newman, were the first management team of Maison Blanche, from a profile piece in the New Orleans Picayune in 1897.

Into the 20th century

The was a success from the start. While it would be another fifty years until their precious Christmas Mascot, Mister Bingle, made his debut, Maison Blanche quickly earned their tagline, “Greatest Store South.”

Maison Blanche Department Stores

Mr. Bingle 1952

Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley

From the back cover:

On October 31, 1897, S.J. Shwartz, Gus Schullhoefer, and Hartwig D. Newman–with financial backing from banker Isidore Newman–opened the Maison Blanche at the corner of Canal Street and Rue Dauphine in New Orleans. Converting Shwartz’s dry goods store into the city’s first department store, the trio created a retail brand whose name lasted over a century. In 1908, Shwartz tore his store down and built what was the city’s largest building–13 stories, with his Maison Blanche occupying the first five floors. The MB Building became, and still is, a New Orleans icon, and Maison Blanche was a retail leader in the city, attracting some of the best and brightest people in the business. One of those employees, display manager Emile Alline, created the store’s second icon, the Christmas character “Mr. Bingle,” in 1947. Mr. Bingle continues to spark the imagination of New Orleans children of all ages. Even though Maison Blanche has become part of New Orleans’s past, the landmark Canal Street store lives on as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets. Give history! Support NOLA History Guy December.

 

Stuffed Bingle 1952

Stuffed Bingle 1952

Stuffed Bingle hit his stride in the early 1950s.

Santa and Mr. Bingle on the front of Maison Blanche, 901 Canal Street, in 1952. Stuffed Bingles were sold on the Third Floor.

Santa and Mr. Bingle on the front of Maison Blanche, 901 Canal Street, in 1952. Stuffed Bingles were sold on the Third Floor. (Franck Studios photo courtesy The Historic New Orleans Collection)

Jingle Jangle Jingle!

The story of Mr. Bingle is Chapter 3 of my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores, from Emile Alline’s preliminary doodles to the puppets, to the Big Bingle that rules Celebration in the Oaks at City Park. That story is now seventy-five years old and going strong.

Mr. Bingle was one of those marketing ideas that was a winner from the beginning. It did take some time to make that happen, though. Alline’s imagination became doodles, then sketches to pitch management. Then the ad department took over, and the little snow elf was in the corners of ads every December.

Stuffed Bingle Prototype

After Mr. Bingle took over the full-page ads, The little guy needed a three-dimensional presence. Alline ordered a fifteen-inch Bingle doll.The doll helped ad development, since he could be posed and photographed with merchandise from the store.

That prototype evolved into the puppets. Oscar Isentrout connected Alline with a German puppet-maker. They copied the prototype doll, creating two Bingle puppets. One puppet stayed at the store. Oscar went around town with the other puppet, doing shows at the branch stores. Oscar performed the voice of the Bingle puppet for those shows, along with the wonderful WDSU-TV commercials.

Bingles for Everyone

Stuffed Bingle in an ad for Maison Blanche in the Times-Picayune, 19-December-1949.

Stuffed Bingle in an ad for Maison Blanche in the Times-Picayune, 19-December-1949.

By 1949, the success of print advertising and Oscar’s puppet shows created a demand for Bingles for the kids. The prototype inspired a lasting product:

MB’s exclusive
Mr. Bingle
in big 16″ size
2.98

He’s in softest rayon Plush and an exact reproduction of the jolly Mir. Bingle seen in MB’s famous Puppet Show. tots adore him.

In addition to the 16″ Bingle, MB offered him in 11″ for 1.98 and 20″ for 4.98.

Bingle Branding

To encourage continued sales, MB began branding the Bingles with the year on his foot. Now, families bought Bingles for newborns, etc. As Stuffed Bingles grew in popularity, the dolls spread out to other chains owned by Mercantile Stores. That holding company owned Maison Blanche, along with a dozen other stores. I was totally mind-blown in 1996, when on a business trip to Fargo, ND. As I walked through West Acres Mall (home of the Roger Maris Museum), I stepped into DeLendrecie’s Department Store. There was Mr. Bingle! But of course, a snow elf in snowy North Dakota!

Maison Blanche Halloween #MB Monday

Maison Blanche Halloween #MB Monday

Maison Blanche Halloween wasn’t a big deal. Christmas was the big deal.

maison blanche halloween

Atrium at Maison Blanche, Lake Forest, mid-1970s. T-P photo.

Maison Blanche Halloween

Interior shot of the Maison Blanche store in The Plaza at Lake Forest. The store opened in 1974. The store incorporated many of the design features of the one in Clearview Shopping Center in Metairie. This photo features the open-air center atrium. The escalators stood on either side, with the Fine Jewelry department on the ground floor. The mall-side entrance to the store stood to the photographer’s left. First floor departments included cosmetics, jewelry, candy, juniors and menswear. Retailers always believed menswear should be easily accessible, on the ground floor.

Halloween

maison blanche halloween

“You’ll be a sleeping beauty in dreamy sleepwear by Gilead…short waltz length nylon tricot gowns with matching coats…” – women’s sleepwear, items a husband or boyfriend find difficult to buy as gifts. So, appeal to the ladies directly, before the Christmas ad onslaught.

This ad, from the Times-Picayune, on 31-October-1978, is a great example of how seriously Halloween was a part of the chain’s Fall marketing. Yes, there’s nothing in the ad for spooky season. That’s because Halloween is merely a blip on the radar. The focus for department stores like MB was always the post-Thanksgiving shopping season. While stores like Spirit Halloween, Party City, discounters like K-Mart, and the old five-and-dimes offered what you needed for Halloween, MB and its competitors didn’t bother. Setting up for Halloween required taking space from multiple departments. The managers of those departments and the buyers they worked for balked at disrupting the holiday mojo. September heralded the “Pre-Christmas” promotions. Those sales carried on through November. The day after Thanksgiving marked the formal start of the Christmas season. To set up displays for special merchandise at the end of October, only to break them down days later made no sense.

Halloween in Men’s Suits

So, Maison Blanche Halloween wasn’t a thing. In fact, I took the day off when this ad ran in 1978. The “Haunted House” we held at the Lambda Chi Alpha (University of New Orleans) house in Gentilly needed more help than the Men’s department at MB Clearview. Since we worked on commission, my colleagues certainly didn’t miss me on a slow night.

Hope your Halloween was a good one! This post goes up a day late, but that’s OK, because we’re still in the middle of All Hallows Eve, All Saints, and All Souls.

Maison Blanche Gentilly 1948

Maison Blanche Gentilly 1948

Maison Blanche Gentilly was the second store off of Canal Street.

Maison Blanche Gentilly

MB Gentilly, 1948. Franck Studios via THNOC

Maison Blanche Gentilly

Franck Studios photo of Maison Blanche Gentilly in 1948. The department store opened its third store just off Gentilly Boulevard, at Frenchmen Street. This strip mall anchored a large commercial development near the corner of Elysian Fields Avenue and Gentilly Boulevard. Other stores in the strip at this time include Walgreens, Morgan and Lindsey (a five-and-dime store) and Capital Stores Supermarket. A huge billboard for JAX Beer stands above the Walgreens. The MB is the only two-story store.

Gentilly Growth

The intersection of Elysian Fields and Gentilly Blvd grew into an important commercial area towards the end of the 19th century. The Pontchartrain Railroad operated along the length of Elysian Fields, from Chartres Street to Milneburg at the lake. The railroad marked the road along the Gentilly Ridge, Gentilly Road, the half-way point of the route. The train stopped there if a passenger notified the conductor. The train also stopped for pick-up if it was flagged down. The rail stop evolved into a local hub. The Zuppardo’s parked their produce truck there. That evolved into a brick-and-mortar store. Several Jewish congregations purchased the high ground on the ridge. They built cemeteries there, so they could bury their loved ones in-ground.

World War II

After the war, men and women came home, ready to start families of their own. Developers created subdivisions around the commercial hub. While housing remained segregated, Pontchartrain Park opened as a subdivision for Black families. So, more businesses opened. The Frenchmen strip mall reflected that demand. Residents of Gentilly appreciated the convenience. Instead of taking the Gentilly streetcar (on Franklin) or the Elysian Fields bus into the CBD, they shopped at Maison Blanche Gentilly.

Working women

maison blanche gentilly

T-P ad, 24-October-1953

“The Woman who works shops at MB for smart, thrift-wise wearables” in this ad in the Times-Picayune, 24-October-1953. MB enticed the working woman with nylon blousettes, wool suits and dresses, and butter calf handbags. With the Gentilly Store, woman shopped without having to schlep back downtown!