by nolahistoryguy | Dec 19, 2022 | 1940s, 1950s, CBD, Maison Blanche
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. (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.
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:
in big 16″ size
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.
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!
by nolahistoryguy | Nov 1, 2022 | 1970s, CBD, Maison Blanche, Metairie, New Orleans East
Maison Blanche Halloween wasn’t a big deal. Christmas was the big deal.
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.
“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.
by nolahistoryguy | Oct 24, 2022 | 1950s, Gentilly, Maison Blanche, Post-WWII
Maison Blanche Gentilly was the second store off of Canal Street.
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.
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.
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!
by nolahistoryguy | Oct 18, 2022 | 1960s, 1970s, Gretna, Maison Blanche
Westside Shopping Center was anchored by MB’s fourth location.
Architectural rendering of the re-vamped MB Westside, 1970.
Westside Shopping Center
A re-vamped Maison Blanche Westside was featured in the store’s employee magazine, “Shop Talk,” on 1-February-1970. The store, opened in 1958, as the shopping center’s anchor. After ten years of operation, MB upgraded the two-story location, bringing it into the 1970s. Westside was MB’s only location on the West Bank. The shopping center stood at the corner of Stumpf Boulevard and West Bank Expressway. The open-air strip mall extended out on either side of MB.
The Stumpf family acquired an extensive parcel of land in Gretna in 1901. It stood undeveloped for the first half of the 20th Century. In the 1950s, Dr. John F. Stumpf, a dentist planned a shopping center development. The center would front the new West Bank Expressway. The expressway was built to connect Gretna with the anticipated “new” bridge crossing the Mississippi River.
Unfortunately, Dr. Stumpf passed away before Westside’s completion. Other family members, notably his father, Archie C. Stumpf and uncle, State Senator Alvin T. Stumpf.
Full-page ad for the grand opening of “West Side Shopping Center,” 31-January-1958. Times-Picayune.
Westside Shopping Center opened on January 31, 1958. Dr. Stumpf’s daughter, Susan, dedicated the center. Governor Earl K. Long and Gretna Mayor William J. White spoke. After a flyover of jets from Naval Air Station New Orleans in Belle Chasse, shoppers filled the new stores.
Maison Blanche ad for Westside in the Times-Picayune, 31-Jan-1958.
Maison Blanche welcomed old and new patrons. Additionally, three shoe stores, Rexall Drugs, F. W. Woolworth, Labiche’s Lerner’s, Stein’s, and Western Auto, among others, opened for business. A&G Cafeteria, McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppe, and National Food Store offered various foods, and a Gulf Oil Service Station stood ready to gas up the packed parking lot.
Westside versus Oakwood
The Record Department at MB Westside, 1970
The Greater New Orleans Mississippi River Bridge opened on April 15, 1958. As the west bank grew, a second shopping center opened in Gretna. Oakwood Shopping Center, anchored by D. H. Holmes, offered indoor, air-conditioned connections to its stores in 1966.
Sign for Maison Blanche in the parking lot of Westside, August, 1958. Sonny Randon Photography via the West Bank Beacon.
In many ways, Westside and Oakwood operated similarly to Lakeside and Clearview in Metairie. It wasn’t difficult for shoppers to hop from MB in one to Holmes in the other. After ten years of operation, MB decided Westside needed a facelift. Oakwood presented a newer, more modern location. So, Maison Blanche upgraded Westside. The company touted those upgrades to employees, generating pride and excitement.
Thanks to the Gretna Historical Society for their article on Westside and the Stumpfs.
by nolahistoryguy | Oct 13, 2022 | 1960s, 1970s, Clearview Mall, Maison Blanche, Metairie
Maison Blanche Clearview was a huge department store.
Architectural rendering of Maison Blanche’s store at Clearview Shopping Center, 1968
Maison Blanche Clearview
Architectural rendering of Maison Blanche Clearview, 1968. This is essentially what the store looked like when it opened a year later. This perspective is what you saw as you exited I-10 at Clearview Parkway (North), and drove towards Veterans Blvd. So, this is the western edge of Clearview Shopping Center. Sears, the mall’s other anchor, was on the opposite end. The three-story location had north and south entrances to the parking lots. The entrance on the east opened up into the mall. Clearview was Maison Blanche’s second store in Metairie, the first being at Airline Village.
In 1947, MB expanded beyond 901 Canal Street. The store opened a location in Gentilly, at Frenchmen and Gentilly Boulevard. They also opened a store in a new strip mall located at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues. This point was the Southern terminus of US Highway 61, known as Airline Highway here. That highway originated in Wyoming, Mississippi. Before the construction of I-10, East Jefferson residents used Airline Highway to get into town. As Metairie developed after WWII, MB moved west. The store opened a location at Airline Village. By 1969, with I-10 nearing completion in Metairie, MB moved further west, to the corner of Clearview Parkway and Veterans Blvd.
While Clearview Shopping Center fronted Veterans, the mall, extended back to the interstate’s service road. MB recognized the incredible growth in the “Above Causeway” real estate market. The Clearview store would be three-stories, larger than any of the existing suburban stores.
Into the Mall
Shot of the mall entrance to Maison Blanche Clearview, 1971. via the Times-Picayune.
This photo shows the mall-side entrance of Maison Blanche Clearview. As the shopper walked west from Sears, they crossed a central atrium, then walked up to the MB entrance. They encountered the cosmetics counters, as was typical of many suburban department stores. After cosmetics was a central rotunda, with the escalators climbing to the second and third floors on either side. Fine Jewelery operated in the rotunda. Continue the walk west, and the Candy Department tempted you. Then came Men’s Sportswear on the right and Junior dresses on the left.
The store’s angle put the exit from the Men’s department in the back, leading to the parking lot behind the mall. There was a four-story office building separating the mall from the interstate’s service road by the early 1970s. That building housed WRNO-FM radio. Remind me to tell you some stories about that another time.
Early architectural rendering of Maison Blanche Clearview
This rendering was an earlier concept for Clearview. The dark panels on the exterior were similar to the Gentilly Woods store. MB dropped that idea, giving us the look at the top.
by nolahistoryguy | Oct 7, 2022 | 1890s, 1900s - 1910s, CBD, Fellman's/Feibelman's, Krauss
The block at 1201 Canal was a row of houses in 1899.
Portion of Plate 7 of the Robinson Atlas of New Orleans, 1883, Courtesy of the New Orleans Notarial Archives.
1201 Canal Street 1899
Section of Plate 7 of the Robinson Atlas of New Orleans, 1883, showing square 127 of the 2nd District, 1201 Canal. This block later transformed into Krauss Department Store. Square 127 is bounded by Canal Street, N. Franklin (now Crozat) Street, Custom House (now Iberville) Street, and Basin Street. Eventually, the Krauss Corporation acquired the entire square, as well as square 124, behind it. These parcels become the main store and the warehouse buildings. The process required over half a century to complete. It began in 1899, with the purchase of the buildings in square 127 that front Canal Street. Leon Fellman bought them, setting the story in motion.
Square 127 stands just above (in river-to-lake terms) the Basin Street neutral ground. A railroad station stood there. The Spanish Fort Railroad (SFRR) originated at that station. Prior to street rail electrification, the SFRR offered day-trip service out to the amusement area next to Fort St. John. The fort guarded the mouth of Bayou St. John, at Lake Pontchartrain. After the Southern Rebellion, several incarnations of an amusement district on the east bank of the bayou developed. Steam trains (whose engines were usually disguised as trams) departed Canal and Basin. They turned lakebound on Bienville Street, making their way to the lake.
Steam service to Spanish Fort fizzled in the mid-1890s, as the popularity of the entertainment district waned. In 1910 developers resurrected the area. By 1911, New Orleans Railway and Light Company (NORwy&Lt) offered electric streetcar service. Rather than using the Bienville Street route, the Spanish Fort streetcar line operated on the Canal Street line’s tracks. The line followed the West End line’s path, to Adams Street (now Allen Toussaint Boulevard in Lakeview). While West End traveled to its terminus by the New Canal, the Spanish Fort’s cars turned right on Adams, ending at the old railroad station by the fort.
The original SFRR station on Basin stood unused in the late 1890s. That’s when Leon Fellman, merchant, and owner of Leon Fellman’s Department Store, at 800 Canal Street, enters the picture. Fellman acquired those Canal Street buildings in square 127 in 1899. They stood unused until 1903. Fellman then demolished them. He built a two-story retail complex on the site. Satisfied with his existing store, four blocks down Canal, Fellman invited the Krauss Brothers to lease the new building. The brothers took him up on the offer, opening Krauss Department Store.
Terminal Station, Canal and Basin Streets, 1908. Detroit Publishing Company photo via LOC.
Five years later, in 1908, the New Orleans Terminal Company (NOTC) acquired the old SFRR station. They replaced it with Terminal Station, a grand passenger terminal. NOTC extended the railroad tracks down the Basin Street neutral ground to St. Louis Street. They turned north, just before the Carondelet Canal. These tracks offered an outlet for trains leaving town to the east. The New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad (NONE) leased the tracks and station from NOTC. NONE merged into the Southern Railway system in 1916. Southern operated its trains from Terminal Station from 1908 until the move to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. Upon completion of Terminal Station, Krauss stood next to a major transit connection. The railroad came in on Basin Street. One block down, Rampart Street served as a streetcar and bus nexus for NORwy&Lt.
Did Leon Fellman know of NOTC’s plans when he purchased the property in square 127? It’s hard to determine. Fellman maintained a number of business and social networking connections. No doubt those included NOTC investors. Anything involving railroads takes time, and usually remains quiet until plans are solidified. Since the 1201 block was ripe for retail expansion, it’s possible Fellman saw the property as a good investment, regardless of what the railroad men did. His moves in 1899 and 1903 set in motion the opening of one of New Orleans’ retail institutions.
Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store by Edward J. Branley
There’s a lot more Krauss history in my book, Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store. Check it out, it’s available at all the usual suspects!