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Lords Of Retail

With a mix of business acumen and hard work, these American retailers built their own merchandising empires. These establishments range from the modest offerings of a five-and-dime store, to the splendor of a luxurious jeweler. While these well-known merchants are long gone, their legacies live on. Their graves can be found in some of New York's most famous cemeteries: Green-Wood, Woodlawn, Kensico and Salem Fields.

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Abraham Abraham: Salem Fields

Alexandra K. Mosca

What began as a small dry goods store in 1865 became one of New York's most popular department stores, with more than a dozen locations. Its flagship store on Fulton Street in downtown Brooklyn occupied an entire city block. In 1995, A & S (as it was commonly known) ceased operation and its locations were converted to Macy’s and Stern’s stores.

Henri Bendel: Kensico

Alexandra K. Mosca

Inspired by his enterprising mother, Henri Bendel opened his first clothing store in his native Louisiana, later setting up shop in New York City. Before long, the fashionable store attracted a well-heeled clientele which included the Vanderbilt, Astor and DuPont families. In 2009, Bendel's stopped selling clothing, concentrating instead on their profitable accessories and beauty products which are toted away in the store’s signature brown and white striped boxes and shopping bags.

Lyman Bloomingdale: Salem Fields

Alexandra K. Mosca

Bloomingdale's catchphrase, "Like No Other Store in the World," speaks to the innovative ideas of the department store's founders, Lyman and Joseph. The business that began as a Ladies Notions Shop in 1861 still flourishes, boasting over three dozen locations in the US.

Paul Bonwit: Kensico

Alexandra K. Mosca

Right down to their violet-hued charge card and distinctive lilac-sprayed shopping bags, the upscale Bonwit Teller department store made the shopping experience extra-special. It seems fitting that their posh former location on 5th Avenue and 56th Street in Manhattan is now the site of Trump Tower.

Samuel H. Kress: Woodlawn

Alexandra K. Mosca

In 1896, Samuel Kress opened, in Memphis Tennesse, the first of what became known as five-and-ten stores. S. H. Kress & Co. would eventually boast 264 locations, including New York's tony Fifth Ave. and California's Hollywood Blvd. An avid art collector, Kress donated many of his paintings to major art museums around the country. In 1929, the philanthropic Kress established a foundation offering grants and fellowships in the arts, which continues today.

Rowland H. Macy: Woodlawn

Alexandra K. Mosca

Once known as “The World’s Largest Department Store,” Macy's Herald Square continues to be a shopping mecca for tourists. Its signature red star logo is said to have been inspired by a tattoo company founder, R.H. Macy, got as a sailor. Macy's 1877 New York Times obituary noted that “from comparatively nothing he became one of the best known and most successful merchants of the day.” After his passing, Macy's ownership passed to the Straus family.

Nathan M. Ohrbach: Salem Fields

Alexandra K. Mosca

Nathan Ohrbach believed a low profit margin was best. “A Business in Millions, a Profit in Pennies,” was his catchphrase. With locations in New York, New Jersey and California, his mid-range department stores were among the first American retailers to offer affordable copies of Paris couture to shoppers. Ohrbach made clear that he was "trying to reach a class of people who were intelligent and not necessarily rich."

James Cash Penny: Woodlawn

Alexandra K. Mosca

The name of James Cash Penney's first store, Golden Rule, was the credo by which he lived and did business. This philosophy served him well. The J.C. Penney Co. he founded, in 1902, expanded to 175 locations around the country in less than 20 years. The ambitious and quotable Penney once said, "Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I'll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals and I'll give you a stock clerk."

Frederick August Otto Schwarz: Green-Wood

Alexandra K. Mosca

Founded in 1870, by Frederick August Otto Schwarz, FAO Schwarz delighted children and adults, alike, for 145 years. Despite its 2015 closure, FAO Schwarz remains the most iconic name in toy store history. Its flagship location, on Fifth Ave. and 40th St., across from New York City's Plaza Hotel, was a popular tourist destination and made cameos in several movies including 1988's Big.

Benjamin Stern: Salem Fields

Alexandra K. Mosca

Founded in 1867, Stern's department store was a family affair. Brothers and business partners, Benjamin, Louis and Isaac were sometimes seen personally greeting customers. Eight years after retiring as the president of Stern's, the department store founded by his family, Benjamin Stern was felled by a heart attack while en route to a doctor's appointment.

Isidor Straus: Woodlawn

Alexandra K. Mosca

Isidor Straus, the co-founder of Abraham & Straus (and later joint owner of Macy's) perished in the Titanic disaster, along with his wife, Ida. A sarcophagus, in the shape of an Egyptian funeral barge, contains Isidor’s remains and also serves as a cenotaph for Ida, whose body was never recovered. Etched on the back are these words from the Song of Solomon: “Many waters cannot quench love—neither can floods drown it.”

Charles Lewis Tiffany & Louis Comfort Tiffany: Green-Wood

Alexandra K. Mosca

Charles Lewis Tiffany and his son Louis Comfort Tiffany have left indelible artistic impressions throughout the world. Tiffany & Co., the now storied jewelry store founded by Charles, in 1837, continues to flourish with more than 150 locations worldwide.The store's simple and elegant blue box remains an iconic symbol. Charles' son Louis created the stained glass windows -seen in churches, museums and mausoleums--which continue to be prized today.

Frank Winfield Woolworth: Woodlawn

Alexandra K. Mosca

Arguably the best known of the five-&-ten stores, the F. W. Woolwoth Co. was begun in 1878 by Frank W. Woolworth. One hundred years later, it was considered the largest department store chain in the world. By then, Woolworth, along with Woolco (its subsidiary), operated 800 stores. The company founder's Egyptian Revival mausoleum was designed by architect John Russell Pope who designed the Jefferson Monument.

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