While organizing my DVD collection I stumbled upon Miracle on 34th Street. It brought back memories of the first time I sat on Santa’s lap at Famous-Barr in downtown St. Louis. There were two Santas! It didn’t make sense to me at
all. Kids could share their Christmas wish list with either a black or white Santa. That still doesn’t make sense to me. Perhaps my memory is not quite that sharp and I simply remembered what I heard my family talk about there being two Santas combined with channeling my inner Natalie Wood. Choosing the race of Santa wasn’t part of the movie, but seeing the jacket of Miracle on 34th Streetand the memory of a shopping trip to the flagship store sparked my quest to explore all things Macy’s.
Macy’s continues to please the hearts and buying minds of today’s fictitious characters. To further my curiosity was an episode of the new television show, Guys with Kids, where Anthony Anderson’s character Gary took a trip to Macy’s to purchase a wedding anniversary gift for his wife, Marny played by Tempestt Bledsoe. You gotta love a show that has characters from two of the hottest former television shows that were set in New York. Anderson is from Law &Order and Bledsoe from The Cosby Show. While I don’t recall hearing a member of the Huxtable family shopping at Macy’s just last week I watched a 2000 episode of Law & Order when the store was mentioned. And who can forget those commercials that include famous people such as Jessica Simpson, Sean Combs/P. Diddy, Donald Trump and Martha Stewart peddling their wares? Judging by the large crowd in the store, real people enjoy shopping there as well.
It was one of the coldest days in New York, 2011 which meant bundling up from head to toe. I headed to SOHO and stopped in the Ugg store. Realizing I would be trying on an exhaustive amount of footwear I removed every inch of outer wear. I had already made it back to midtown when I realized I forgot my 360’s. Instead of heading back to the Ugg store I decided to stop into Macy’s and buy a replacement pair. I couldn’t have my ears suffering from frostbite.
I don’t shop in department stores very often. On a rare occasion I’ll hit Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s. After purchasing my 360’s, I realized it was the first time I had been inside Macy’s Herald Square, the flagship store. It wasn’t until after being inside that I grasped the enormity of the store’s size. After perusing several floors and checking out the latest fashions I decided to do something I had done countless times; take a walk along the exterior of the building. After taking an external tour of the world’s largest department store I wondered what was the story behind Macy’s.
Perhaps because it’s nostalgia. It wasn’t until I came across a Christmas Classic and it being so close to the holiday season that my curiosity got the best of me. Motivation had set in and off to Google I typed.
My discoveries have brought about an astounding appreciation for the man behind most of the incredible fetes behind Macy’s success. This man is my new ‘businessman crush’. Born on August 30, 1822 in Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, Rowland H. Macy temporarily pursued life on the high seas with whale hunters at the age of 15. Once he had the seafaring life out of his system he returned to Massachusetts to help out in his father’s shop. One with a desire obtain independent means, Macy also tried his hand at store owning like his father and brother-in-law, without great success. Macy then changed gears and headed to
California to seek his fortune during the gold rush in 1849. Not being one of the lucky ones who struck gold, Macy packed up and headed to Haverhill, Massachusetts where Rowland and his brother partnered to open a store that was rather successful. Still, the desire to be his own man prevailed, and off to New York City was Rowland H. Macy.
Soon after Macy hit the big city, the small store he opened in the once low-rent neighborhood on 6th Avenue flourished. Innovative ideas for getting people into his store were paramount to his success. The implementation of various promotional techniques was used to entice shoppers. He printed the prices of items in eye-catching newspaper ads and utilized Santa Claus to make Christmas not just a religious holiday but an American event. In order to make room for more merchandise, Macy purchased a total of eleven buildings on 13th and 14th Streets (at the time of his death). The red star logo is even a method of advertising as it has long been associated with Macy’s. The inspiration behind it actually came from Macy’s own forearm. He had a red-star tattoo emblazed on it during his whaling days. I guess the signature logo is white if on a red shopping bag. Hmmm.
If you’re ever in the area, check out the large red Macy’s shopping bag, logo included, atop of the building located at the corner of 34thStreet and Herald Square. It sits on top the location that posed a problem for Macy when he was purchasing property to expand his store. The owner of the property, refused to sell. Once serving as a hot dog lunch counter, to this day, the building is separate from Macy’s.
List of Firsts and Peaks of Interest
|1862||First In-Store Santa, Like Ever|
|1864||First Window Displays, Like Ever|
|1866||First Female Retail Executive, Like Ever|
|1902||First Department Store to Use Elevators and Escalators, Like Ever|
|1924||Macy’s Herald Square Becomes “World’s Largest Department Store”|
|1924||Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, originally called “Macy’s Christmas Parade”|
|1927||Felix the Cat, First Hot Air Balloon in “Macy’s Day Parade”|
|1947||Miracle on 34th Street opens|
|1976||First Annual “Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular”|
|1982||Stores in Los Angeles and San Francisco start Passport, increasing awareness of HIV/AIDS, raising nearly $22 million to date|
|1944||Becomes nation’s largest department store retailer by joining Federated Department Stores|
|2007||Federated Department Stores, Inc. becomes Macy’s Inc.|