Friday, May 24, 2013

A Bloomingdale's History

I'm not sure how many of you have been watching the Mr.Selfridge program on PBS, with the very talented Jeremy Piven, but I have been finding it quite interesting. To see how they came up with many department store staples like sales and cosmetics in the front of the store, it made me wonder about the history of one of my favorites in NYC, Bloomingdale’s. I wondered how long it has been in it’s current location. I love when a television program makes you want to know more history of places you visit.
I remember visiting Bloomingdale’s when I was little with my Aunt. When we walked in the store, I felt I was walking into a most wonderful place. It just seemed like magic to a little girl, and I so enjoyed our visits there. We would eat at 40 Carrots, the fabulous little eatery, with some of the most delish food. It was quite nice, as I became an adult, and went with my Godmother, to be able to treat her to lunch at 40 Carrots. Then there is also the Le Train Bleu Restaurant at the flagship store on 59th Street. On the 5th floor of the store, you feel like you are in a fancy old train car, and enjoy a bite to eat. Their motto: “Like No Other Store In The World” is so very true.

Here is their press release of their history from their website which really has some quite interesting information:

NEW YORK, NY . . . Bloomingdale's began with the extraordinary vision of two brothers, and with a 19th Century fad--the hoop skirt. From the first day of business, Lyman and Joseph Bloomingdale set their store on a course to pioneer nearly every major change in the evolution of department stores. The same innovative philosophy guides the store's merchandise and marketing to this day.

On April 17, 1872, Bloomingdale's Great East Side Bazaar opened on East 56th Street in New York City, selling a variety of women's fashions. This was a bold move in the era of specialty shops, but their Bazaar would become a harbinger of today's true "department store." Bloomingdale's receipts that first day totaled $3.68. Perhaps even more daring than the store's merchandising was its location, far to the north of the City's retail center at the time. Yet, the Bloomingdale brothers were keenly aware of their surroundings, and of particular note, that the City had purchased a huge tract of land nearby and was busily creating a green haven of lakes, trees and footpaths to be called Central Park. Soon both the business, and the neighborhood, would boom.

In 1929, Bloomingdale's moved to its present location on 59th Street. The store continued to rapidly expand and a short two years later, with the completion of the glamorous Art Deco edifice facing Lexington Avenue, Bloomingdale's covered the entire city block.

Unparalleled Product 
From the beginning, the Bloomingdale's brothers sought to present new products first; and when they weren't first with an idea, they simply did it bigger and better than anyone else. They also catered to America's love of international goods, and by the 1880's, their European selection was dazzling. A buying office in Paris in 1886 was the beginning of a network that now spans the globe. The 1960's brought promotions resulting from Bloomingdale's fascination with the foreign market: the first was a small affair called "Casa Bella" featuring merchandise for the home from Italy. For the next three decades, the promotions took on an increasingly grand scale - including unique merchandise and cultural exhibits that would touch every department in Bloomingdale's.

In 1971 Bloomingdale's "model rooms," a highlight of the store since 1947, gained worldwide attention through its newest installation. "The Cave," an intricate multi-level frame sprayed entirely in white polyurethane, was a spectacular example of the lengths to which Bloomingdale's would go to make a statement of style. Over the years, the model rooms have been showcases for the talents of everyone from architect Frank Gehry to filmmaker Federico Fellini.

The direction in merchandising was both to seek and to create. Buyers covered the globe to find exclusive, one-of-a-kind items. When they couldn't find what they wanted, they had it made. In fashion, Bloomingdale's launched new designers and created boutiques for already-famous names. Among the discoveries: Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabanna, Norma Kamali, John Galliano, Sonia Rykiel and Kenzo. Designers opening their first in-store boutiques at Bloomingdale's include Calvin Klein, DKNY and Yves St. Laurent. Bloomingdale's ability to spot new talent first is legendary and the store has played a pivotal role in the development of important young designers from Marc Jacobs to Zac Posen.

Brand Bloomie's

During the 1970's, Bloomingdale's was a favorite stop of the international avant-garde, epitomized locally by the "Young East Sider" who lived right in the neighborhood. In 1973, when the store decided to stamp its name on panties to launch an intimate apparel promotion, they chose the company nickname as a nod to the young, trendy crowd, and the "Bloomie's" logo was born. Soon, New Yorkers were affectionately referring to the city's second most popular tourist attraction (after the Statue of Liberty) as "Bloomie's" and the hottest souvenir in town was anything emblazoned Bloomie's.

Bloomingdale's promotions were so exciting that the term "Retailing as Theater" was coined to describe the "happenings" at the store. Bloomingdale's was depicted in dozens of the iconic cartoons appearing in The New Yorker magazine, and played a staring role in many motion pictures. It was the era of pet rocks and glacial ice cubes, of visits by movie stars and royalty, from Elizabeth Taylor to Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty's visit, on May 5, 1976, was the culmination of a three-decade transformation of the store?s image that created a cultural phenomenon all its own.

The Ultimate Shopping Bag

In 1922, years before there were such things as shopping bags, Bloomingdale's printed an anniversary message to thank its customers on the face of its small brown paper bags. It was far from great art, but it was the store?s first recognition that the bags in which its merchandise was carried could be used to make a statement about the store itself.

The shopping bags we use today, expansive paper sacks with strong twisted handles, weren't manufactured until the mid-50's. In 1961, Bloomingdale's found reason to tinker with its bag again and by doing so made retail history in yet another area. Artist Joseph Kinigstein was commissioned to create a bag for the "Esprit de France" promotion. Rather than doing the obvious - ladylike flowers in pastel colors - he reproduced antique French tarot cards in bold red, black and white. Most daring of all, the bag omitted the store name. Even so, it was unmistakably Bloomingdale's, and the collector's shopping bag was launched. Since then, Bloomingdale's bags have been created by both famous and fledgling artists, architects, photographers, graphic and fashion designers; and the various bag designs have been featured in art museums all over the world.

The most famous bag of all, Bloomingdale's iconic Big Brown Bag, first hit the streets in 1973. It was designed when the linen department requested a really big bag to accommodate the increasingly larger and more luxurious pillows and blankets that were becoming popular. The little brown bag, for cosmetics and accessories, followed naturally a year later. 


Bloomingdale's ventured outside Manhattan first in 1949, beginning with stores in the Metro New York tri-state area. By the mid-70's there were Bloomingdale's stores in suburban Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC locations. The 80's were marked by expansion beyond the northeast with units in South Florida and a Midwest flagship store in downtown Chicago. Two long-awaited events occurred in 1996 when Bloomingdale?s reached the west coast debuting four stores in California; and in 2004, when the store opened a second location in Manhattan, in the Soho district. Since then, a west coast flagship location has been added in San Francisco, and today Bloomingdale's has a broad national brand presence with 39 stores in 18 major markets from coast to coast. The store?s website,, arrived in 1998. 

Today, Bloomingdale's is America's only nationwide, full-line, upscale department store. With an enduring international reputation for quality, creativity and uniqueness, Bloomingdale's has remained at the forefront of retailing worldwide. Emphasis continues on distinctive products, available only at, or first at Bloomingdale's together with passionate focus on creating special customer services for, and building lasting relationships with its clientele. Personal shoppers are available by appointment or by phone to give customers full-service access to Bloomingdale's-- all guided by the experts.

From humble beginnings more than a century ago, Bloomingdale's has grown with, and ahead of the times, justifiably earning its reference "Like No Other Store in the World."

Bloomingdale's is America's only nationwide, full-line, upscale department store; and a division of Macy's, Inc. It was founded in 1872 and currently operates 40 stores in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Minnesota, Georgia, Florida, Nevada and California. For more information, or to shop any time, visit

*Disclaimer: There has been no monetary compensation for posting this content. Brands mentioned are not affiliates or sponsors of this blog post. The opinions expressed are completely my own based on my experiences.

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Sandy at You May Be Wandering said...

This post is great! I remember when Bloomie's op[ened in Washington DC when I lived there as a child and it was a huge deal. And then when I first moved to NYC my office was three blocks away and I went every day after work!!!

Have a wonderful weekend, Rosemary! xoxo

Lauren said...

Great post! I love those window displays!! xo

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Did you know that there was a Le Train Bleu restaurant at Gare de Lyon in Paris? It is expensive but worth the price of a beverage just to enjoy the decor.

Thank you for your comment on my blog!


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