Monday, October 09, 2006

Retail Memories - Emporium-Capwell



Ah, Emporium-Capwell, how I miss thee.

This is a scanned ad from 1984, as if you couldn't tell from the fashions. The more I looked at the ad, the farther back I went. They were celebrating their newest store at Vallco Fashion Park in Cupertino. They also listed locations like Stevens Creek Mall and Mountain View. Even Marin, which I don't remember at all (Northgate in San Rafael)?

I do miss Emporium-Capwell for the prices and selection. Who can forget a trip to the City and a visit to "The Market" downstairs, with its culinary treats.

Seemingly dependent on the side of the Bay you lived, you most likely called it either "The Emporium" or "Capwells." Of course, in its final days, they changed the name to "Emporium." It just didn't fly with us.

I seem to remember a commercial for Emporium-Capwell that sang "super station coppertop, Emporium-Capwell." Was I dreaming? The only connection I could make was the red tiles of many of the old Capwell buildings. I hope someone remembers.

Please, share your memories of Capwell's here.

Scott

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe Capwell's had locations in El Cerrito (El Cerrito Plaza), Hayward (Southland), Fremont (Hub), Walnut Creek (Broadway) and Oakland (19th and Broadway; flagship store.) Emporiums that I remember: Downtown SF, Stonestown, San Rafael (Northgate), Santa Clara (Stevens Creek), San Jose (Almaden), Mountain View (El Camino and 84). I don't think they were at Eastridge until they were Emporium-Capwell, but I'm not sure.

dean said...

I was told that the Capwells in Hayward was downtown, on Foothill Boulevard. The building is still there and is used by Mervyns as administrative offices.

We always shopped at the Capwells at Fremont's Fashion Center. It was basically the only anchor there but was accompanied by Grodins, Roos Atkins and a smattering of other stores. The big draw was a Farrell's ice cream shop.

Interestingly, the shopping center is still there in a much modified form -- even the department store building is remodeled into an extention for Washington Hospital.

BIGMallrat said...

Dean... funny, you can tell that half of Washington Hospital in Fremont was definitely a department store. Especially the way it sits in the existing shopping center. Until they cleaned it, you could still see the labelscar. If I recall correctly, Emporium-Capwell moved to NewPark and they kept the Fremont Fashion Center location as a clearance store. Didn't last long, though :(
Scott

dean said...

Yes, it was a clearance center for a while -- very depressing to walk around inside it during that time.

There is still a little piece of the mall still left in almost it's original condition that is just to the west of the former department store. Interesting that it was very similar in design to Almaden Plaza.

hushpuppy said...

I was born in San Francisco and, to us, it was always the Big E, even after they tried to class-up the place in the late 70's by calling it ‘Emporium’. Then they merged operations with Capwell's of Oakland (the two companies had officially merged in 1927 but had always been run separately) and called it Emporium-Capwell.

Somewhere in the late 80's they dropped the 'Capwell' name entirely and called all the stores 'Emporium', but, by then, the parent company (Broadway Stores of Los Angeles, which purchased Emporium-Capwell in 1970) was in such trouble that the whole thing collapsed under a mountain of bad debt in 1995. Many long-time employees lost their retirement funds as it had been heavily invested in company stock.

In its heyday, both Emporium and Capwell's were market leaders, far classier and more desirable than newcomer Macy's. The Emporium in downtown San Francisco had carnival rides on the roof at Christmas, plus free ice skating shows, and, of course, Santa Claus. The Market Street store was always a hubbub of activity. They opened the store each morning at 9:30 with a trumpet fanfare (‘The Emporium March’, written especially for the store). The march was again played at 5:30 when the store closed (except on Mondays and Thursdays, and later Fridays, when they stayed open until 9). Of course, the store was closed on Sundays until the mid 1970’s. The Market Street entrance had a huge, glassed-in arcade with huge display windows which was always open to browsers. I remember my mother taking us to the St Francis Theatre to see ‘Mary Poppins’ one Sunday in 1964 and we stopped at MacFarlane’s candy store on Market and then window-shopped at the Big E until showtime. Unfortunately, by the early 70’s, subway construction and the general decline of Market Street forced the Emporium to close the arcade. The centerpiece of the store was a huge, beaux arts dome, built in 1908. This dome and the striking fa├žade were incorporated into the new Bloomingdale’s Shopping Center, which opened last month on the site of the Emporium store.

Unlike stores today, the Big E had everything: candy, fabrics, notions, books, records, major appliances, televisions, and, for a kid, the best toy department in the city. I was working downtown in 1978 when we heard reports of a shooting at City Hall. I ran down to the Emporium on Market Street and, in the third floor television department, watched the whole awful story unfold on television. I watched my first Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1977 from outside the Emporium (very convenient for rest room and food breaks as they had a snack bar in the basement). And speaking of basements, up until the late 70’s, both the Emporium and Capwell’s had huge bargain basements (Capwell’s basement may have lasted even longer). For a 20-year old, living on his own, setting up his first apartment, the Big E basement was a godsend.

And yes, the Emporium Marin was in Northgate. It's now (sigh) Macy's.

Anonymous said...

To be perfectly frank, to see the words "Gay Freedom", "basement", and "restrooms" in the same sentence is a little unsettling.

Especially when you consider that all these old department stores had "tea rooms".

Anonymous said...

We had Thalhimers in my neck of the woods, which was owned by Carter Hawley Hale at the same time in the '80s that you guys had Emporium-Capwell. It was a great store, and it seemed to be very similar. What remains of it, too, is Macy's.

BIGMallrat said...

Yep... Macy's. They were having financial woes anyway.
Scott

justin karimzad said...

The Cupertino/Vallco Fashion Park Emporium opened in 1984 in the former Bullock's that had opened in 1976.

Randy said...

As an enthusiast for both department stores and rapid transit systems, I should point out that both the Emporium and Capwell's downtown flagships had direct BART access, respectively at the Powell St. and 19th St. stations.

Jennifer said...

When I was from about 9-12 in the early 70s, every summer they would have a mid-summer sale at the Hillsdale mall, and the stores would put there merchandise outside in the open air. I loved the stuff outside of the Emporium on 31st the best, I just remember brilliantly sunny, warm mornings shopping there with my mom and sister, so those are my fondest memories of it. But I also have memories of seeing Santa when I was 5 in 1968 at the bottom floor of Emporium just off their Credit center. I still have a picture of Me, my 8 year old sister and Santa at the Emporium. My sister-in-laws mom worked at that emporium from its opening til its closing, for over 30 years. I walked its floors so many times over the years, especially just before or after a visit to the adjoining Farmer's Market. During Christmas it had the best outdoor Christmas lights of all the stores, with lines of white lines from top to bottom. Such fond memories. I was sad when it closed. But it seems like Macy's was always no 1 and Emporium was a close 2nd. Thanks for posting!

Randy said...

To answer the first anonymous post, both the Eastridge and Southland locations were opened in former Liberty House stores. The former opened in 1978, when they were still separate entities (The Emporium and Capwell's), and the latter in 1983, after the merger.

And yes, bigmallrat, the Marin store was indeed at Northgate Mall, but would you know if the Sears store there originally a City of Paris store?

BIGMallrat said...

I can't say for sure, but the Sears at Northgate looks to be originally Sears. The architecture is just that, classic Sears. I didn't know City of Paris had a store in San Rafael!
Scott

Paul said...

The City of Paris at Northgate was, unlike the San Francisco store, not a full-line department store, but rather a small one-story specialty store. In those days, the mall was outdoor and The City of Paris was located in what is now the Mervyn's wing (long before Mervyn's arrival). IIRC, it closed in 1971.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the Big E xmas trees with the Red neon E....? I remember shopping with mom on Market St. and riding Muni while she shopped...oops, didn't know it was a 3 hour round trip to Balboa Park! LOL...the entire store was looking for me...xmas was cancelled for one little 10 year old that year!

Anonymous said...

I vividly remember the El Cerrito Plaza Capwell’s, whose huge red neon sign was visible from BART and from nearby hills for miles around (I had relatives with a house in the El Cerrito hills, and you could see the sign quite clearly from their deck). Don't have as strong memories of shopping at Capwell’s as I do of the Mervyn’s in El Portal Shopping Center in San Pablo (or Fowlers in El Sobrante, for that matter, which sold the gym clothes for PVHS students!). But I do remember the two levels of shopping and their escalators. Capwell’s was the first shop around where I saw those annoying “automatic” sinks (which turn on when you stick your hands under the tap).

Anonymous said...

I worked in the accounting department of The Emporium's downtown San Franciso store from 1978 until 1983. One of my most memorable jobs; the employees at the store were like one big family. About halfway during this time, The Emporium merged with Capwell's and various administrative departments from the Oakland store came to San Franciso and some administrative departments at Market St. went to Oakland. Fortunately (for me) my department stayed at the Market Street store and then I resigned in 1983 and left San Franciso. When I last visited the City (around 2001), the store had closed. It was rather sad to see the building still there, shuttered and vacant. So many good memories from the five years I worked there.

Anonymous said...

I remember the carnival rides on the roof.What a blast.My mom would take us to spend the day.I worked there from 1988 to 1999 in the Dome Cafe as a waiter.It was right above cosmetics.The big christmas tree was a sight.The building was huge,especially the basement.I remember watching the 49ers super bowl parade from the roof.That was my alltime favorite job.Ah,to be in the City in the 80s.

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Eastridge store from 1978 when it opened until 1984 and was then transferred to the Vallco store and worked there for 3 years before leaving the company.I am looking for employees who worked at the Eastridge Emporium from the late 70s to the mid 80s as we want to have a reunion. Anyone out there???

Anonymous said...

There was Capwell's in Richmond's Hilltop Mall back when it was a nice mall to shop. I liked Capwells a lot! I still have a Sony TV - my first TV I purchased for my first apt that works like new today (purchased from Capwells in Sun Valley Mall). The clarity of this TV is nearly as good as my one year old flat panel Sony's HD :-)

Anonymous said...

I worked at Emporium in San Francisco on Market St. from 1983 to the bitter end. It was strange closing out the store when it has been there for so long. I'd love to see some old pictures of the place!

Nikki said...

I worked at the Fairfiel, CA Emporium and I miss their restaurant the most. Emporium was my first job and I hated the retail business, but I do miss EC.

jaycee said...

hi - worked w/ my college sweetie during the Holidays (83-84) for mr mitchell @ the oakland store. got a f/t job in the men's dept and carol w/ gift-wrapping afterwards. invested in thier stocks (?) - still have the certificate! fast forward to 91/92 - we got married and had baby twins. we missed the store and the capwells employees !!

Anonymous said...

I'v collected some videos and pictures from the San Francisco Market St. store and made a Facebook page for them. Please have a look at the link below and join the group if your interested!
Thanks!

www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=131724583510697

Anonymous said...

I'v made a Facebook group for the San Francisco Market St. Emporium. Please have a look at the link below and join if your interested.
Thanks!

www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=131724583510697

Anonymous said...

Sorry this link should take you there!

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=131724583510697

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Broadway Plaza Capwell's from about 1978 to 1981 or 1982. Someone said that the stores were like one big family, and that is absolutely true. My first day was during a "Parking Lot Sale" where merchandise was moved to the first level of the parking area. It was a mob scene. They still used manual cash registers and those slide credit card readers. The store was actually beautiful from different angles. Very stark, boxy and classy. The front on the plaza was classic concrete awning with floor to ceiling plate glass windows. I worked in toys/sporting goods/luggage way back in the corner of the third floor. My two co-workers I will remember until the day I die. Esther Mannie was a crotchety old lady with a heart of gold. Connie Prevallet was younger and soft spoken but also had a great sense of humor. Donna, who worked in the Portrait Dept. close by (It was really a secret little corner) called herself a "Shovelass Scandinaviana" She had a flat ass. I once asked Esther why Donna drank so much water and Esther said "That's not water, honey". Took me several years to figure out what she meant. I transferred to stock where we worked on the dock and took stock to the floor and did floor pickups - we delivered right to the customers car at the loading dock. A lot of the stock was in the basement and they had a huge freight elevator. When you got out of the elevator, on the wall to the right was hanging a forgotten beautiful architectural sort of birds eye view of the building dated 1947. I wish I had it. There was also a large first floor extension called the toy annex where more merchandise was stored. It has been incorporated into selling space now. One of the older stock guys (I'm now much older than he was then) was named Jeff Hanson and he used to take us to 49er games when they stank. There restaurant was very cozy with large windows and comfortable booths, quiet and relaxing. They also had everything applianaces, millinery, candy etc. What a store. What memories. I still dream of the people I met and made such great friends with. I am sure many of the older people are gone and it saddens me, but they are still like they were in the 1970's in my dreams. Incidentally, if anyone goes to the Macy's (NO personality) a very old GM key stuck in the basement key slot of the elevator will unlock it (I mean a GM key before they got the square head). The last time I saw Broadway Plaza I was shocked at how different it was. I remember my Mom and Dad taking me to Smith's go get Angel Flight polyester pants and vest at the height of Saturday Night Fever Fever. I also got my first adult blazer there. Working at Capwells was my all time favorite job and if I ever get back to California from Baltimore, I will surely visit Broadway Plaze. Finally, I still have my Capwells name tag and it is in the same script as the 1915 Emporium ad elsewhere on this Blog. Anyone who used to work in the Broadway Plaza Capwells, please write in.
Joe Walsh

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Broadway Plaza Capwell's from about 1978 to 1981 or 1982. Someone said that the stores were like one big family, and that is absolutely true. My first day was during a "Parking Lot Sale" where merchandise was moved to the first level of the parking area. It was a mob scene. They still used manual cash registers and those slide credit card readers. The store was actually beautiful from different angles. Very stark, boxy and classy. The front on the plaza was classic concrete awning with floor to ceiling plate glass windows. I worked in toys/sporting goods/luggage way back in the corner of the third floor. My two co-workers I will remember until the day I die. Esther Mannie was a crotchety old lady with a heart of gold. Connie Prevallet was younger and soft spoken but also had a great sense of humor. Donna, who worked in the Portrait Dept. close by (It was really a secret little corner) called herself a "Shovelass Scandinaviana" She had a flat ass. I once asked Esther why Donna drank so much water and Esther said "That's not water, honey". Took me several years to figure out what she meant. I transferred to stock where we worked on the dock and took stock to the floor and did floor pickups - we delivered right to the customers car at the loading dock. A lot of the stock was in the basement and they had a huge freight elevator. When you got out of the elevator, on the wall to the right was hanging a forgotten beautiful architectural sort of birds eye view of the building dated 1947. I wish I had it. There was also a large first floor extension called the toy annex where more merchandise was stored. It has been incorporated into selling space now. One of the older stock guys (I'm now much older than he was then) was named Jeff Hanson and he used to take us to 49er games when they stank. There restaurant was very cozy with large windows and comfortable booths, quiet and relaxing. They also had everything applianaces, millinery, candy etc. What a store. What memories. I still dream of the people I met and made such great friends with. I am sure many of the older people are gone and it saddens me, but they are still like they were in the 1970's in my dreams. Incidentally, if anyone goes to the Macy's (NO personality) a very old GM key stuck in the basement key slot of the elevator will unlock it (I mean a GM key before they got the square head). The last time I saw Broadway Plaza I was shocked at how different it was. I remember my Mom and Dad taking me to Smith's go get Angel Flight polyester pants and vest at the height of Saturday Night Fever Fever. I also got my first adult blazer there. Working at Capwells was my all time favorite job and if I ever get back to California from Baltimore, I will surely visit Broadway Plaze. Finally, I still have my Capwells name tag and it is in the same script as the 1915 Emporium ad elsewhere on this Blog. Anyone who used to work in the Broadway Plaza Capwells, please write in.
Joe Walsh

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Broadway Plaza Capwell's from about 1978 to 1981 or 1982. Someone said that the stores were like one big family, and that is absolutely true. My first day was during a "Parking Lot Sale" where merchandise was moved to the first level of the parking area. It was a mob scene. They still used manual cash registers and those slide credit card readers. The store was actually beautiful from different angles. Very stark, boxy and classy. The front on the plaza was classic concrete awning with floor to ceiling plate glass windows. I worked in toys/sporting goods/luggage way back in the corner of the third floor. My two co-workers I will remember until the day I die. Esther Mannie was a crotchety old lady with a heart of gold. Connie Prevallet was younger and soft spoken but also had a great sense of humor. Donna, who worked in the Portrait Dept. close by (It was really a secret little corner) called herself a "Shovelass Scandinaviana" She had a flat ass. I once asked Esther why Donna drank so much water and Esther said "That's not water, honey". Took me several years to figure out what she meant. I transferred to stock where we worked on the dock and took stock to the floor and did floor pickups - we delivered right to the customers car at the loading dock. A lot of the stock was in the basement and they had a huge freight elevator. When you got out of the elevator, on the wall to the right was hanging a forgotten beautiful architectural sort of birds eye view of the building dated 1947. I wish I had it. There was also a large first floor extension called the toy annex where more merchandise was stored. It has been incorporated into selling space now. One of the older stock guys (I'm now much older than he was then) was named Jeff Hanson and he used to take us to 49er games when they stank. There restaurant was very cozy with large windows and comfortable booths, quiet and relaxing. They also had everything applianaces, millinery, candy etc. What a store. What memories. I still dream of the people I met and made such great friends with. I am sure many of the older people are gone and it saddens me, but they are still like they were in the 1970's in my dreams. Incidentally, if anyone goes to the Macy's (NO personality) a very old GM key stuck in the basement key slot of the elevator will unlock it (I mean a GM key before they got the square head). The last time I saw Broadway Plaza I was shocked at how different it was. I remember my Mom and Dad taking me to Smith's go get Angel Flight polyester pants and vest at the height of Saturday Night Fever Fever. I also got my first adult blazer there. Working at Capwells was my all time favorite job and if I ever get back to California from Baltimore, I will surely visit Broadway Plaze. Finally, I still have my Capwells name tag and it is in the same script as the 1915 Emporium ad elsewhere on this Blog. Anyone who used to work in the Broadway Plaza Capwells, please write in.
Joe Walsh

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Broadway Plaza Capwell's from about 1978 to 1981 or 1982. Someone said that the stores were like one big family, and that is absolutely true. My first day was during a "Parking Lot Sale" where merchandise was moved to the first level of the parking area. It was a mob scene. They still used manual cash registers and those slide credit card readers. The store was actually beautiful from different angles. Very stark, boxy and classy. The front on the plaza was classic concrete awning with floor to ceiling plate glass windows. I worked in toys/sporting goods/luggage way back in the corner of the third floor. My two co-workers I will remember until the day I die. Esther Mannie was a crotchety old lady with a heart of gold. Connie Prevallet was younger and soft spoken but also had a great sense of humor. Donna, who worked in the Portrait Dept. close by (It was really a secret little corner) called herself a "Shovelass Scandinaviana" She had a flat ass. I once asked Esther why Donna drank so much water and Esther said "That's not water, honey". Took me several years to figure out what she meant. I transferred to stock where we worked on the dock and took stock to the floor and did floor pickups - we delivered right to the customers car at the loading dock. A lot of the stock was in the basement and they had a huge freight elevator. When you got out of the elevator, on the wall to the right was hanging a forgotten beautiful architectural sort of birds eye view of the building dated 1947. I wish I had it. There was also a large first floor extension called the toy annex where more merchandise was stored. It has been incorporated into selling space now. One of the older stock guys (I'm now much older than he was then) was named Jeff Hanson and he used to take us to 49er games when they stank. There restaurant was very cozy with large windows and comfortable booths, quiet and relaxing. They also had everything applianaces, millinery, candy etc. What a store. What memories. I still dream of the people I met and made such great friends with. I am sure many of the older people are gone and it saddens me, but they are still like they were in the 1970's in my dreams. Incidentally, if anyone goes to the Macy's (NO personality) a very old GM key stuck in the basement key slot of the elevator will unlock it (I mean a GM key before they got the square head). The last time I saw Broadway Plaza I was shocked at how different it was. I remember my Mom and Dad taking me to Smith's go get Angel Flight polyester pants and vest at the height of Saturday Night Fever Fever. I also got my first adult blazer there. Working at Capwells was my all time favorite job and if I ever get back to California from Baltimore, I will surely visit Broadway Plaze. Finally, I still have my Capwells name tag and it is in the same script as the 1915 Emporium ad elsewhere on this Blog. Anyone who used to work in the Broadway Plaza Capwells, please write in.
Joe Walsh

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Broadway Plaza Capwell's from about 1978 to 1981 or 1982. Someone said that the stores were like one big family, and that is absolutely true. My first day was during a "Parking Lot Sale" where merchandise was moved to the first level of the parking area. It was a mob scene. They still used manual cash registers and those slide credit card readers. The store was actually beautiful from different angles. Very stark, boxy and classy. The front on the plaza was classic concrete awning with floor to ceiling plate glass windows. I worked in toys/sporting goods/luggage way back in the corner of the third floor. My two co-workers I will remember until the day I die. Esther Mannie was a crotchety old lady with a heart of gold. Connie Prevallet was younger and soft spoken but also had a great sense of humor. Donna, who worked in the Portrait Dept. close by (It was really a secret little corner) called herself a "Shovelass Scandinaviana" She had a flat ass. I once asked Esther why Donna drank so much water and Esther said "That's not water, honey". Took me several years to figure out what she meant. I transferred to stock where we worked on the dock and took stock to the floor and did floor pickups - we delivered right to the customers car at the loading dock. A lot of the stock was in the basement and they had a huge freight elevator. When you got out of the elevator, on the wall to the right was hanging a forgotten beautiful architectural sort of birds eye view of the building dated 1947. I wish I had it. There was also a large first floor extension called the toy annex where more merchandise was stored. It has been incorporated into selling space now. One of the older stock guys (I'm now much older than he was then) was named Jeff Hanson and he used to take us to 49er games when they stank. There restaurant was very cozy with large windows and comfortable booths, quiet and relaxing. They also had everything applianaces, millinery, candy etc. What a store. What memories. I still dream of the people I met and made such great friends with. I am sure many of the older people are gone and it saddens me, but they are still like they were in the 1970's in my dreams. Incidentally, if anyone goes to the Macy's (NO personality) a very old GM key stuck in the basement key slot of the elevator will unlock it (I mean a GM key before they got the square head). The last time I saw Broadway Plaza I was shocked at how different it was. I remember my Mom and Dad taking me to Smith's go get Angel Flight polyester pants and vest at the height of Saturday Night Fever Fever. I also got my first adult blazer there. Working at Capwells was my all time favorite job and if I ever get back to California from Baltimore, I will surely visit Broadway Plaze. Finally, I still have my Capwells name tag and it is in the same script as the 1915 Emporium ad elsewhere on this Blog. Anyone who used to work in the Broadway Plaza Capwells, please write in.
Joe Walsh

David said...

I Helped open the Vallco Store in 84 and stayed there in the Small Electronics dept for two years! I really enjoyed the working atmosphere there and The pizza parties my dept had after work. I regret quiting because of the many close relationships I eventually lost after leaving. I was sorry to see the place close down! "Lots of good memories"

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Before I start,I too opened the Vallco Emporium in the year 1984.It had it's GRAND OPENING on Friday November 20th (My Dad's birthday!)Yes David who wrote in who worked in Electronics Department,I remember you. You were very heavy set(sorry to mention that)also you wore glasses and you had a mustache.After working in the shoe department with the manager John Mullins whom I had to ask personal for a transfer,I ended up in Housewares with Regina,Carla,Holly, Cathy -I was the only guy in the department.
Anyway we had a professional culinery advisor named Patti Foley who drove a cool Corvette.Anyway David,you use to along with other employees come over to Patti's area and grab free samples of what food she conjured up for that day.
I remember January 28th,1986 the morning of the Space shuttle disastor,You had all the TV sets on that morning and we gathered around watching the disastor unfold before our eyes.As far as working at Emporium,I made allot of great friend there from 1984-86.
Even though like all jobs,it was fun,but it was also a pain in the butt!

Anonymous said...

I use to work at the Emporium in Cupertino. Does anyone know what happened to Kevin Dilan. He use to work in the juniors dept, then he was one of the in store auditors. I use to work with Eleanor in the childrens dept.

Anonymous said...

Having “cut my teeth” - me starting in the retail field - by working at The Emporium Marin (Northgate Shopping Center, San Rafael, CA) which has turned into a career in retail, I, too, do say that The Emporium was, and is, a family. We still have “Big E Reunion” luncheons every 2 years, just our store’s staff, where around 100 attendees attend. About ¼ of them fly in from places like Seattle, southern California, Arizona and other locales to reminisce and visit with old friends, and, yes, extended family. This goes on 14 years after the store changed to Macy’s – yep, still family. Even with losing my retirement . . .

I still remember working in the store the day the workers came to take down the “Emporium” sign and put up the “Macy’s” neon on the store . . . I’ve lost both of my parents, and I can say that seeing this nameplate change was almost as painful as losing my beloved parents. The workers doing this change realized how emotional it was for us and did this as sensitively as possible. Knowing that Broadway Stores, Inc. (parent company of Emporium Capwell from the late 60’s) had 6 times the debt-to earnings when Federated Department Stores acquired them made it understandable that this had to happen to survive, but you hope that the Department Store field can continue to be profitable.

All of you that have fond memories of large, heavily staffed department stores of the past: think about your next purchase and who it’ll help more. Us remembering the past and wishing it was still here, just look ahead 10 years from now when all department stores could be just a memory. Make that purchase at a department store instead of a specialty store and keep them around – even if they aren’t the rosy past that they were. Maybe someone can reinvent an elegant, efficient, profitable, pleasure-filled department store sometime in our future. I’m confident that all of us would shop there if someone has the passion and drive to turn our past into a great future.

ThankfulCapwellChild said...

My great-grandfather was Harris Cebert Capwell who began with The Lace Store, then H.C. Capwell's (I love looking at those wonderful photos), and now I'm learning about Emporium Capwell. It's fabulous reading all these posts and finding out who worked at the different stores (I didn't even know there were so many-wish I had photos of all of them). I'm still trying to locate photos of the Emporium Capwell when HC first merged with Emporium. I saw where they moved the gorgeous dome .. that was quite a feat. I have some gorgeous vintage photos of HC Capwell's in Oakland which was one of the most beautiful works of architectures I've ever seen for a department store, or much of anything else these days .. gardens, children's playground, tea room. HC seemed to want a department store to be multi-dimensional for the community.
Plus, it's really fun reading stories of the people who shopped at Capwell's .. it gives me a much clearer idea of my family in California. Most migrated back to the East Coast but there are a few of us Capwells who would love to live back in this area. I hope I can learn more of where I can Capwell department store history for me and my family thru this site. Thank you so very much.

Anonymous said...

What was the name of the discount dept.store across from emporium on the corner of market and sutter in san francisco next to fashion institute school. I used to work there in 1987. Was it called Grodins?

Anonymous said...

What was the name of the Womans Dept. store (For older women)in 1977 on the right side as you walk out of the Emporium on the corner?

I worked there in the evening and made the customers bounce in with my personal music ,added a younger class of clothing. As great as it was I can't remember the name of the store, did not need a resume then.

Anonymous said...

Eastridge Mall in San Jose Ca.

What was the name of the Womans Dept. store (For older women)in 1977 on the right side as you walk out of the Emporium on the corner?

I worked there in the evening and made the customers bounce in with my personal music ,added a younger class of clothing. As great as it was I can't remember the name of the store, did not need a resume then, need one now.

Baron Bon Bar said...

I thought I would Pass this around to people who might be in other parts of the country, I need to find this rabbit for my wife, which was bought at emporium capwell in 1988 easter. It was her favorite and was lost. Here is a link, It has the photos of the stuffed easter bunnies I am looking for https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151422098849018.567448.729644017&type=1&l=f683e5e6bd


The_clockwork@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Hello all!
I wanted to share a face book page I've started for the Emporium on Market st. down town San Francisco. I originally made it for former employees but I'm expanded it to include every one so please have a look! Thanks!
http://www.facebook.com/groups/348540701857540/

Anonymous said...

They also had a location in Santa Rosa, where as a boarding schooler we'd "go to town" monthly and shop for the prom and other necessities. Wonderful store at Coddingtown. It was great at 15, finally able to go shopping without mom and with friends, instead! Those where the good ol days! What I wouldn't give to get in a time machine and go back to the 70's, the best era in existence! Greatest cars ever made and unparalleled rock and soul music! Oh, how I miss those good times:(

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain!

Mark Thaler said...

Emporium-Capwell at Tanforan mall in San Bruno is where my mom went shopping for all clothing, for herself, my father and myself. I loved that store, especially the fragrance counter, being the young gay boy I was! I ended up working at "Emporium" in San Mateo at the Hillsdale Mall in Men's Furnishings (Suits) and liked it there. I'm still friends with one of my old co-workers and we have some laughs about our expereinces there. As a kid, I used to eat at the fancy restaurant at the San Francisco Emporium in the middle of the store with my mom and my aunt. I have so many memories of Emporium-Capwell it's not even funny! I really do miss it a lot. I'm actually selling a necklace from there on eBay which is how I found this blog post because I was curious to see if there was anything online about the stores. Guess I was taking a trip down memory lane.

Shirley said...

Did Capwell's ever have a store in the Park & Shop Center in Concord, California? I know it was once Rhodes and later Liberty House but I thought it was originally Capwell's.

BIGMallrat said...

There wasn't a Capwell's at Park and Shop; just Walnut Creek. I'm fairly certain it was Rhodes at Park and Shop.

Anonymous said...

Anybody know what happen to Pete Vargas? He worked in the TV dept at the Hayward Store (Southland Mall)

Anonymous said...

I opened up both Eastridge and Vallco as a Warehouseman/Stock Supervisor and worked
for the Emporium for about 15 years. I do miss it because it's turned out to be the only decent job I've ever had.

mark prell said...

Who remembers the trumpet fanfare that played over the speakers just before closing? :-)