Back where I am from, in Cleveland, Ohio, one department store that was very popular was Kaufmanns. While I do recall going to this store many times with my older sister and Mom, I never understood why it was so significant. After I researched what made this department store so special, I learned that this store was around for some time and made quite a impression on its consumers.
Kaufmann’s department store is a division of the May department store company. This company was founded in Denver in 1888 by David May along with his brothers in laws Louis, Joseph, and Moses Schoenberg. In 1931, May became the largest Department store in Ohio and began expanding in the 1950’s into the Cleveland suburbs. In 1993, the May company closed its division due to the competition from the tower city center built in downtown Cleveland in 1990. Kauffmann’s then kept its name and as the only division left. (Kaufmanns ,a div.)
Kaufmanns was originally a store founded in Pittsburgh in 1871by Edgar J. Kaufmann, which was bought by the May company in 1946. It was one of seven department store s located in downtown Pittsburgh. Stores were located in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.
The flagship Kaufmann’s located in Pittsburg, PA is well recognized by the clock. It served as a meeting place which coined the phrase meet me under the Kaufmanns clock. Edgar j Kaufmann is also known for his home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright known as Fallingwater in Mill run, PA. This house is built on top of a waterfall and is one of the most famous houses of the twentieth century. (wiki)Kaufmanns is a large department store which sold everything from home textiles to apparel. The one that I always went to in South Euclid, OH was three floors and always had a great sale somewhere. The products themselves were of great quality too. I can remember always going in as a child to buy pantyhose and dresses for church. They also sold kitchen appliances such as blenders and mixers. There were plenty of things to get here. It proved to be a pretty upscale place compared to some department stores. But according to former shopper Jacqueline Watts, Kaufmanns just isn’t what it used to be.
“The Kaufmanns of today compared to what it used to be is like comparing old Navy to coach”. The product, the service and the overall experience was better in the Kaufmanns store when the May company was still in charge claimed Watts. She spoke of beg excited for the holidays to go to Kaufmann’s and see their extensive window displays. Between Kaufmanns and Bigsby’s (now known as Dillard’s ) , there was no competition. When the May company went out of business, the prices went down and unfortunately so did the overall experience. I always thought that this store was very nice but maybe Watts was on the right track considering Kaufmanns status today.
In 2006, Kaufmanns was sold to Macys. The customers in Pittsburg were pretty saddened to hear this due to the memorable Kaufmanns clock at the flagship store. Despite the newfound Macy’s store there are still some signs that say Kaufmanns and when the flagship turned to Macy’s t-shirts were made with the famous quote that said ‘meet me under the Kauffmann’s clock’. This action alone showed how much of an influence on consumers today. While it was sold many times from one company to the next, Kaufmanns is sill known as a memorable place to shop and enjoy the shopping experience.
Interview with Jacqueline Watts about Kauf.” Telephone interview. 27 Mar. 2009.
KAUFMANN’S, A DIVISION OF THE MAY DEPARTMENT STORES CO.” The encyclopedia of Cleveland History. 27 Mar. 1998. 29 Mar. 2009.
Kaufmann’s.” Wikipedia. 27 Mar. 2009