Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas "On The Square" at S. Klein!

So to speak, that is. Regardless of location, S. Klein stores were always “on the square”, even if they were in a mall, a shopping center, or the middle of a field. It was an integral part of the name, dating back to the opening of their famous flagship store on New York City’s Union Square. An engineering square (barely visible below the “L” in the sign) served as a company logo of sorts for years.

Founded in 1906 as a wholesale manufacturer of women’s garments by Samuel Klein, a tailor’s son who emigrated from Russia at the age of five, S. Klein on the Square had evolved into a “full line” store by the early 60’s. They staked out the rarefied territory between department store and discounter, in a similar vein to E.J. Korvette and Alexander’s. Although Klein would eventually carry everything from furniture to food, the emphasis remained on fashion, for women in particular. In 1966, they were acquired by McCrory Corporation, assuming the role of high-end counterpart to McCrory’s Lerner Shops division and their growing stable of variety stores. Sadly, Klein was another in a long list of 70’s recession casualties, gradually closing stores in the early part of the decade and gone altogether by its end.

But times were good when the photo above, showing the Woodbridge, New Jersey location in one of its first Christmas selling seasons, was taken. This store opened on November 11, 1963 (a few weeks after the opening of a lookalike Klein unit in Greenbelt, Maryland), causing “jammed traffic for more than three miles in both directions on Route 1”, with some customers walking a half mile to the store, the next day’s New York Times stated. At a massive 360,000 square feet with parking for 4,000 cars, the Woodbridge store was Klein’s top selling location by 1970.

A little snow would have made this the perfect scene, but I’ll bet that parking lot was a bear as it was!

6 comments:

  1. Bye, bye baby
    remember you're my baby
    when they give you the eye,
    and just to show that I care
    I will write and declare
    that I'm on the loose
    but I'm still on the square.

    GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES


    Merry Christmas!

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  2. We had a Klein's in Yonkers NY where I lived, and also a huge one in the Bronx. I remember buying parakeets there when I was very young in the early 60's. Nice article!

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    1. Where was Klein's in the Bronx? I grew up in the Bronx in the '60s shopping at Klein's in Yonkers.

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  3. Paul – Perfect lyric for the occasion - that’s one movie I really need to watch one of these days! Hope you had a great Christmas.

    Laurie – Thanks very much! I look forward to digging deeper into Klein’s history for future posts.

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  4. The Yonkers store, which predated this by a few years, had parking on the roof -- or at least, on a level that allowed you to enter via a staircase that actually went DOWN to the top floor -- due to its location built into a hillside. Also had the greenhouse as seen here. It later became a Bradlees, and is now subdivided into a number of stores.

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    1. Jeff!

      Gosh, these were gigantic stores! Unusual for stores of this type to be built on a grade like that. Was this near Cross Country Shopping Center? Always good to learn more about S. Klein!

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