When people think of New York City’s famed Herald Square, one name in particular comes immediately to mind – Macy’s, of course. Its 110-year old flagship, billed almost from the start as “The World’s Largest Store”, has been a revered local fixture and a worldwide tourist draw for generations.Pictured here, in a photo dating from the 1974 Christmas season, are Macy’s next door neighbors at the time – arch-competitor Gimbels, whose rivalry with Macy’s was immortalized in comic fashion in the Christmas classic “Miracle on 34th Street” and E.J. Korvette, which opened there in 1967 and was known simply as “Korvettes” by the time this photo was taken.
Prior to Korvette’s tenure, the corner of 34th Street and Broadway was occupied by the Saks -34th Street department store. Saks & Company itself was taken over by Gimbels in 1923, and just after that opened their famous flagship store at 617 Fifth Avenue. The new Fifth Avenue location “present(ed) to New York a specialty store on a scale never before attempted in the selling of wearing apparel of the finer grade” (it was here the “Saks Fifth Avenue” name originated), while the 34th street Saks store would carry merchandise “along the (more modest) line which has characterized the Saks business”, according to an April 23, 1923 New York Times article.
In 1965, when the decision was made to close the Saks 34th Street store, E.J. Korvette, buoyed by the success of their own Fifth Avenue location, jumped at the chance to acquire the location. Korvette conceived it as a combination flagship store/corporate headquarters, a gleaming showplace with “eight selling floors, a selling basement, and a ninth floor for inventory purposes”, the Times reported in late 1965. Plans for the seven story office tower atop the store were already dropped by then, with zoning reasons cited, but by that time Korvette had already run into some trouble. The renovated building, as it appears here, opened on Halloween in 1967.
Operating under Gimbels’ ownership, the two buildings were actually connected by a two-story bridge for over forty years, crossing 33rd Street and connecting the second and third floors of each. Initially, there was some thought given to maintaining the bridge after the turnover of the Saks building to Korvette, but it ended up being torn down in April 1966. “We saw no special purpose in continuing the bridge, a Korvette executive told a Times reporter, while his counterpart at Gimbels said “My own feeling is that a bridge connecting competitors just makes no sense”.Korvette would be gone at the end of 1980 and Gimbels six years after that, but on this date, decked out in Christmas garb, they certainly looked nice side-by-side.
My sincere to thanks to Vincent Stoessel for the use of this photo, taken by his father.