Cleveland December 08, 2021
by Nikki Rhoades 12 Photos Showcasing The Era Of Cleveland’s Department Store Empire
Back in the day, window shopping came with a certain sort of excitement. Trips to Downtown Cleveland or the heart of its suburbs included bundling up to stave off that Lake Erie breeze, then visiting a number of department stores for clothing, housewares, gifts, and more. At that time, Downtown Cleveland’s department stores made up one of the largest retail districts in the nation. Of course, by the turn of the century, most of these stores existed only in memory. Take a trip back in time with these photos from Greater Cleveland’s shopping scene of yesteryear:
1. The May Company's Euclid Avenue store, 1924
The May Department Stores Company is now Macy's, thanks to a 2005 merge with Federated Department Stores. While it was founded in Denver, the Cleveland storefront was one of its first.
2. The furniture department on Higbee's seventh floor, 1931
Clevelanders may be surprised to learn that "does Higbee's exist?" is a question commonly searched on Google. Thanks to
A Christmas Story,
this regional department store now has international fame. Nowadays, it has been rebranded as Dillard's, but Higbee's has a long-standing history. It was locally founded in 1860 and operated under the Higbee's name until 1992.
3. A musical performance at William Taylor Department Store, 1934
William Taylor & Son building
still stands in Cleveland, but it enjoys a quiet residential life nowadays. However, it was once filled with excitement when it served as a department store. It was originally founded in 1870, and it featured all sorts of glamorous British goods. Eventually, it was acquired by The May Company, which shifted its focus to lower-middle-class customers. Though it was loved, it closed its doors in the 1960s.
4. The Children's Book Room at the Berea Higbee Department Store, 1937
Back in the day, it wasn't uncommon to find uniquely decorated rooms in department stores. The Halle Bros. had a hospital room in their store, as well as a Japanese tea room. Higbee's had a more child-friendly approach, however, when it designed this fun room.
5. A fun indoor carousel at Sterling-Lindner-Davis, 1949
Speaking of child-friendly, how fun is this merry-go-round?! Though it closed in 1968, locals fondly remember the Sterling-Lindner Co. store. It got its start in 1845 and eventually became famous for having the largest Christmas tree in the state.
6. Employees working hard (or hardly working?) in William Taylor Department Store, 1961
It's only natural that these workers are goofing off. This photo was snapped in May, but by December, Taylor's closed its doors.
7. Halle's at Southland, 1957
When Halle Brothers Co. was founded in 1891, its owners likely didn't imagine that it would be successful enough to operate for nearly a century. However, it was the first of Cleveland's massive department stores to set its sights on the suburbs. It also attempted to fight competing businesses by renting buses to provide free transportation to Downtown Cleveland shoppers. The company closed its doors in the 1980s, much to the chagrin of local shoppers.
8. Winkelman's Southgate store grand opening. 1959
When this store opened, it was the second local store to cater directly to women. Upon opening, it felt modern and chic. Winkelman's is long gone nowadays, however. They declared bankruptcy in 1998.
9. The Mayfield Heights Bailey's closing sale, 1967
Inspired by the success of other local department stores,
opened in the 1870s with a prosperous dream. It became a real department store circa 1899, and it enjoyed a broad appeal. However, economic changes and a suburban shift eventually led to its downfall, as is true with so many other Cleveland department stores. It closed in 1961, but reopened again in 1962 when demand for its goods remained consistent. Sadly, times had changed, and Bailey's wasn't fully prepared to cater to a new generation of customers. It closed for good after declaring bankruptcy in 1968.
10. The wild Christmas clearance sale at May Co., 1967
Do you remember opening gifts back in 1968? You may have very well been unwrapping half-price paper from this 1967 sale.
11. An unforgettable view of Bond Department Store, 1978
The Bond store brought architectural style to Cleveland. The storefront was originally conceived as an advertising tool, as it was modern, chic, and attention-grabbing. While it prospered upon its debut in the 1930s, it was demolished not long after this photo was snapped.
12. B.R. Baker showcasing men's fashion in its windows, date unknown
"Through these doors pass Cleveland's best-dressed men!" declared old B.R. Baker ads. The B.R. Baker company was organized in 1892, and the Cleveland location was considered to be one of the largest and finest men's fashion stores. Despite this reputation, the store, like the others listed here, is but a fleeting memory in Cleveland.
Downtown Cleveland’s department stores are gone but not forgotten. Which was your favorite to shop at? Share your thoughts and memories in the comments!
Want to keep traveling down memory lane? Check out even more
photos of long-gone department stores for an added dose of nostalgia.
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