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RIP, Foley’s department stores

Another piece of Houston history is biting the dust.

Houston’s most famous homegrown retail name is officially disappearing.

Federated Department Stores announced Thursday that 330 of the stores it’s acquiring in its $11 billion purchase of May Department Stores Co. will be renamed Macy’s in 2006. That includes 69 Foley’s.

Federated also will close 68 “duplicate” locations, starting in 2006, including the Houston Galleria Macy’s, which shares the mall with a Foley’s. Macy’s will move into the Foley’s space, which is newer than the current Macy’s location and in a more highly trafficked spot.

[…]

The first Foley’s, Foley Brothers Dry Goods Co., opened near Buffalo Bayou in 1900 and carried calico, lace, linen and furnishings. Twenty-two years later it was Houston’s biggest department store.

[…]

Throughout its life, Foley’s has been an integral part of the Houston community.

“The president of Foley’s was somebody and had great civic responsibility,” said Ray Miller, a longtime newsman who has chronicled Houston’s history. “Foley’s wasn’t just a business, it was a way of doing business. It had character.” Decades ago, during the holiday season, he recalled, “nobody else decorated their windows like Foley’s.”

Pity. I know department stores are basically dinosaurs, but at least the older ones have a character and history that the big box retailers will never come close to. And it’s just sad to see them slowly die off like this. I still remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth that accompanied Dillard’s buyout and closure of Joske’s in San Antonio back in 1987. The signature downtown store is still there, but it just ain’t the same.

The takeover is also creating a big hole at the Galleria.

Federated Department Stores said Thursday that the Foley’s store there will become a Macy’s, as it drops the Foley’s brand, leaving the old Macy’s location empty.

This switch, prompted by the merger of Federated and May Department Stores Co., which owns Foley’s, will occur in 2006. It will be the second big loss for the Galleria of late. Lord & Taylor closed its store there in January.

While mall manager Simon Property Group won’t yet say what will be done with the 256,000-square-foot Macy’s space, real estate experts say the possibilities could include movie theaters, outdoor shops or even high-rise apartments.

The one thing that seems least likely is another department store.

Apartments would be a very interesting choice. There’s been a boomlet in high-end, mostly high-rise dwellings out that way, though mostly as standalone structures. I’m not sure how you’d make residential space work in such a crowded and heavily-trafficked place as that. Who knows, though, maybe the eventual light rail extension will be seen as an integral part of that equation. As long as the construction on the West Loop is finished by then I guess it could all make sense.

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28 Comments

  1. William Hughes says:

    Unfortunately, Federated is also doing this with one of the best stores in Philadelphia. Strawbridge’s is also becoming Macy’s except where one already exists in the same mall. Those stores will be sold off.

    Macy’s is becoming the Starbucks of department stores. At least it’s not as bad as what’s become of Nathan’s Famous in the Food Courts. 😉

  2. Ellen says:

    When the Federated takeover was announced, with its plan to convert many Foley’s to Macy’s, I grieved quietly. Foley’s is the one department store I’ve shopped consistently since childhood – when I moved to Boulder, I was so happy to find one downtown, partially because it made Colorado feel more like home. Macy’s is fine, but I don’t know the layout, there are no Red Apple sales, etc. I’m going to grieve a little louder as the change approaches.

    And, while I realized Lord & Taylor had been closing stores, I didn’t know the Galleria was one of them. I loved that store – it was my favorite place to buy suits for work. I wish I had gone there one last time.

  3. alkali says:

    New England is also losing the Filene’s name for the same reason.

    Query whether the Macy’s national brand name is really more valuable than the aggregate value of the local brand names. I assume that Federated has made that judgment but it strikes me as an arguable question. I’m not particularly sentimental about such things, but some people are.

  4. Linkmeister says:

    And Robinson-May in California. May started his stores in Denver in the late 1800s; it’s a shame to see that name go down.

    Macy’s had already taken over Liberty House out here in Hawai’i. It had been here since about 1930 or so.

  5. bill says:

    I used to shop the downtown Houston’s Foleys before I moved to Dallas just in time for Sanger’s to close. But a long time ago I noticed that all the department stores in a mall seemed to have the exact same merchandise, whether it was named Dillards, Foleys or Macy’s.

  6. Sue says:

    I shopped at Macy’s a lot when we lived in California and, before I found the one at the Galleria, I learned to love Foley’s in just the same way. I’ve been to the downtown Foley’s on several occasions and enjoy wandering through it. I hope Federated will keep it open. Every downtown should have a big department store like that.

    Macy’s actually has two department store locations in one of the malls in San Jose (at least it did before we moved). Valley Fair is pretty comparable to Memorial City Mall; it has a Macy’s for women and a Macy’s that sells men’s stuff and home furnishings. When I heard the original announcement about Federated buying Foley’s, I was hoping that’d be what would happen at the Galleria.

  7. Sue says:

    Oh, and the Lord & Taylor’s at Memorial City Mall closed a couple months ago. Very quietly. No closing sale. And, from what I heard from a mall employee, no announcement to the employees, either. They closed one night and didn’t open the next morning.

  8. Richard says:

    It is amazing what has happened to retail in the last 20 years. Houston lost Joske’s, Sakowitz, Walter Pye’s, Frost Bros., Craig’s, Everitt-Buelow, Battelstein’s, Isabell Gerhart and now Foley’s. We will have no regional, home based department store any longer. California lost I.Magnin, Bullock’s, Bullocks-Wilshire, The Broadway, Emporium, Weinstock’s and Harris’just to name a few. That doesn’t include Bonwit Teller, B Altman, Abraham & Strauss, Rich’s, Burdine’s, Jordan Marsh and on and on it goes.
    It used to be special to have each region with its unique stores, banks and restaurants. However, I am afraid we are rapidly moving toward a cookie cutter world for the sake of the almighty dollar. Some things are worth more than money.

  9. DEE says:

    We are hearing a lot of talk about how we hate to see the Foley’s name go away. Why not start a mail-in campaign to Federated corporate about the history or Foleys and its presence and our desire to maintain the name (Even if we have to share the names w/Macy’s (i.e. FOLEY’S/MACY’S). I under-stand it worked with Lord & Taylor. Their name will be maintained on the stores in other parts of the country where they are going to remain open – all due to a massive write in campaign.Federated CEO, Pres, Chairman is Terry J.
    Lundgren. I have not been able to get an e-mail address – anybody have any ideas?…LET’S SAVE FOLEY’S ! ! !

  10. richard says:

    I agree with Dee. Take a look at keepitfields.org. Chicagoans are fighting to keep the marshall fields name. I have not heard of any houstonians making an effort to keep the last hometown store from fading into oblivion. SAVE FOLEY’S

  11. Richard says:

    I just found info on Federated:

    Mr. Terry J. Lundgren
    Chairman, President and CEO
    Federated Department Stores, Inc.
    7 West Seventh St.
    Cincinnati, OH 45202

    Mary Ann Shawmeker
    Operating VP, Corporate Communications
    Federated Department Stores, Inc.
    7 West Seventh St.
    Cincinnati, OH 45202

    Federated main switchboard: 513-579-7000

    Jean Coggan, Mgr of Community and Public Relations: 513-579-7315

  12. Tess Glowacki says:

    I’m physically sick!! Too sick to have any suggestions. I agree that we should do something, and I will support keeping the Foley’s name on the store. I have never been impressed with Macy’s!! I shop at Foley’s in Dallas, TX.

  13. P. Garrett says:

    We have the same sad situation with Federated in Southern California. Our Westfield Mall here in Palm Desert CA will no longer have Robinson’s May, only Macy’s. After it is gone there will not be one store left that is comparable to Macy’s. Robinson’s May was the last one. The only major stores at Westfield Mall will be Macy’s, J.C. Pennys and Sear’s. I like mid to high end merchandise so now my only option is Macy’s. A large percentage of their merchandise, clothing, bedding, towels, etc. they sell under their own Charter Club label. I haven’t bought this merchandise because I personally feel that for the most part, the quality is not as good as most of the brand name merchandise. Guess what merchandise they are going to be promoting? This could mean less everything for the brand names. The bottom line is, Macy’s was allowed to buy out the only competitor that it had here on the West Coast. It looks like the FTC is asleep at the wheel or worse and no one seems to be paying attention. Not only are consumers going to be the losers but what about all of the people that are going to be out of jobs. Am I the only one that has a problem with this buy out? When asked, people don’t seem to be aware of what is going on. When this transition actually takes place, Spring 2006, people are going to wake up and say, hey, what happened. I spoke to people at several newspapers about the situation recently and they said, “we wrote two stories about that buy out months ago.” “Old news!” I said that there are still stories about this that are out there. What about the human aspect? How is this going to affect people’s lives? The message I got from the two newspapers was, they weren’t interested in writing anything more on the subject. As far as they were concerned, it’s a done
    deal, end of story! I just got finished submitting an official complaint with the FTC and I still have hope that justice will prevail. End of story? I don’t think so!

  14. F. Larue says:

    I very recently heard the news of Macy’s buying out Foley’s here in Houston, TX. I got a nervous feeling in my stomach. I mean I literally felt sick! If I can recall correctly, Macy’s is a high end merchandise with high end prices type of store. However, my wallet will only allow for a low to mid end budget which shopping at Foley’s usually fit into perfectly. Foley’s has the “Red Apple Sales” two to three times a month which will be missed immensely. I have two hopes for this transition, first, the current employees at Foley’s will be able to keep their jobs in the changeover and secondly, when the name has changed and the transition is effective the prices will remain the same as Foley’s has been able to provide to its customers.

  15. Gloria Stalarow says:

    My name is Gloria and I know for a fact that what Ray Miller said about Foley’s Downtown Christmas windows is correct.My father’s name was Marvin Stalarow and he was Foley’s display director who was directly resposible for those beautiful windows.I am proud that people are still talking about what my father took great pride in doing,He also created the first Foley’s Thanksgiving Day parade.Good memories as a child,pride as an adult.Things will never be the same for Houston as far as retail goes again.

  16. Lasker M.Meyer says:

    Like many of you I regret seeing the Foley’s name and what it stood for leaving the Houston scene. We should not forget, however, that the Foley’s post 1989 when it was bought by May Co. from the then bankrupt Federated was not the same as the Foley’s we all knew pre-May Co. I recognize the reason Federated is changing the name to Macy’s, but disagree with the decision to do away with local corporate management and buying and have it all done from Atlanta. Foley’s is large enough to support it’s own organization.

    Lasker M. Meyer, ex Foley CEO 1982-1987

  17. Richard says:

    Mr Myer,

    I am so pleased to hear from you. I worked for Foley’s Greenspoint in 1984 and 1985 while in high school (for the men’s clubhouse). My sister worked in Fine Jewelry and my brother in records and tapes/drugs. You are so correct. Foley’s pre-May was what I cherished. They were a completely different organization and treated their employees like a family. The company was caring about their customers as well. I still remember the Christmas commercials where the actress would wish everyone a Merry Christmas without pushing/advertising any merchandise. Foley’s cared about the community. My brother and I wondered what had happened to you. We always had a great deal of respect for you.

  18. VMD says:

    For all of the nashing of teeth I hear over the “death” of Foley’s makes me chuckle….
    Foley’s in truth has been “dead” for years. May Company sucked the life out of the brand years ago. This was after Campeau swindled it away from Federated.Campeau, in a real estate coup, sold the brand to May Company. Believe me, they were not the same. I’ve worked for all of these brands.
    Now Federated you’ll recall swallowed up Sanger-Harris, rolling it into Foley’s, back when Foley’s and Sanger Harris were all owned by Federated.
    So what you are bemoaning has been going on for years….Frankly, I am glad to see May Company go away. They were not very good people to work for, or with.
    And as for all of those wonderful people who created those wonderful windows and displays in those wonderful years gone by???
    Many were shown the door after years of service….and more than a few were let go just months before thier full pensions would have been vested. I know….I was there.
    And Macy’s? Remember when they rollicked into town for the first time back in the early eighties? They were going to teach all of us dumb Texas hicks how to run a store….And run they did….into the ground. Anyone remember the Houston Macy’s stores circa 1992? The dirt, the filth, the run-down facilities….the famous “Cellars” boarded up and blocked of with foamcore barricades? …Only to declare bancruptcy a decade later???
    So Federated rescued Macy’s…and here we come full circle.
    Department stores all look the same, sell the same shoddy crap, and are ruled by the bean counters. I was lucky enough to be there for some of thier last few grand glorious days….and quite frankly could care less if they boarded up all of thier doors. They have outlived thier usefulness, and deserve a merciful death….not this long, lingering demise they are going through.

  19. Richard says:

    VMD,

    I couldn’t agree with you more regarding May Company. I worked for Foley’s pre-May and post-May. They were totally different after the take over. They canned the Thanksgiving Day parade and converted Foley’s to a cookie cutter of all their other stores. It no longer had its personality or the committment to the community or employees. Unfortunately, that is what has occurred all over America. Did you work for Foley’s? Do you remember the old Federated stores like Bullock’s Wilshire, I.Magnin, Rich’s etc? They were top notch. The golden age of the department store is definitely gone.

  20. P. Garrett says:

    I agree with what everyone has written,
    how great things used to be. I remember
    because I was in management with Bullock’s
    Westwood in Southern California in the 70’s.
    Yes, those were the good old days.
    What is bothering me besides missing the good
    old days is people are just not seeing the
    big picture. Here in our country as one company
    or corporation gobbles up another one we are
    left with fewer and fewer choices. I can’t
    understand why people sit back and accept this.
    After all, we have laws on the books to prevent
    this from happening.
    It is not just department stores. It is happening
    with oil companies, banks, communications, so
    many other areas. All of these mergers are leading
    to monopolies or very close to monopolies.
    Bottom line, fewer choices for us. Think about it.

  21. Rodney says:

    P. Garrett,

    I totally understand what you mean. I think about it all the time. I am in the Communications industry, and before long there will only be one or two carriers left. Remember back in 1984 when the Federal Government busted up the AT&T Bell System because they were a monopoly? “More competition is better for the consumer” they said back then.

    Look at today, now SBC (former Southwestern Bell) has just bought AT&T and along with it Pacific Bell, Illinois Bell, whatever the former Michigan Bell was and New England Bell among others. On the other side you have Verizon, which was GTE and New York Bell (Nynex), Bell Atlantic and now also buying MCI. So now we have come full circle and where is the Federal Government now? Why is it not considered a monopoly any longer? What will it take for them to stop the mergermania?

    In retail you now have one or two giants. Walmart–one of the worst contributors to the Chinese war machine and US deficit–and a bankrupt Kmart on the discount end and now it looks like mainly Federated on the upscale end.

    Hardware stores are also being wiped out in favor of the two retail giants Lowes and Home Depot.

    It looks like before too long consumers will have either no choice or maybe two choices in practically everything.

  22. Jackie Campbell Keahiolalo says:

    Mr. Meyer,
    My family (Campbell)used to live next door to you on Staunton & I wondered what happened to you when Foley’s changed hands. I come back to Texas once a year and have seen Foley’s decline over the years. What a shame-one of my favorite memories was taking the bus downtown to meet my grandmother for lunch at the downtown Foley’s.

  23. VMD says:

    Richard:

    I did indeed work for Foley’s both under Federated and May Company.
    With Federated I had mentors and people who took the time to train me in both art and skill….people I still look up to and thank for thier leadership.I learned invaluable lessons from these people who truely were leaders .
    Under May Co. I was taught how to cook the books, procure fake invoices for fiscal-year end book cooking, and how to document workers who were about retire, for firing, to avoid full pension benefits. In short….everything I despise in the way of ethics. They deserve to go away….It all becomes a matter of karma in the end.
    And yes…I do recall Bullocks, I. Magnin,Wooward and Lathrop, Strawbridge and Clothier, Lord and Taylor, (pre-May Co. thank-you) Marshall Fields,Abraham and Stauss, Sterns, Joskes, Sakowitz, Frost Brothers, Goldstien and Burdines…even Macy’s….when they stood for something. They were all great in their day.
    More’s the pity that they are gone…but they sealed their own fates by listening to the accountants instead of the customers….and now they are no more.
    Don’t look for me at the mall anytime soon…..

  24. bhb says:

    My mother and I always had our hair cut at Foley’s salon by a Mr. Peterson when I was growing up in the 1950’s. And we often had lunch at the Azalea Terrace?

    I also remember as a child anticipating the 9 flights of escalators that I would get to ride in this grand new store! And I recall my Grandmother, our families first Houstonian, still referring to it as Foley “Brothers” well into the 1960s.

    I haven’t heard that the downtown Foley’s will have a name change, but assume that it will.

    Sad.

  25. Virgie Franklin says:

    Gee,

    I haven’t lived in Houston for decades, grew up there.

    My Dad modeled suits for Foley Brothers
    Department Store, pre World War II.
    Mom says he was very well built. I’m still recovering from hearing my Mom
    speak of my Dad as being a hunk. She is 88 now, widowed for 26 years.

    We bought everything at Foley’s, clothes to appliances. It was the only store in town as far as my Dad was concerned.

    Two great icons of Houston, The downtown Public Library & Foley’s, remain as fond memories of childhood
    for me. Gee, we are all fading away.

    Thanks for the memories,
    V. Franklin

  26. Melissa Longoria says:

    I, also remember my early Teenage year’s working for Sanger Harris,in Dallas & Foley’s Downtown.

    It’s sadden me for the 2 major store’s that I, worked at for many year’s have gone, and will never come back.

    Foley’s Downtown especially because of it nestolgic feeling in the Christmas time.

    I, was so upset when Sanger Harris, was comverted into Foley’s aswell.

    I, don’t believe that changeing a name will make the differance, I, believe that Customer Service, is the key to Business.

    Regards
    MAL

  27. Sandra Cariker says:

    Foley’s was a part of my childhood and adulthood. My mother used to take me to Foley’s downtown (there was only one store then) for school clothes (we live in Nacogdoches, and it was a big thrill for this small-town girl. I’m very sad that the Foley’s name is gone.

  28. Paul Warner says:

    My first “real” job was working on the dock and in the stockrooms in 1973 at the age of 16 at the Memorial Mall Foley’s. I moved to Denver quite awhile back, and now the Foley’s up here have changed to Macy’s just recently. Of course, they repaced May D&F, and The Denver department stores. Their downtown stores are now gone or are condos. Funny to think back, but I can clearly recall Mother taking me to get my first suit over 40 years ago at the Sakowitz on Post Oak.

    Times change of course. Our kids and grandkids will have thier own shopping memories. Sadly, I think they will be different. Far less personal and much more cold.