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Farewell to Hecht's, DC's Last Hometown Department Store

Next week, the last local name in department stores vanishes from the Washington area. The death of Hecht's, following by a decade the demise of Woodie's and before that Garfinckel's, Raleigh's and Kann's, tells us not only about the diminished role that department stores play in American lives, but about the decline of the large family businesses that once formed the bedrock of local community and identity all across the land.

Hecht's was named for a Baltimore family whose expansion into Washington was the move that made their store a true regional powerhouse. But Hecht's has not been locally owned since the May chain bought it in 1959. Only the name remained from the original store. (Believe it or not, there was once a time in Washington when you could get a a blue shopping charge plate that was good for purchases at Woodies, Hecht's, Garfinckel's, Lansburgh's and Raleigh's.

Still, the decision by Federated Stores to eliminate the name of Hecht's and convert most of those stores into Macy's--the one in Chevy Chase will become a Bloomingdale's, which is about as far from the idea of Hecht's as you can get and which represents a massive misreading of who actually lives near and shops in the Friendship Heights corridor--is just about the last big goodbye in a long series of losses of local retail names.

The department stores are by no means the only family businesses to vanish since we entered the era of corporate consolidation and the hegemony of national chains. Just as Hechinger hardware fell to Home Depot and Peoples Drug was swallowed up by CVS, local banks are largely a thing of the past. Chevy Chase Bank survives, but Riggs is gone, replaced by a bank named after Pittsburgh. American Security Bank wasn't so secure. Perpetual turned out not to be.

What local names remain belong mainly to car dealers (Rosenthal, Ourisman, Koons, Lustine, Cherner, Brown), real estate developers and construction companies (Long & Foster, Charles E. Smith, Carr, Lerner, Cafritz, Clark) and law firms. And it's easy to imagine both the car business and the legal game to evolve much more dramatically in the direction of national chains, making local names history in those industries as well.

A few thriving national corporate behemoths are also local names that made it big across the country, including Marriott and Mars.

But few sizable businesses take on family names anymore. Even in the rare instances when businesses start out as family endeavors, their ultimate goal is often to attract enough investor interest to sell out or go public, at which point the family may well fade from the scene.

So instead of family names, we get acronyms and the kind of meaningless, bland names that are ginned up by corporate name consultants--names in which random letters are capitalized in the middle of a word, or letters are used in ways that would give English teachers palpitations (Q without a U, Q as a final letter, K where CH is normally used, and so on.)

Locally-named utitlies started to vanish a couple of decades ago: The phone company, C&P (Chesapeake and Potomac), became Bell Atlantic and then disappeared into some placeless corporate gobbledygook. My phone service now comes from something called RCN, whose corporate origins are as much a mystery as the acronym's actual meaning. We still have Pepco (Potomac Electric Power Company), but that's something of a rarity these days.

Not many tears are being shed for the loss of Hecht's. This vanishing is nothing like the outpouring of emotion that accompanies the loss of Woodies in 1995, but that's to be expected since Hecht's has been under the thumb of a faceless national chain for nearly half a century.

When Woodies died, there were going-away parties for the employees and their families. Many workers were multi-decade veterans. At Landmark Mall, according to a Post account from '95, the deejay at the farewell party played "Take This Job and Shove It" and then announced that the bosses had gifts for all who had worked at Woodies for six years or longer: The workers received white shoe boxes packed with crystal teardrops, which turned out to be pieces of the glorious chandelier that welcomed customers onto the main floor of the store.

There are no chandeliers in the new stores. There will be no big emotional parties this week. Hecht's will vanish; the name may live on only as a landmark that traffic reporters use to describe the backups on New York Avenue NE ("...delays to the Hecht Company warehouse...") And the march toward a retail landscape of sameness will continue apace.

By Marc Fisher |  August 31, 2006; 8:14 AM ET
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Comments

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You mentioned the conversion of the Friendship Heights Hecht's into a Bloomingdale's. What's happening to the Wheaton Hecht's? Since there was already a Macy's (a very small and poorly stocked store compared to Hecht's) in Wheaton, Federated closed the Hecht's store, and the space is now vacant. A few months ago, we were told that Federated would have to sell the space to a department store chain owned by someone else. Any news on who that will be and when they will move in?

Posted by: Richard | August 31, 2006 8:59 AM

Marc,

I was with you right up to that last sentence, about "retail sameness."

Retail is one of the most competitive spaces we have and new entrants are springing up every day with new twists to displace those (like Hechts, Woodies, Hechinger, Gap) who can't keep pace with consumers' changing tastes. You may not be going to stores like Hot Topics, Claire's, Zumiez, Urban Outfitters, but if you did I don't think you'd see "sameness" among them except that they're all chains and all might not be here in two years if they don't continue to innovate.

And, why don't you think Bloomies will do well in Chevy Chase? Looking at all the new stores around it, it seems too downscale, if anything. They're going to rake it in, and bring customers to the other high-end retailers nearby.

Posted by: Kalorama Kat | August 31, 2006 9:05 AM

The times, they are a changin.

Posted by: Bob Dylan | August 31, 2006 9:09 AM

My mother is almost relieved, in a way, to see Hecht's go. Not because of anything to do with the store per se. Anyone remember the Washington Shopping Plate? It was an early charge card that could be used at various DC-area stores, all of which are gone with the sole exception of Hecht's. The card is still valid (for a few more days), but most of the cashiers nowadays are so young that they've never seen one before....until my father goes to Hecht's, that is. Inevitably a manager must be called to confirm that yes, they do accept that thing. I think my father likes to use it just to be a bit of a bug. Anyway, starting next week my mother will be relieved not to have to go through that anymore, but the demise of the Washington Shopping Plate will be one more piece of Washington history consigned to the scrap heap.

Posted by: Rich | August 31, 2006 9:10 AM

Although Hecht's has been owned by May Company for a very long time, it was still distinct in its merchandise from other department stores. As the downtown and my local Hecht's have begun their shift in preparation for this change, I note that their selection is different and much smaller. It is certainly true that the absorption of local stores by these national and international companies drastically reduces options for the consumers. It's a shame too. I really do not like Macy's.

I'm grateful that J.C. Penney's has remade itself over the last few years into a store with high quality and a large selection of merchandise. I think that's where I'll be shopping from now on.

Posted by: Cathy | August 31, 2006 9:44 AM

I think what Marc is talking about as retail sameness is that every mall has the same set of stores as every other mall, more or less. It's sort of like cable TV, profusion without real variety. While we're geezin' out, anybody remember the time before Exxon was Exxon? Their gas was sold under three different names in different areas- Enco, Esso, and Humble. Same gas, same logo, same slogans, different names.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | August 31, 2006 9:51 AM

As a native Midwesterner whose nearest proper city growing up was Chicago, I was appalled when Macy's removed the Marshall Field name from the original Chicago store. It's one thing to have a corporate buyout, but when a multi-state landmark, a piece of Chicago history, is deliberately renamed by a New York company, it's disgusting and just appears to show that New York doesn't care that there are other cities with important retail histories of their own.

Yes, I'm bitter, and Macy's isn't getting any of my money. It's the principle of the thing.

Posted by: MB | August 31, 2006 9:51 AM

As much as I prefer to see local businesses in our neighborhoods, I won't mourn for Hechts. Each time I shopped there over the last decade, the place was disorganized, the fitting rooms messy, and a saleslady to help you? Nonexistent. I'm not being good-old-days nostalgic here -- I'm 30 years old, after all -- just simple matter-of-fact. Certain stores have their act together; others don't. It's sad when a local place doesn't take its customer seriously enough, and dies in the process.

Posted by: Alice | August 31, 2006 9:53 AM

I must disagree with Kalorama Kat's assessment that stores like Hechts, Woodies, Hechinger, Gap don't keep pace with consumers changing tastes. Woodies and Hechinger fell prey to the big machine like companies taking them over. Hecht's has/had a number of brand names and prices that appealed to everyone. I could go to that store, buy a house dress for my grandmother, a business suit for my mother, and separates for me, all at a reasonable price with a coupon to boot. I loved the Ideology brand at Hechts and find their prices cheaper than the comparable INC brand at Macy's. I am not a fan of Macy's, and I do not expect to automatically transfer my Hecht's dollars there (no matter how many glossy ads they send). Macy's price point is slightly higher than Hecht's. and they push their credit card by offereing 15% if you have their credit card. No thanks. That's the last thing I need in my wallet, more plastic. As a matter of fact, I am starting to "up" my shopping to Nordstrom. If I'm going to pay the money, I want to get excellent service.

Posted by: Mai in Washington, DC | August 31, 2006 9:53 AM

Have you been in a Hecht's in the past few years---Poor merchandise, poor service, not much going for it. It died a long time ago.

Posted by: mart | August 31, 2006 10:14 AM

I remember the Washington shopping plate! My mom used to use it when we'd shop for back-to-school clothes at the now long-gone Hecht's in downtown Silver Spring. It looked a bit odd even 25 years ago compared to everyone else's Visa & Mastercards (or Mastercharge, then). The Baltimore area will also miss Hecht's - it too is the last of many old-line local department stores there.

Posted by: Marc | August 31, 2006 10:20 AM

I believe the former Hecht's location in the Wheaton Mall is going to become the home of a Giant grocery store

Posted by: Stephanie | August 31, 2006 10:28 AM

I will not shed a tear for Hecht's. Their Prince George's county stores were a scandal and a shame, as my grandmother would say. They were always poorly stocked and messy w/ personnel that acted like you were intruding on their day when you asked for help. Macy's also had better coupons, sales, doorbuster events, and merchandise selection in their stores throughout the area. Good riddance to a poorly run business.

Thanks for reminding me of the Washington Shopping Plate. It brought back great memories of shopping w/ my mother as a little girl. I did not get the comment suggesting that Bloomingdale's would not be appropriate for Friendship Heights. It seems perfect for that location.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2006 10:36 AM

The Washington Shopping Plate was called Preferred when I got mine in 1982, but it was still blue. After Garfinckel's and Raleigh's closed, Hecht's and Woodies sent me their own credit cards but they kept the same account number. For shopping, I liked Woodies best, though by the time it closed it didn't seem much different from Hecht's, which in turn has not seemed much different from Macy's. I agree that something has been lost as time marches on, but there are a lot of factors involved and it all seems sort of inevitable.

Giant is still here as an original name, even though the family is no longer involved -- but I wonder what will happen to them as it doesn't seem to be working out for Ahold as well as they must have expected.

Posted by: Cosmo | August 31, 2006 10:39 AM

Marc: "a massive misreading of who actually lives near and shops in the Friendship Heights corridor"?

Have you not been through Gucci Gulch lately? Bloomingdale will practically be the low-rent district.

Posted by: Anon | August 31, 2006 10:51 AM

I still miss Woodies(downtown and Wheaton Plaza)with its quality clothes, nice looking stores, and reasonable prices. Hecht's was never as nice and stuffed too much picked over junk in with the quality stuff. I think Bloomingdales will do well in Friendship Heights. They've got hot current outfits that the kids will like and some quality clothes for both men and women. What I miss most is having "my place" to go to whether it was for play, work, a gift, or just a distraction. I miss being able to go to the places where I shopped with my mother (sadly now deceased). I miss the tradition, the comfort, and the familiarity.
But all this talk of tradition reminds me of something else. I once reminisced to a friend about the great old downtown Garfinkles and how I loved going there for the Winter Holidays as a kid. She stopped me cold when she told me that she and her mother weren't allowed to shop there when she was a kid because they were black. After that, I didn't really miss the place so much after all.

Posted by: memories (good and bad) | August 31, 2006 10:52 AM

Ha! I'm only 21, but my mom's lived in DC since the day she was born and whenever she used to take me to that Hecht's in Chevy Chase she'd tell me about the Washington Shopping Plate.

The death of the local business is indeed a sad thing, even if the business has long since lost a lot of its relevancy, like Hecht's. My grandpa still mistakenly calls CVS "People's" all the time, haha.

Posted by: Sarah | August 31, 2006 10:52 AM

I received my Blue Card in early 1973. Just last week while going through a drawer, I found it again. I will hold on to it and remember the fine service that the stores gave back then. I agree with several other posters who remarked on the state of disorganization in Hechts. The dressing rooms are a disgrace. Merchandise is often thrown on the floors. I expect that Macy's will do better. At least I hope so...

Posted by: pkp | August 31, 2006 10:55 AM

Yes, Hecht's was disorganized, and you had to grab salespeople by the collar the second you spotted them and drag them around with you if you wanted to be assured of an open register when the time came to pay, but there were some real finds if you were willing to dig a bit. I haven't done nearly as well in my (admittedly limited) experience with Macy's, and I don't expect to after they take over. If Lord & Taylor's goes, too, I'm really going to be out of luck.

Despite my dislike for Bloomingdale's, I can't figure out why Marc doesn't think it will work in Chevy Chase, either. Is it that the area needs something a little more balanced between Saks/Neiman Marcus and Filene's?

Posted by: fs | August 31, 2006 11:01 AM

Shopping is not fun anymore!

As a native New Yorker, I have seen the demise of various well-known and well-loved department store chains like B Altman's, Gimbels, A&S and Martins. Like Woodies, Garfinkels and Raleigh's, there was something about these stores--the hardwood floors, the chandeliers, the restaurants, and the sales staff, that made a day of shopping truly unique. Even if you only brought something small, going into these stores were such a treat. Now, shopping is reduced to Target, Walmart and Macy's...

Thank God for Norstroms and Neimans--they're expensive, but that's where my money will go!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2006 11:01 AM

Native NY'er here too, like the above commenter I have seen the same thing. No more A&S, Gimbels, Bonwit Teller, B. Altman, 2 Guys, Crazy Eddie's, Wanamaker, Bambergers, Hahne's, etc. There's probably a whole slew more that I could name if you gave me the rest of the day.

Subsuming other stores into the Macy's brand name is nothing new. This is what happened to Bambergers, which was Macy's corporate cousin for the longest time. I bet my mom still has that charge card too...

Really, this is survival of the fittest. 50 years from now, I would bet they'll be lamenting the loss of Wal-Mart too (well, maybe not but you know what I mean).

Posted by: Peter | August 31, 2006 11:37 AM

My comment about the fit between Bloomingdales and Friendship Heights seems to have mystified many, and I could well be off the mark here, but my bet is that that whole new high-end development in Chevy Chase will flop. The demographics of upper Northwest DC and the extreme southern end of MoCo certainly justify high-end stores coming in there, but numbers don't always describe a social group very well, and the self-image of much of the population of that area is more suited to the kinds of stores you see on Connecticut Avenue in DC Chevy Chase or in downtown Bethesda than to the high-fashion chains now entering Chevy Chase. At least, that's my reading of the area. The retailers will argue that their catchment area is much larger than the immediate neighborhoods, and that is certainly their goal, but I don't know that Chevy Chase is as easy to get to or park in as other shopping meccas in the region. We shall see.

Posted by: Fisher | August 31, 2006 11:44 AM

As KK mentioned above, retailers needs to be innovative. Traditional business attire has become so realxed that capris have replaced knee-length skirts and mix-and-match shirts and pants have replaced pant-suits. Retailers needs to keep up with the trends.

Posted by: Going Shopping | August 31, 2006 11:49 AM

I'll step up to defend Hecht's, even in its twilight. I got great service in the men's department at the Montgomery Mall store, and they are both less self-consciously hip and cheaper than freaking Macy's. I always felt comfortable shopping at Hecht's, in the same way I felt comfortably shopping at Woodies until it kicked the bucket. Maybe this is a ethereal intangible that only accrues to a store when you've been buying your back-to-school clothes and your work clothes there for 20-odd years, but Hecht's had it. Macy's doesn't have squat of it.

Posted by: Lindemann | August 31, 2006 11:53 AM

While we are remembering dear departed stores... Wanamaker's in Philadephia, now THAT was a department store! The huge statue of the eagle on the main floor ("meet me at the eagle!"), the organ concerts at lunchtime, and the Crystal Tea Room - where my grandfather and his 4 friends ate lunch at the same table for 40 years (well, maybe only in Philadelphia ...). Oh yes, I remember that blue shopping plate too!

Posted by: philllie | August 31, 2006 11:55 AM

I'll miss Hechts's and I'll learn to live with the name change, as I did with Peoples/CVS and Fresh Fields/Whole Foods, but I will NEVER refer to National airport as Reagan-anything.BTW, how many of you remember when BWI was known as Friendship airport?

Posted by: Jeff | August 31, 2006 12:24 PM

Mai,

I think the evidence that Hechts, Woodies, Hechinger couldn't keep pace with consumers' changing tastes is exactly the point you made: They "fell prey to the big machine like companies taking them over."

If they had been innovative, then they would have been the predator, not the prey. Why else do you think we shop at Home Depot, rather than Hechinger, and Macy's rather than Hechts or Woodies?

Posted by: Kalorama Kat | August 31, 2006 12:26 PM

MB,

There are plenty of reasons to hate New York (the Yankees come to mind), but the Macy's nameplate was a decision made in Cincinnati where Federated is located. I believe they chose Macy's because it is the most recognizable. You should probably blame Natalie Wood for being so cute.

Posted by: Washingtonian | August 31, 2006 12:55 PM

Yes, popular demand rules. But not all consumers have the same tastes. One problem with the homogenization of stores is that for those whose tastes or needs don't match the most popular, there are fewer places to go to do "one stop shopping." When I first entered the workforce, in downtown DC I could choose for shopping among Garfinkel's, Hecht's, Woodies, Lansburgh's, and Kann's, depending on what I needed. And then there were G. C. Murphy's, Kresge's, Neisners for a dime store presence in the F Street corridor. No more! And yes, I still have my Washington Shopping Plate, nice artifact!

As for Home Depot, would that I could reach one easily. Since I don't have a car, I rarely go there. The real problem with the shift to sububan big-box stores is that their accessibility is premised on everyone owning a car. The space requirements of big-box stores mean there is no substitute for such a store in the city or close-in suburbs, where commercial lots are small and expensive. I used to be able to take the Metro to the Sears and Hechinger's at Friendship Heights. Both are gone, now.

Posted by: Missing the old stores | August 31, 2006 12:56 PM

ok, I am no fan of Hechts or Macys (or any department store for the matter) but I gotta step up when I read that customers are complaining about messy fitting rooms. Be real people - its the customers who leave clothing in a heap on the floor and its the customers who leave make-up stains on all the white shirts. The fitting rooms at Nordstroms can be just as bad.

Do everyone a favor - take 30 seconds and hang up the clothes you try on before you leave the fitting room!

Posted by: former salesperson | August 31, 2006 1:13 PM

My mother always talks about how much she loved Woodies growing up because that's where her father worked for the longest time, so it still holds a special place in her heart, even now after its demise and my grandfather's passing. The loss of Hechts means too, that another link between my mother and her past will be lost, as Hechts took over employee accounts after Woodies closed. Yes; the past few years have not been kind to Hechts, but I know this Christmas we will get the wrapping paper and boxes down from the attic and see all those old Woodies and Hechts boxes we've saved over the years, and reflect on the past.

Posted by: Kim | August 31, 2006 1:13 PM

To Kim:

I just smiled when I read the bit about the boxes. I'm sure my Mom has some of those as well. And I remember my Mom's shopping plate as well - she can actually still remember the number!

Posted by: Chasmosaur | August 31, 2006 1:24 PM

I am surprised that none of these posts mentioned Raleigh's, other than to say it was one of the stores that accepted the Washington Shopper's Plate. I always enjoyed shopping for dress shirts and ties at the Connecticut Avenue store (which Filene's Basement now occupies). Raleigh's was such a part of the DC landscape that for years it had a large ad on page A3 of the Post--not cheap space. I think the chain was a victim of the move to business casual that killed off many of DCs better menswear stores in late 80s and early 90s.

Posted by: Jack | August 31, 2006 2:05 PM

"While we are remembering dear departed stores... Wanamaker's in Philadephia, now THAT was a department store! The huge statue of the eagle on the main floor ("meet me at the eagle!"), the organ concerts at lunchtime, and the Crystal Tea Room - where my grandfather and his 4 friends ate lunch at the same table for 40 years (well, maybe only in Philadelphia ...)."

I visited Philadelphia a few weeks ago for two Nationals games (I previously lived in Bucks County for nearly a decade) and noted that the Center City Wanamaker's, which to be fair hasn't had genuine glory since the late eighties, is now a...Macy's.

Well, at least Philly still has Strawbridge's (meet you at the boar), with its budget store off the SEPTA Market Street subway, and still has a downtown with department stores.

I grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., and fondly remember all the stores along South Salina Street -- Dey Brothers, Edwards, Chappell's, The Addis Co., Witherill's, Sibley's. All those companies have either gone under or been assimilated into other, larger national chains, and none are still downtown (the buildings have been converted into offices). If you want to shop at a department store in Syracuse, you go to the Carousel Center, a colossal, soulless mall north of downtown.

Posted by: Vincent | August 31, 2006 2:14 PM

peteson von mar (?spelling) in the midwest was nice to this hayseed, with all of the touches that you say Woodies had. I didn't move here until 8 years ago (thank god I bought a house upon arrival, or I would be in a cardboard box now) so only know these names when I read about them in the post, but 'one more piece of history consigned to the scrap heap" is a bit foward--it wasn't history UNTIL it closed. I liked Hecht's because it was cheap, but JCPenney, and Sears, up to a point, have done a lot to kill Hecht's. They both carry kids plus size clothes (take a look--some kids are a little chubby), while Hecht's didn't. That had to hurt their business. I shopped at the Wheaton Hecht's, and can say with some authority that there is not going to be a Giant in that space because there is a brand new one on the Macy's side of the mall (outside--btw, it is huge, like a warehouse, so budget some time to go).

As far as Nordstrom's goes, I haven't had much luck there. The last time I paid over 300 dollars for a DRESS was for my wedding! Thank god for Ann Taylor. JCPenney, a store that as a teen I abhored, is now my new first stop. Old Navy, etc. Nothing new under the sun, I guess.

There was a tiny, dirty and disorganized Ace hardware on Georgia Ave--a sliver in the wall. It closed down not long after I moved here. Innovation and giving the customer what they want (hello, Hecht's? Why don't you carry Origin, Shisuido, MAC?) are still alive and well at Target, in fact, they are in the business of getting me to buy things I didn't know I wanted! Go in with a list and stick to it!

Posted by: ts | August 31, 2006 2:14 PM

I'm looking out my window at the brand new black awnings being put on the Hecht's/Macy's downtown (G St.). Many of them read "Hecht's". A few read "Macy's". What gives?

Posted by: Downtown | August 31, 2006 2:17 PM

also, I remember when department stores like JCP sold groceries, and most storeshad a candy department with the pretty glass counters. If you ever go to Japan, you should go into one of their department stores. The entire basement is dedictated to food. Awesome. The entire top floor used to be a major kid playground--rides, games, etc., but I think that may be going the way of Hecht's, since nobody over there is apparently having children.

Posted by: ts | August 31, 2006 2:24 PM

Vincent, Strawbridge's is part of Federated Stores, too. I laughed the last time I was up there and the cashier put my purchase in a Hecht's bag because they'd run out of their own.

Posted by: fs | August 31, 2006 2:35 PM

The Hechts name on the new black awnings are on peelaway strips--I'm guessing "Macy's" is actually printed beneath. Makes for an easy exterior transition one night.

Posted by: dcgent | August 31, 2006 2:51 PM

TS mentioned shores with food and such in Japan; Harrod's in the UK is the same way - their flagship store in the Knightsbridge section of London is HUGE and has everything under the sun, including a butcher counter, fresh produce, a soda fountain, clothing, furniture, toys, etc.

Re Vincent's post about Wanamaker's and Strawbridge's: They were both bought out by May Company. Both actually became Hechts for awhile in eastern PA, but then they decided to go with the more local Strawbridge's name. Unfortunately, all Strawbridge's stores will now become Macy's. The mall near my parents' home in PA is one of those that is losing a department store due to the merger because the mall had Penney's, Strawbridge's, and Macy's. For those of us with middle-class pocket books, all I can say is "Bye-bye Strawbridge's/Hecht's (or Kaufman's, with was the Pittsburgh equivalent) and hello ???" because Macy's is over priced for what you get.

Posted by: mdpagirl | August 31, 2006 3:00 PM

I too mourn the passing of family-owned department stores. I grew up in central Virginia and I remember shopping at Miller & Rhoads, Leggett, Heironimus, and Thalheimers. Those were the days! I'm 36 years old, so I'm not exactly ancient yet. I just hate the lack of service in most stores today. I can't really afford much at Nordstrom, but that's probably where I will shop from now on.

Posted by: nostalgic | August 31, 2006 3:02 PM

There is definitely a difference between reminicising about the good old days of patronizing long-gone local businesses and fetishizing them. Post staffers bemoan the loss of local retailers, but they should acknowledge that their demise is at least in part to how they did business. Companies like Hechinger and Crown Books were casualties of their external environments, but they were also poorly managed. Ironically, in some ways they banked too heavily on loyalty to save the day when they should have been changing with the times. Hell, even Target Stores used to be local to just Minneapolis. DC's population became more transient after WWII, and along with a mass influx of foreign immigrants in the past 30 years, the current consumer emphasis is on price. In order to stay in their niche, department stores had to embrace economies of scale. The consequence? We now have business names as museum pieces: Garfinckel's, Trak Auto, and Hechinger. The trends also took out a few national players as well. Anybody remember Montgomery Ward?

Posted by: SignOf4 | August 31, 2006 3:05 PM

I think people in this area are beginning to realize that it's not all about price. I think attitudes are changing and people are willing to pay more for a pleasant shopping experience. Although there will always be demand for low price retailers, I see a growing desire for better service. I predict there will be a blast from the past as retailers attempt to capture the affluent market that is somewhere between Target and Saks Fifth Avenue. Traditional department stores have languished for a while, but I predict they will return in some form.

Posted by: nostalgic | August 31, 2006 3:16 PM

I doubt that the Wheaton Hecht's is going to become a Giant--Giant recently opened a, well, giant new store adjacent to the Wheaton mall, after leaving their mall spot on the other side of Hecht's. Before we left DC, I'd wager about 75% of what was in my husband's and my work wardrobes came from Hecht's. Sure, service was spotty at Wheaton--with the exception of the friendliest sales lady I have ever met in hosiery--but the brands were good and the price was right, and we don't need to be waited on, just rung up (although yes, even that was a challenge a couple of times). Like someone said about Friendship Heights, I'm not so sure our former Wheaton neighborhood is a Macy's kind of place. I'm not a Macy's person. The only time I ever went in to the new Macy's at Wheaton was to exchange baby clothes that my best friend's mom bought at Macy's in Philly.

Posted by: niner | August 31, 2006 3:22 PM

...and don't forget Foley's. Foley's is the Hecht's of the West, and they're meeting a similar fate. More Macy's, hurray.

Posted by: niner | August 31, 2006 3:26 PM

Hecht's had some serious customer service problems which were not unique to that chain. Salesclerks don't seem to receive the same good training they once did. A few years ago, I once tried to buy some sale shoes at a Hecht's store. It was the last time I bought shoes at Hecht's.

Usually you go through the clerks to have them pull the shoes you want from the back room; I'm guessing, but don't know for sure, that they get a commission on the sale. I didn't need a clerk to get shoes for me in this case. The shoe boxes were stacked up on display, as sometimes is done for sales for this particular brand.

I picked out the box with the shoes that I wanted, then stood in line at the cash register only to be ignored by both the sales clerks. After a while, I asked one of the clerks why he and the other clerk kept ringing up customers who had arrived after me, saying politely, "Excuse me, I was in line first."

The clerk brushed me off as not being "his customer." I replied, "Well, I'm not anyone's customer in a technical sense, because I got the shoebox off of the stack on the sales table. But somebody needs to help me by ringing them up." Instead of telling me, "Certainly, I'll be with you in a moment," or explaining how I could get help, he replied, "I have my own customers to help here." I finally asked in dismay, "How am I supposed to pay for these? What's the procedure for being assigned a sales clerk when the items are taken from the self-serve table?"

Then the clerk really got huffy and actually looked past me to the person behind me, asking that random customer--who had gone through him to get shoes pulled for her from the back--"You get it don't you, why doesn't she?" I then had to stand there and listen to the two of them criticize me for lining up at the register with the other customers. (There was no other means of paying for the sales shoes.) I finally got him to ring me up after I said, "Maybe no one wants to help me because there is no perceived commission on the sale, I guess the store doesn't need my business." Of course, the situation need not have escalated that way. I never bought another pair of shoes at Hecht's.

Posted by: Poor customer service at Hecht's | August 31, 2006 3:38 PM

We used to buy all my husband's suits from the Raleigh's on Connecticut Ave., DC. We always relied on the same excellent salesman, to tell us what to buy, the cut, the fit, etc. I'll never forget the time when the Raleigh's workers all went out on strike. We had ordered a new suit for a wedding and desperately needed to pick it up. Standing across the street from the picket line, we worried about the conflict and dilemma of crossing the picket line or showing up at the business related wedding in jeans. Just then, the salesman recognized us and left the picket line to cross six lanes of traffic to assure us that it really was okay for us to go in the store and get the suit. He said we weren't really crossing the picket line, just picking up some we paid for before the strike. Now what new stores in DC provide sales and service like that today?

Posted by: memories | August 31, 2006 3:51 PM

Lovely story about Raleigh's. Thank you for telling us about it. An excellent juxtaposition to the anecdote I posted above it about trying to buy shoes at Hecht's. It takes more than price and selection to build customer loyalty, at least for people such as I! Glad you found that at Raleigh's.

Posted by: To memories | August 31, 2006 3:55 PM

Forget the stores, what I really miss is Hot Shoppes - Mighty Mo, Orange Freeze, real Onion Rings,and that Hot Fudge Ice Cream cake - and hitting Hot Shoppes every week after the football game. Usually you were too busy talking to friends to eat much of the food, but you were always glad you had the option ...

Posted by: Hot Shoppes | August 31, 2006 3:57 PM

My Mother had one of those plates. She's gone now and alas I have to accept change. Long ago we used to dress up and go downtown to see the window displays but Tysons's and Montgomery Mall took downtown shopping days away. Little Tavern has long been gone, replaced by...McDonalds & Wendy's..yuck.

Those who remember People's Drug stores or Highs convienience stores can only pass those stories on to their children. I suspect Giant will soon join that group.

The world changes and we with it. So, I will just walk off into the sunset singing the citizens bank jingle that I used to hear on the Harden & Weaver morning radio program while growing up "Daytime, night time saturday too, we open our doors. Citizens bank of Maryland conveniently yours!"

Of course, I'm now old enough to remember a 4 lane beltway, and when I-66 stopped at the Beltway!

Posted by: Museum Piece | August 31, 2006 4:30 PM

I saw 'Red Hots' (my childhood favorite candy) at the World Market and bought a nostalgic box. Smiling, I put it away and didn't pick it up for a month. I'd had a rotten day at work and thought that the spicy hot taste with the fond memories would be just the perfect antidote. The first couple were wonderful, but as I went back to work at my computer I bit down on what must have been a very stale Red Hot. I'm now $1,500 poorer for the cap on my broken tooth and I'm thinking that perhaps nostalgia just isn't really what I'm looking for ...

Posted by: costly nostalgia | August 31, 2006 5:05 PM

Of course, how you view the old stores does depend on where you sit, as one poster noted about Garfinkel's. Growing up, I loved the old stores (Woodies was my favorite, especially at Christmas; I also enjoyed going to Garfinkel's, Kann's and Lansburgh's). Although my family and I suffered no discrimination at those stores during the 1950s, I found it interesting to read about Julius Hobson, Sr. in the book, "The Washington Century," published in 2004. The book touched on some Hobson's efforts to change the hiring practices at department stores such as Hecht's and Woodies. I looked at the Post's archives, apparently Julius Hobson, Sr. mentioned some of that in an article on July 4, 1972. (I couldn't access the article so I only looked at the preview of the article.) It certainly was a very different DC back in the 1950s and 1960s.

Posted by: Different DC | August 31, 2006 5:08 PM

If you go to the Library of Congress website and type in the word Horydczak
in the search box, it will take you to an interesting collection of photos of old DC taken by Theodore Horydczak. I think the photo that Marc linked to for the Hecht's warehouse is from that collection, albeit a third party site. You can search the Horydczak collection by topic or keyword. Included in the images posted on the Library of Congress site are some photos of Woodies taken, I would guess from the clothing and cars, during the 1930s. The National Archives also has some nice pix of Woodies and the old F Street; I ordered copies years ago of some of them taken during the 1940s.

Posted by: More history | August 31, 2006 5:24 PM

Another excellent piece, Marc. Your mention of the old Washington Shopping Plate prompted me to dig out my own, which I received as a young sales associate in 1975 at the Tysons Corner Hecht's - or The Hecht Company, written in cursive, as it was then known.

The list of the stores the WSP was accepted at is a veritable history of D.C.-area retail: The Hecht Co., Frank R. Jelleff, Inc., Kann Corp., Raleigh Stores Corp., Woodward & Lothrop, Inc. and Garfinkel's. My mother would take us to Seven Corners Shopping Center to do our back-to-school shopping at Woodies and Garfinkel's, and the stand-alone Lord and Taylor. Ah, memories . . .

To the "Hot Shoppes" poster: I hear ya - those Teen Twist sandwiches, the hot fudge ice cream cake and milk shakes were to die for. Ditto Tops Drive-Ins, where I first had Kentucky Fried Chicken and, of course, The Sirloiner with French fries. Can't find goodies like those anymore!

There was also Burger Chef, Gino's, Red Barn, Roy Rogers, the soda fountains at Woolworth's and People's Drug Stores, G.C. Murphy's downtown, the ice cream stores (Weile's in Silver Spring and Gifford's at Bailey's Crossroads), and Jr. Hot Shoppes.

Posted by: NativeNorthernVirginian | August 31, 2006 5:25 PM

I have mixed feelings about all of this. I grew up in NYC and Macy's was our store. My siblings and I got our school, Easter and summer clothes there. Our Mom bought deli items there before the Cellar was developed. We bought our funiture there, and I even got the material for my high school prom dress from Macy's. But as a former long-time Woodies employee, I'm sad to see Macy's take over just about every chain in the country. I think getting rid of the Marshall Field name is really a bad PR move; even people who've never set foot in Chicago have heard of that store. Since I worked at Woodies, I didn't shop in Hecht's until after Woodies closed, but then only when I needed makeup or hosiery. Now I do most of my shopping at Talbots, Lord & Taylor (hope the new owners keep their pledge of not changing it) and Nordstrom. I've lived here long enough to remember the blue Washington Shopping Plate, Raleigh's, Garfinckel's, People's and other Washington companies that no longer exist. The homogenization of the country continues (I also remember when Times Square was seedy and a little scary, but now it just looks like another Disney theme park)!

Posted by: nycgirl | August 31, 2006 5:49 PM

Back in the days when more people knew how to sew, and had the time to do it, you could get fabrics and notions at Woodies and Hecht's. I remember my mother (an excellent seamstress for our family) buying dress patterns at both stores (wasn't that section in across the street Woodies' Annex building rather than the main one?) Woolworth's also sold dress patterns. As a child, I enjoyed looking through the dress pattern books at Woodies and Hecht's.

Something else that disappeared during the last 20 years was the bargain basements. I remember the Hecht's at Parkington (now Ballston Common) used to have a bargain basement downstairs where you could buy discounted items. There even was a discounted shoe section down there. Although it was small, Parkington had a nice mix of stores -- Hecht's, a dime store -- McCrory's (much better than the dollar stores malls now have), several shoe stores, a bakery/deli, a bookstore. The Hecht's had a nice Arcadian Gardens associated with it on the Randolph Street side, where my family bought its Christmas trees. Ah, I miss that!

Enjoyed the column, Marc, it brought back many memories, mostly good ones!

Posted by: Another oldtimer | August 31, 2006 5:52 PM

We've sure got a great town! When the newcomers or out-of-towners talk about our "inside the beltway" mentality, they just don't know what they've been missing.

What a great chat.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2006 5:57 PM

To MB:
Marshall Field in Chicago was just a stunning landmark and wonderful store and will always keep that name with me too. Shouldn't we keep Pluto as a planet too?
Some things just shouldn't change.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2006 6:08 PM

What I remember is my parents using a Central Charge card that was light blue (before there was MasterCard abd Visa). Was that at all related to the Washington Shoppers Plate?

Posted by: Jere | August 31, 2006 6:58 PM

Comments on the comments about the dressing rooms. Some of us really do take the time to return the clothes we try on to the rack outside the dressing room. If only others would do that, too.

I am vacationing in Cape Cod and had a chance to visit the Hyannis Mall. The Filenes there was converted to Macy's earlier this year. I was pleased to see how clean the store was .. even in the height of tourist season. They had personnel assigned to ensure that the dressing rooms were clean.

I am looking forward to seeing how Macy's does with the former Hecht's stores .. if the store in Hyannis is any example, I'm going to be impressed....

Posted by: Me | August 31, 2006 7:44 PM

I don't think the Central Charge card and the Washington Shopping Plate had any connection, although both were in existence around the same time. (I remember them both!) I don't think I can post a URL here, but if you go to Google, and type in the search terms "Central Charge" and "choice card" it will provide a link to a site where people posted comments and recollections about old Washington area charge cards this past April.

Posted by: For Jere | August 31, 2006 8:01 PM

I remember when the Woodies in the Lake Forest Mall closed. Me thinks they hiked the prices up a bit before they had their close-out sale. But I did manage to find a few bargains.

I severely miss Shakeys Pizza. Their lunch buffet was the best. They had those sliced and seasoned potatoes and the best taco pizza.

Something else I remember is Marshall Hall Amusement Park. That was the first amusement park that my parents took me too. I was so young, I barely remember it. Cable car ride, picnic pavillion, and some type of spider-shaped ride is all I remember. Did they have a boat ride too?

Posted by: Worker Bee | August 31, 2006 9:05 PM

Marshall Hall was across the Potomac River from Mt. Vernon. There was an amusement park there until about 1980. The Wilson Line boat company ran excursion boats that took people to the amusement park from the DC waterfront. Maybe that is the boat ride you remember? I think the site now is owned by the government (National Park Service).

Marc, it's been fun reading and posting here. Maybe the Washington Post should have a permanent blog for sharing DC area memories, given how many of us oldtimers like to chat about these things! Hahahaha.

Posted by: Another oldtimer | September 1, 2006 6:57 AM

Re department stores with food and the passing of local chains: In the United Kingdom, it's not just Harrod's that does food sales. When I was in Perth, Scotland (a decent sized town, but no metropolis) a few months ago, I was a little surprised to see a Marks & Spencer, which for years has been the UK'sdominant department store chain. I was even more surprised to find a full scale supermarket in the basement, complete with beer, wine, prepared foods, etc. When Macy's first opened in the Baltimore suburbs mabye 25 years ago, they had a great food operation, including a cafe, but got rid of it, of course.

Interestingly enough, in malls in Baltimore which already had both a Macy's and Hecht's, a number of the surplus stores are being leased to Boscov's, which I understand is a regional chain from Pennsylvania and more in line with Hecht's pricing than Macy's or Nordstrom.

Posted by: Jack | September 1, 2006 8:19 AM

For those inquiring, the former Hecht's location is now a furniture store named International Furniture. It looks like they just opened recently.

Posted by: wg | September 1, 2006 9:21 AM

Just to clarify on my post above, I was referring to the Hecht's in Wheaton.

Posted by: wg | September 1, 2006 9:25 AM

this has been fun!

i remember Peoples and Woodies but does anyone know of any sites with similar remembrances of DC locales that have more recently gone - like in the 80s-90s?

i'm thinking DC Space, the 15mins club, the greasy pizza place in Dupont where WrapWorks is now (can't remember the name), the Biograph, the Key, Paru's South Indian food on S Street, Dante's, Zig Zag Cafe...

Posted by: dchistory | September 1, 2006 3:35 PM

No, I don't know of any sites that focus on DC memories of the 1980s and 1990s. I do remember DC Space, nice place to go in what later became Penn Quarter! As with DuPont Circle, there have been a lot of changes in that area recently as it has been developed.

Nor do I know of websites that focus on earlier periods, by era, that is. I've seen a site called Norvapics that focuses on images of Northern Virginia; I believe you have to register to view old pictures but the bulletin boards (message boards) appear accessible to all. I've seen people cover all kinds of Northern Virginia topics from various time periods, from the very near past to further back. They sometimes seem to mention DC stuff, too.

For those with an academic bent, H-Net has a H-DC list for DC history buffs. It is aimed at people "who research, write, read, teach, collect, curate, and preserve Washington, DC history and culture and for those who work in cultural institutions located within DC, regardless of discipline."

Posted by: Re dchistory | September 1, 2006 7:08 PM

Yeah, the Biograph and the Key Theaters were great sources of alternative, art cinema. Further back, I remember going to the Circle Theater in the GW area to see imports, foreign language movies, including some in French, Russian, etc. At least we have E Street Cinema now, there was a near total drought for awhile. Things feel more homogenized in the DC area these days than they once did, at least for those with eclectic tastes beyond Hollywood's top grossing films. Oh well, at least there are DVDs of some good films.

Speaking of moviehouses, there used to be so many of them downtown, right in the F Street area: the RKO Keith's; the Metropolitan; the Loew's Palace; and the Loew's Capitol; and of course Warner's used to be a movehouse, too. I remember seeing Ben Hur there as a child, LOL. I just Googled some of these theaters and discovered there is a cinematreasures website that has pictures of some of them, pulled from various sources such as the Library of Congress.

P.S. For architecture buffs, I recommend James Goode's 1978 book, Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington's Destroyed Buildings. It was out of print for a long time but reissued in 2003. (New Yorkers may be interested in Nathan Silver's book, Lost New York, also recently revised from an earlier edition and reissued)

Posted by: More re dchistory | September 1, 2006 7:51 PM

I remember the 2 Guys store in Hagerstown. There's a Big Lots store there now. Big Lots has nothing but junk. Bon Ton used to be Eyerlys. I liked the BigT burger at Tastee Freeze.

Posted by: More of these chats please | September 1, 2006 8:56 PM

dchistory, I don't know of any websites of containing information on cultural landmarks established in the 1980s, but for those of us who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, there are PLENTY. Here's a few to type into Google:

Media:

98wrc - The history of WRC radio ("The Great 98") when it was a Top 40 station in the 1970s. There's a few clips featuring Greaseman during his stint there.

amandfmmorningside - Anyone who remembers when WPGC was housed in the old Parkway Building in Bladensburg will love this website.

DCRTV: Great website for D.C.-area baby boomers who remember Ranger Hal, Pick Temple, Captain Tugg, Captain 20, Count Gore du Vol, Romper Room and Wonderama. Check out the history of WEEL (Top 40 station in Fairfax), WOHN (radio station in Herndon - they played EVERYTHING), and WMOD (WMZQ's predecessor). The classic D.C. radio and television jingles are pure nostalgic fun.

reelradio: Throw this website a few bucks, type "WPGC"in the search box, and listen to the patter of "boss jocks", such as the late Harv Moore ("The Boy Next Door"), "Tiger" Bob Raleigh or Davy Jones spinning the hits. There's also one seven-minute clip of Russ Wheeler on WEAM in Arlington ("The Lively One") from Halloween Night 1966. Bob Raleigh's broadcast from Sunday morning, July 20, 1969, is definitely one for historians of D.C. broadcast history.

oldradioshows: Walt Bailey, who grew up in Dale City and now lives on the West Coast, has put together D.C. radio broadcasts on CDs that can be purchased.

D.C. cultural landmarks:

norvapics: For a monthly fee of five dollars, you can view vintage images of what Northern Virginia looked like from the 1920s to the 1970s, as well as local amusements (Glen Echo, Great Falls, Marshall Hall, Old Virginia City, Storybook Land, Route 29, etc.). Vintage yearbooks can be purchased from Bob, the guy who runs the site. If you're a born-and-bred native, this website is your Graceland.

To quote Bob Raleigh: Have a ball, y'all!

Posted by: NativeNorthernVirginian | September 1, 2006 9:12 PM

Working at Hecht's was my first part-time job while attending college in Baltimore. I started working at the Hecht's at Northwood Shopping Center in Baltimore. During the summer, I got a job working at the old Hecht's located at 7th & F Streets, NW. I will miss the old Hecht's, and I thank them for giving me a job to help pay my tuition.

Posted by: Morgan State Grad. 78 | September 2, 2006 1:08 AM

One correction to my earlier post: Harv Moore is alive and well, and on the air at "Oldies 104", WHTT in Buffalo.

Posted by: NativeNorthernVirginian | September 2, 2006 12:35 PM

I too will miss Hecht's, although its loss is not of the same magnitude as the loss of Woodies. The Woodies store at 11th & F was beautiful visually, with its balconies, chandeliers, etc. Hecht's recently re-did its Metro Center store, at great cost I'm sure, but all I can think of when I walk into the first floor level on a rainy day is, am I going to slip on the slick looking floor surface! What a far cry from the old 7th & F Street store (I still remember its old escalators).

Yes, customer service is not what it once was, in many stores, not just Hecht's. That might be a widespread problem in retail these days. I've dealt with some very helpful sales clerks in the last couple of decades but also with some very surly ones. (I'm not sure what explains the recent phenomenon of clerks who seem to help customers only grudgingly. Did people who went into this line of work--which undoubtedly tests one's patience--resent their jobs less in the old days? Or know better how to mask their personal feelings from customers? There's nothing more discouraging to a customer than a clerk who finds it necesary to signal verbally and through body language that she thinks she is doing you a huge favor by ringing up a purchase or helping with a purchase. We all have our bad days at work, but most of us, at least at the federal agency where I work, try not to take it out on those around us.)

But as other posters have noted, I liked the line of wearing apparel that Hecht's carried and already have noticed that some of my favorites no longer are available. As to the stores being neat or messy, I'm not sure how Macy's will do. I've been surprised at how messy the Macy's at Pentagon City looks sometimes (at least as far as sales tables and racks for ladies' apparel are concerned).

Most of all, as Marc noted, I'm sad to see fewer and fewer local businesses in the area. The "faceless national chains" now surround us and at least for this oldtimer, shopping is not as much fun as it once was.

Posted by: Also missing the better parts of Hecht's | September 2, 2006 12:57 PM

Terrific stuff here, folks. Thanks for all the memory-mining.

Posted by: Fisher | September 2, 2006 10:35 PM

thanks NativeNorthernVirginian!

here are a few more...Food for Thought (now Bistrot du Coin), Smash, Go!, the Good Food Store on 18th Street in Adams Morgan, Quartermaine's Coffee in Cleveland Park...anyone else?

Posted by: dchistory | September 4, 2006 11:12 AM

Ah, the good old times! Racial discrimination, polio, World War II, gas lines, Watergate, air pollution, out houses, prostitutes at 14th and K, the AT&T monopoly, no subways, no abortions, women couldn't work in most occupations, and Hechts, Woodies, and Garfinkels were thriving. Let's turn back the hands of time!

Posted by: Nostalgia isn't what it used to be | September 5, 2006 9:51 AM

Racial discrimination - Still rampant, only now an entire generation of young blacks are being systematically eliminated by gang violence.

Polio: Cured. Now we have AIDS.

World War II: Won. Today's it the Iraq
War.

Gas lines: Still got those, too, along with the fluctuating prices.

Watergate: Our Constitution worked. Now we've got the antics of the current Administration to contend with.

Air pollution: Still a problem, and getting worse.

Outhouses: I'll give you that one.

Prostitutes at 14th & K: They moved uptown.

The AT&T Monopoly: Considering the taxes and surcharges we pay on our phone bill, that monopoly looks a whole lot more attractive, in hindsight.

Subways - A great idea that worked out very well . . . for developers.

Abortions: They were happening way back when, too. Only difference was they were ILLEGAL. Or, the wealthy could go out of the area, and have a safe abortion for a pile of money.

Women couldn't work in most occupations: Thank God for employers like the Federal Government, and those department stores.

The more some things change, the more they remain the same.


Posted by: NativeNorthernVirginian | September 5, 2006 11:10 AM

Ah, I'm reminded of another one... before Bistrot du Coin was Food for Thought, it was the Empire drug store, which had a full lunch counter and booths in the back. When I was a kid in the '60s my mom would take me there sometimes for a good hamburger and milkshake.

Posted by: Cosmo | September 5, 2006 11:13 AM

Even though I'm fairly new to DC, I am sorry to see so many of the local businesses/names gone as I've been through that in Cleveland. I'm 39 and have memories of chandeliers and old wooden escalators and the Silver Grille restaurant at Cleveland's downtown Higbee's, which is now gone, though it makes an annual appearance in the "Christmas Story" movie -- the one where little Ralphie wants a BB gun from Santa.

It's ironic, though, that a few of the posters have waxed nostalgic for chains like Red Barn and Roy Rogers, which I remember as dumpy places in suburban Ohio, though I loved the Woolworth and Kresge's lunch counters.

I, too, hated Hecht's service and messiness, which was even worse than at the same company's Kauffman stores in Ohio. And for all my nostalgia, I am a discount store shopper who can't wait for the new Target in Columbia Heights. Finally somewhere to buy basic household items for a decent price that doesn't require half a day on the Metro and busses.

Posted by: New DC resident | September 5, 2006 12:06 PM

The nostalgia here sounds pretty harmless. I don't see anyone saying we have to go back in time or turn back the clock wholesale. If you consider the tone of the postings, many people posting here are looking back at past visits to Woodies, Hechts etc. and associating them with happy times spent as children with their Moms and Dads. Nothing wrong with that. The message I get from reading many of the postings is that most people have pleasant memories of childhood and enjoyed doing things like shopping or eating out with their parents. Sounds like memories of the places are intertwined with warm feelings towards people they loved, some of whom are gone now. Kinda nice, actually, I say, good for them!

I never saw Higbee's but I very much enjoy watching the Christmas Story movie every Christmas season. Frank Thompson's enjoyable book from 1998, "American Movie Classics' Great Christmas Movies: Celebrating the Best Christmas Films of All Time," includes some nice interviews with the actors, including Peter Billingsley, who as a youngster played Ralphie.

Posted by: Nostalgia sounds pretty harmless | September 5, 2006 2:56 PM

To Nostalgia Sounds Pretty Harmless,

Thanks for pointing that out -- the intertwining of happy memories of family and growing up with the places they occurred. You put it well.

But, doesn't it follow that our kids will be nostalgic for the things and places of the present? Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, etc., as these are slowly pushed aside by ???? Too many of the posts are disdainful of these places, just as our parents may have been disdainful of the things we are here nostalgic about.

Posted by: Nostalgia isn't what it used to be | September 5, 2006 3:06 PM

Thanks for the compliment. Yep, you're right, I have no doubt that kids growing up now will be nostalgic for Walmart, Target, etc. LOL. Maybe they too will think of things they did with Mom and Dad, pleasntly, I hope. It's not just stores and stuff. Different songs or music remind people of various things. Or TV shows, or commercials. (Don't you hate when you can't get a jingle out of your head, just 'cause you heard it first thing in the a.m.?) Seems to me there's a big emotional component to nostalgia, anyway, so it's awfully hard to pin it down. I say we don't need to pin it down, just go with the flow, but I'm kind of a live and let live kind of person, anyway, LOL. Plus I'm a historian by profession so I REALLY enjoy reading different points of view on comments boards like this one. By the way, I agree that in order to enjoy something from the past, you don't have disdain the present. Some stuff just evolves, that's the way it goes. Me, I'm certainly glad we have the Internet these days. This blog entry by Marc sure has brought out a lot of interesting posts, I love it!

Posted by: Yep nostalgia isn't hard and fast | September 5, 2006 3:29 PM

I grew up in NYC and love Macy's. But I nearly went into tears when they got rid of the little dining area that my mother took me to have ice cream. I understand your sentiment even though I am looking forward to Macy's arrival. There after all is not really a Hecht's day parade. But nonetheless I sympathize. I hugged my A&S Straus bear a little tighter when they got rid of the store that dispense those little guys.

Posted by: K | September 5, 2006 6:15 PM

Ah, the Washington Shopping Plate. That was my first credit card, back in 1979 when I first graduated from College Park. At that time, it had Woodies, Hecht's, Garfinckel's, and Raleigh's on it.

Posted by: sj | September 5, 2006 7:23 PM

Macy's has lost me as a customer. Getting a coupon for 15% off, if I spend $100, isn't my idea of a bargain. JCPenney is going to benefit from the Hecht closing as far as I am concerned.

Posted by: mjb | September 7, 2006 3:52 PM

I miss the old Georgetown of the 1970's. Everything's the same now, wherever you go. So why go? I get my movies from Netflix, my shoes from Zappos, and my clothes from LL Bean. Shopping is a waste of time and energy.

Posted by: Dave, Freeport, IL | September 9, 2006 8:21 AM

I live in the Allentown, PA area now, but I was born and raised in Clinton, MD. I grew up going back-to-school shopping at Hecht's and Woodies for clothing, Hahn's for shoes and eating lunch at Hot Shoppes and Joe's El Rancho.

Only as a teenager did I ever experience the stores downtown. And I loved them! Woodies, in particular, really got hold of me. After that I made it a point to shop there as much as I could.

I truly miss Woodies, Garfinckel's, Hahn's, People's Drug, Dart, Crown Books, Raleigh's and the REAL Giant Food. (Just wait, everyone...that'll be the next one to go. Prepare yourselves for Stop'N Shop!) I'm 36 years-old and it bothers me to see so many names go down the drain all in the name of "growing the business".

Hecht's was alright...nothing special, except on sale days. I can remember my mother taking all five of us shopping in Marlow Heights and at Woodies at Iverson Mall. Her Washington Shopping Plate (and later "Preferred Card") were run-over so many times I'm surprised the numbers weren't worn-off. Between those two stores, Woodies got the nod for its superior service. The salespeople were truly professionals there. We had a rather lengthy last name, but I remember one kind, older gentleman concentrating on it so that he could correctly refer to my mother using it instead of just "ma'am".

Now clerks carry-out transactions without so much as grunting at you.

I guess it's just something we all have to live with. Here in the Lehigh Valley, people still refer to The Bon-Ton as Hess's...and that take-over was twelve years ago.

All I can say is hope Boscov's comes to DC. Every time I walk into the ones up here I'm reminded of the suburban Woodies stores in the 70s.

Now then...where's my Macy's card? I need to cut it into teeny-tiny, little pieces!!!

Posted by: n8ivemarylander | September 9, 2006 3:25 PM

Yes, Gifford's was great...had the best ice cream "rolls".

I will always miss Woodies. I treasured having lunch with my mom and grandmother in the department store restaurants and soda fountain counters.

Losing Hecht's means losing the opportunity to buy decent quality items at a fair price. I was always able to purchase work clothing in a pinch without breaking the bank.

I went to the new Macy's at Tyson's 1 yesterday, and they do not sell umbrellas or children's shoes. How silly, and what a waste of time.

Why, is there a Macy's at Tyson's 1 and Tyson's 2, and is there a difference in the merchandise?

Posted by: iremember2 | September 9, 2006 5:50 PM

I worked in May's credit department in St Louis collecting on Hecht's/Strawbridge cards. I lost my job with the merger. I for one will miss working with all the great customers I met over the last 10 years. I hate to see all the old department store names go away. They are a part of each city's history. I will miss our local Famous Barr stores-not so much because they provided great merchandise or service but they were St Louis!

RIP Hecht's

Posted by: Ron | September 12, 2006 3:42 PM

LOCO MOCO:

Are you possibly serious with today's column? You had to comb through a few year's worth of news to paint a portrait of a disorganized Montgomery County - which would qualify as one day's news in DC. Yep, you're right. DC's a smooth running safe haven. All the same, I'll suffer through another frightening night in the crime-ridden streets of "MoCo".

Posted by: Bill Herman | September 13, 2006 5:32 PM

I miss Woodie's but will miss Hecht's too.
Where to find 'i.e.' or 'ideology'?
Macy's is very provincial.
By the way the place where Hecht's was in Wheaton Plaza is occupied now by IFL - international furniture store with the beautiful pieces of European style at the reasonable prices. But it's not a replacement for those who used to find nice dresses at
the reasonable Hecht's prices.

Posted by: Olga | September 26, 2006 3:08 PM

On the rare occasions when I go mall shopping, I always notice how tiresomely similar all the merchandise is. Having just spent more than two years researching the history of American department stores, I learned that the major department stores used to go to great lengths to ensure that their merchandise was unique. Sometimes they would bankroll a designer to develop a line of clothes just for them or send buyers around the world to find unusual things. (Of course this was before Pier One, etc.) They also invested in their cities because they believed their fate depended on the health of the local economy.

Posted by: Jan Whitaker | September 27, 2006 9:03 AM

Growing up in San Diego, I remember Robinson's (now Macy's) as being one of the premier dept stores until May Co bought them out. Down the drain it went just like anything else that May touched.

The Broadway, Bullock's, I. Magnin, Miller's Outpost, Buffum's, Alpha-Beta, U-totem, Fed-Mart, Gemco, Farrell's (to name a few). Do any of you recognize these names?

All these businesses are history and most probably 75% of the names mentioned are now part of the Macy's family, LOL!

Some of the Macy's (the ones in the "better" malls) are usually pretty high-end. They're no Saks or Neiman's but they do offer quality "affordable luxury" merchandise.

As for the Macy's/Hecth's comparisons, I always seemed to find better merchandise on sale at Macy's over Hecth's. The brand selection at Hecht's was mostly in-house crappy brands that the store discounted because they probably bought for 1/50 of the original price. To be fair, most of what the May Co sold was crummy, cookie cutter merchandise so whatever you would find at Hecht's was exactly what was found at any other May division in the U.S. Macy's at least had some of the better lines for VERY reasonable prices. I am a bargain shopper so I snap up deals every single time I go to any Macy's store.

I can assure you not too many tears will be shed over the loss of Hecht's, Robinsons-May, Foley's, Filene's, Famous-Barr -crummy store) or any other awful May division. Lord & Taylor is probably the only ex-May division that was somewhat taken care of after all these years. Even then, L & T was a shadow of its former self. Again, whatever May touched lost its luster.

Memories are what keep us alive and at least we know those wont be bought out by Macy's! He he he

Posted by: Juan Carlos | October 1, 2006 1:43 AM

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