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Macy*s Flagship Makeover! But what about BROOKLYN (Former A&S Flagship)?

November 2, 2011

This is like a recurring story the past couple of days:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/01/macys-to-renovate-flagshi_n_1069650.html

Cool!
But they need to focus some of this attention to the Brooklyn store, which has after 16 years as Macy’s, still been left in the condition it was in under its last decade as Abraham & Straus (A&S), where after a series of flood damage and scaling back, the original retail space was reduced by about HALF, and the remaining space horribly cluttered in places. (Counters placed in the elevator areas, etc). The Cellar even remains on the 5th floor where A&S had their housewares dept. (and is now the top floor of the retail space. Would be more accurate as “The Attic”). The store was originally just as good or better than Macy’s!

Just found this “department Store Museum” entry, which has an old floor directory, which fits what I remembered growing up. Not sure what year this is from, but it shows the store in its full occupancy!

http://departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com/2010/06/abraham-straus-brooklyn-new-york.html

The Annex was the white building across Hoyt St. and connected by the bridge on upper floors. The stuff listed under “annex” (the electronics, etc) was on the ground floor (Livingston St. side only), and you had to exit the main store and walk down Livingston St. crossing Hoyt to get to it. That was later given to other tenants.

The pianos&organs and possibly IIRC some of the other non-apparel stuff (rugs, etc) listed in the fourth floor were actually in the annex too, but it was connected by the bridge over the street. You didn’t even know you were going through a bridge as you crossed it. (I remember playing on the pianos and organs there, and it prompted me to get a toy organ for Christmas, in the mid-70’s (along with the kids above me having a grand piano).

By 1981, the Santaland was there, with the toys around it (I believe the 8th floor had already been vacated by that time), and it was like a really nice passageway to “winter wonderland”.

That was not too long after closed off as well, becoming stock areas. (There is another bridge, on the 5th floor, to the parking garage that also occupies the annex building).

The upper floors became offices, the photo department, and other nonretail stuff. This is all the kind of stuff they are now talking about reducing in the 34th St. store. I hope they come around to doing it here as well. I clearly remember the 8th floor, as listed, and it even had an out-in-the-open stairway to the 9th floor, which was the employees only section. Why that had to engulf the next three floors down, I do not know.

Not listed in the directory, for some reason, was the basement. That’s now furniture (don’t know why new owner Macy’s won’t move it’s “Cellar” down there!) Back in the day, it may have been bargain stuff. I remember the little hot dog counter behind one of the escalators. It also had a mezzanine which is now long closed off. (probably the old building, which is at a different scale to the main one, so the floors are not level). And let’s not forget the IRT subway entrance; also long closed off. (It was right near the hot dog stand).

My mother mentions a puppet window they had every Christmas. I’m not sure I remember that. When I think of that, I most clearly remember stuff I’ve seen more recently in the windows of Macy’s and Saks. I don’t remember so much the windows of A&S (we usually just went straight into and out of the store, not doing anything outside), except that now, on the Livingston side, they remain whited out, and it makes that side of the street look desolate.

What I remember around Christmas was that huge tree with the large silver ornaments that hung from the middle of the first floor elevator bank! It was like entering a wonderland. Again, that place was better than Macy’s! Now, they’ve lined those banks with counters, and I think they only use one or two of the elevators.

I really hate the way it has been left, and it’s not Macy’s fault (as one might assume), this is basically the state it was in, in the later years under A&S, after the flood on the top floor, and they suffered financially. Again, everything is still cluttered on the rest of the floors. The ground floor is horrible, especially on busy days. It looks more like a cheap bargain store (with fancy decorations). The last two decades, I usually don’t even go in there anymore on my Christmas jaunts. I heard it was even known as “Ghetto Macy’s”, and that they send their overstock from other stores there for the area folks.

I always hoped Macy’s would fix it back up to its old glory, but as one person told me when I called the company a few years ago, “that store’s a different animal” (i.e. from the flagship on 34th). I guess they did not completely merge the management, and it’s still being run as A&S, basically. (Again; The Cellar still left on the 5th floor where it was under A&S).

I figured they’re probably now waiting for when they finish that total makeover of downtown Brooklyn, and turn it into the new Midtown. (Anchored by the Nets arena, and they wanted to pretty much mow down everything else in the area, and build all new).

Text similar to the logo I vaguely remember in the early 70's

Similar logo from late 60's I may remember

Here’s another good tribute site that has a lot of pictures:

http://occulude06.tripod.com/

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7 Comments
  1. Just posted this to Macy’s Facebook page (also plan a regular letter to execs when I find the contact info:

    I really liked the job they did at the Flagship store. Especially the mezzanine (1½ floor), like connecting both sides, adding escalators, adding escalators to the Bway side of The Cellar, and reopening the exit near the Chanel area. Also, all the space they have recovered on the 8th floor.

    Further ideas for Herald Square:
    •Consider moving Santaland to 9th floor Bway side to fit in with the Holiday Shop and the puppet theater. Move Bedding to 7th Av, and Luggage to current Santaland space on 8.
    (“Tabletop”, Gift Wrap and any toy sections to 9 as well?)
    This would create a consolidated “Winter Wonderland” area.

    The Brooklyn store (former A&S flagship) is totally depressing in contrast (especially considering its glory days of over 30 years ago. It was as good as Macy’s!)
    Downtown Brooklyn is on the upswing as well, so some attention should be shifted here too.

    •Reopen up to 8th floor to retail
    •4th floor annex via footbridge
    •Unclutter current floors; remove counters from elevator plazas
    •Move “The Cellar” to the actual basement.
    •Since Herald Sq. has a McDonald’s inside the store, in Brooklyn, why not connect the adjacent McDonald’s on Fulton St.? Back in the 70’s, it was a nut shop that was connected inside to the men’s department.

    (Forgot to add, nicer Christmas decorations like Herald Square).

  2. OK, so after pretty much two years of enjoying the new spruced up Manhattan flagship, and it still looking like they weren’t even thinking of the Brooklyn store, now all of a sudden, I see on Facebook stories of a new proposal, but one that goes much further than I (and I’m sure many others) would want:

    First Look: Potential Macy’s Redevelopment at 450-458 Fulton Street, in Downtown Brooklyn
    http://newyorkyimby.com/2015/01/first-look-potential-macys-redevelopment-at-450-458-fulton-street-in-downtown-brooklyn.html

    They actually want to build this new glass tower on the next block, replacing the store’s current parking garage which was also formerly an annex (connected by the foot bridge on the 4th and 5th floors. 5th floor bridge leads to garage, 4th floor space is among the many areas converted from retail to non-retail use. Thankfully, the façade of the old building on the corner of Fulton ⦅the landmarked former A. I. Namm & Son Dept. Store which closed in 1957 when the property was bought by A&S parent Federated http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/nammstore.pdf⦆ would be kept, and integrated with the new store, giving it a bit of a “classic” look).

    At first; I’m thinking they would replace the current building with that. I’m not sure whether it’s landmarked, but it is known for its art-deco style, both on the outside, as well as the familiar zig-zag glass elevator door trimming. Then, the older [section of the] building which has older elevators with wrought iron doors (most of this may be closed off to customers now, though the older building is at a different scale from the main building, and so is accessed by short flights of steps from the floors of the newer building).
    But if I read correctly, they want to sell the old property.

    I don’t see how they could do this. In the Manhattan flagship, the one thing I’m not really keen on is the modern 6th Ave side of the first floor. It looks really nice in its own right, with all the LED displays, but is too “modern” for a classic store like the Macy’s flagship. (It reminds me more of a suburban mall Macy’s). But now, in Brooklyn, they want a whole store like this. Like the opposite extreme of the neglect of the cluttered store still pretty much the same as it was in its final years as A&S.

    And as the new building would basically be mixed use, with the store occupying only the base, I imagine, which is only four stories; it looks like it won’t be a very big store. It would probably hold just as much as the current store. So what they’re doing is getting rid of all the extra, non-retail space, instead of putting it back to retail use like they did in Manhattan. They’re still in “scale-back” mode here in Brooklyn, apparently! (Don’t know why, since the rebuild is obviously apart of the revitalization of the area; so why shouldn’t they be able to increase retail space back to what it once was?)

    So my idea (as I wrote to the company):
    The old store, as the former A&S flagship is a building rich in design, and in better times for A&S, was almost just as nice as the Macy’s Flagship (and the original selling area almost as big!)
    You should just do to the old store the same thing you did with the flagship; revitalize it, and restore the former retail space that was converted to other uses (including floors 5 to 8). It could be like a second flagship to Macy’s.
    You could also turn the garage site into a new annex, like it was under A&S (and thus still build the glass tower). But the current (old) site should always remain the main store.

    (I also thought of the air space over the smaller old building on Fulton and the Foot Locker (former Woolworth’s) next to it, but if they build there, I would want the façades of the old buildings to be kept, and then what would they do with the different scale of the old building? They would probably want to completely gut it. So I didn’t bother sensing that part of the suggestion).

    [Edit: here is a competing plan, calling for two towers; one, the tallest in Broobkyn, apparently over the “old building” to the west http://newyorkyimby.com/2015/06/vision-plans-for-downtown-brooklyn-macys-redevelopment-by-leeser-architecture-and-ismael-leyva.html%5D

  3. Doing my annual holiday circuit, I was shocked to find that Macy’s (flagship) did away with The Cellar, and moved that stuff to the 8th floor now! The basement is this hip looking cosmetics and fashion department geared for younger people now, and it’s called something else (“One Below” http://www.businessinsider.com/macys-one-below-for-millennials-2015-9).

    So it’s like the reverse of my old suggestion to move the Cellar at the Brooklyn store to the basement; they actually made the main store like this one (where it is on an upper retail floor) in that regard!

  4. Brooklyn Macy’s Is Set for a Major Renovation
    Three-year, $100 million overhaul will aim to mix past and present in the 1873 building
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/brooklyn-macys-is-set-for-a-major-renovation-1459989798

    Rather late in finding out about this. The last thing I heard was the plan to move out of the building and into a new glass structure where the parking garage was (see above).
    So not knowing what was going on, I passed through there today (dropping a bunch of stuff of at Good Will, and heading to IKEA for something), and was horrified at the [worse than ever] cluttered, maze-like layout (even the elevator plazas completely walled off now, and a single elevator accessed through what looked like narrow back passageways; likely a former freight car), actually thinking this was really a final setup and not knowing they were staying put and remodeling the place. (I had been in the flagship when much of the first two floors were turned into mazes during its remodeling three years ago, but you could tell this was temporary in former retail space. With Bklyn’s odd non-rectangular layout,* I think they were using actual former back areas, and you really could no longer tell where you were in relation to what was where before). I thought it was an all time low for “ghettoization” of a store, and the ugliest I had ever seen!
    The Livingston St. and corner entrances are closed, and the only plus (I was surprised to see, months ago), was some of the ground floor windows on Livingston uncovered.

    Says they’re only doing 4 floors (plus the basement) and selling the rest off; and something about efficient use of space. (But in the flagship, that meant recapturing all of the former retail space that had been closed off, not further scaling it down to exactly half of the original space. It also cites online shopping as creating this need of stores to scale down, but again, this led them to all the more re-expand the flagship).
    The parking garage is covered with scaffolding, and the bridges between the buildings on the 4th and 5th floors being removed.


    *The reason for the odd layout, is the expansions into new conjoined buildings (which were not even built to scale):

    “A key aim of the makeover…is to align all the floors of the store, which is an amalgam of additions built in different styles over the decades. [“The building currently inhabited by Macy’s at 422 Fulton Street was…” (from Curbed mirror of article).] …Built in 1873, the original ornate building was designed in the Second Empire style. About a decade later, the building became the flagship for department store Wechsler & Abraham, forerunner to the well-known chain Abraham & Straus.

    The building has had at least two expansions, both in the art deco style. The one in 1929 was on Fulton Street; the one in 1947 was on Livingston Street. The differences in height between the additions are several feet, disrupting the natural flow of shoppers.” (Other Curbed article followup: “Portions of the building will be reconstructed to level floor elevations”).

    The Art Deco additions are T shaped, with the 1929 addition taking up most of the block on Livingston (with the corner on Gallatin occupied by an older building, part of which has MTA offices, at least at one point. MTA has it’s #1 Medical Assessment Center”, where we go for random or incident drug testing, in part of the old store warehouse across the street as well). It includes the corner and side entrances on Hoyt. The 1947 addition on Fulton is narrow, with the corner on Hoyt occupied by older, smaller unrelated buildings. On the west side, the Art Deco “T” wraps around the 1873 building, which was only five floors, and to a different scale.
    So inside, you had a newer “T” that was pretty much level, centered on the elevator plaza. Coming out of the north entry of the plaza on the upper floors, straight ahead is a small department with walls on three sides, and to the right and behind you, the floor widens. To the left on floors 2-5 was a cornered wall with a short flight of stairs up or down to small departments that were basically inbetween floors. (This is all closed off now). There was also further back in that section a really old elevator bank with non-glassed wrought iron gates to the glossy white-tiled shafts (that received a lot of light through the gates). My mother took me on one of those once for some reason, and this had to be around 10 years old, when my “special interest” was elevators, perhaps partly sparked on my that. It was so unusual! Eventually, they stopped using these.

    From the photo of the original building, we can see some of it was shaved off on the left for the 1947 expansion.
    The original entrance, which is [until recently] the entrance to the Men’s department (now it’s closed off for the renovation) was the center of the original building, with the fifth floor as a “mansard” front, and the largest dormer in the center above the main entrance. In the cornice, are vertical moldings outlining “sections” of the façade consisting of three columns of windows (which are probably the standard lot width, as in row houses). The center dormer takes up the whole section. There were two whole sections to the left and right, each topped by a smaller dormer in the middle column, and smaller windows on each side of it. On the ends were narrower sections consisting of one dormer on the end and the smaller window next to it on one side. On the left side, there was also a wide section (middle windows are very wide) with a different design on top (instead of a mansard design, it has tiny windows under a pedimented parapet; It looks sort of Italianate. Perhaps this was an 1880s’ extension? Second floor is also large “picture” windows. To the right and left of the building were standard three or four story plain row buildings).
    Now, there’s only one section to the left of the center (so they cut off three sections or eight whole window columns, about a third of the old building), and even the left edges of the leftmost remaining windows are cut off by the new building. What was the second floor windows of the old building is now just cemented over as part of the first floor. The rightmost segment that McDonalds now occupies (and was an interiorly connected nut shop when I was young, always liked going out that way, with the chain of departments connected by small ramps leading to it) had a redone terra cotta façade and so looks different, with two double windows, so it’s about twice as wide as the original end section, and the top floor split into two, with four arched windows on the lower half, and two regular windows under a pedimented parapet on top.

  5. Looks like I may have gotten more than I have bargained for, in the remodeling of the Brooklyn store.
    I’m coming from the Atlantic Antic bus festival, and heading for the last night of the San Gennaro, and getting ready to enter the Jay St. subway station, I look over, and see the scaffolding on the building that has been there for some time now, but then notice that the original 1873 building is completely gone (and the sides of the 1940’s extension has much of the red grooved tile side wall knocked out, even on the upper floors where it wasn’t abutting the old building).

    I thought the old building was historical, and assumed they would just gut it to make the floors level with the newer portion.
    So I head over to look at the construction site, took a few pictures, and at first, it looks like the whole store is shuttered, as the entrance is obscured by all the wooden construction wall. Signs point through them, to the door. So, looking inside, I see that for the first time in decades, all the clutter is gone, and the floor is totally bright and spacious and even new looking. But the worst is yet to come!

    So I go inside, and the first thing I notice, straight ahead, is that they have ripped out the entire elevator plaza!!! and replaced it with a new open escalator shaft (lined with an LED panel at the bottom, resembling what they’ve done at the Herald Square store. The only elevators are still the ones I saw last year, through the back areas).
    The art-deco plaza was the centerpiece of the whole building! How could they do that? (They didn’t rip out the wooden escalators of the flagship store, even though they are probably not up to modern fire codes, and are really splintering. They haven’t even torn out the partition between the 6th and 7th Ave. sides of the building, and realign those elevators and escalators).
    For all of this, they might as well have just moved across the street and sold the building, as they once proposed.

    The first four floors are all redone, but still empty in places. The fifth floor (which I believe is to be sold off) is still there, and in its drably lit old state. (The elevator area is completely walled off). It was like stepping back into time; the last of the old A&S! (You can even look and see the room leading to the old bridge, which is now leads to a drop to the street, and is covered with a wooden door you can see daylight through).

    The only good news is that they’ve finally moved “the Cellar” down to the actual basement (where at Herald Sq. they moved it out of the basement) —but of course, the department is no longer called “the Cellar”. (The furniture is also still down there). Not sure if that’s permanent, or they are waiting to move it back to one of the other floors.

    The layout still has its “T” shape (for now), but something tells me, when the new building opens (and I’ll bet they’ll use that all glass design they wanted or the previous plan, and most new department stores use, including Nordstrom/H&M across the street), they’re going to take down those now bare walls and open the floors up completely into a square. That will change the look of the store completely. It will probably look like a “big box” like a Walmart or suburban mall Macy’s, or what they wanted to do across the street in the former annex space.

    Though something also tells me, they might have saved all the marble and the herringbone metal and glass doors, to move the whole bank to the new building. (Just hope it lines up with the new entrances of the new building, especially Livingston St. and the walls it creates might make it look less like a completely open “box”). It’s hard to believe they would just eliminate the fabled art deco features forever (and leave the current elevator setup), and have gotten away with doing this without any news-making uproar. (Moving it to the shorter old building would cut off any chance of ever reextending to the 8th floor, unless they built the new building up to 8 at some point, but I don’t think they’d ever need that much space).

    All those years, they wanted the spend no money on this store. Now, putting in all this money, to essentially rebuild it from the ground up. (Meanwhile, I missed this story from last winter, about how the whole chain is in danger: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20170206/NEWS07/170209901).
    It went along with the decay of the rest of urban life I witnessed, that was allowed to sit for decades, but now, all of a sudden, they just want to sweep in and completely redo it (just like the rest of the area in downtown Brooklyn).

    Construction site. On the right, is where there used to be a little ramp to a connection to the next building, which was the nut shop, and now the McDonald’s.

    “Last of the old A&S”; unremodeled 5th floor, which will likely not be apart of the new store. The elevator bank was behind the wall on the left, and straight ahead in the darkness was the half stairway to the lower old building.

    Sweep of unrebuilt 5th floor, ending at the lead to the bridge to the parking garage.

    FINALLY; former “Cellar” kitchenware department moved to the actual “cellar” (but not called that).

    Sparkling new spacey ground floor, Fulton St. side, (done in column and ceiling design used in the Herald Sq. flagship) with blank wall where new extension will be.

    (So disgusted, I didn’t even think to get a picture of the open escalator shaft in the former elevator space, which is to the left, but this is the new store, and it ain’t going nowhere —unless they go completely bankrupt!)

  6. Approaching Halloween and the stat of the “holiday” season. (And Macy’s Herald Sq. and some other stores already have the holiday departments up, for a month).
    Found some nice Christmas decoration pictures, including, FINALLY, of the long forgotten huge hanging elevator court tree!

    I remember it as having many more of those large ornaments, where they were much closer together.

    This c2015 Rockefeller Center decoration is what I remember the A&S tree ornaments of the early 70’s looking like. It was like entering a silvery “wonderland” as it towered over you)

    Don’t remember them being this colorful:

    (I guess they did once have counters in the court [though not blocking elevators themselves like in the final arrangment]. I thought that only occurred in the final decades, after the top floors were damaged and abandoned, and the first floor cluttered, and I saw it as totally junky and marking an era of decay)

    The floor on Fulton St.side (modern view in above comment), with the ceiling garland (which rings a bell), that heralded the path to the large tree in the elevator court:

    The current day Saks 5th Ave. flagship first floor decorations remind me of this

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