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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
     Wednesday, October 8 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Found on the way to look up something else

My thoughts about Penn Traffic and a batch of lower-scale department store chains the week before last made me wonder: Is Kaufman's in Logan Valley, Altoona, the same Kaufman's that's in Pittsburgh? Or for that matter, considering that Pittsburgh's other great department store from "the day," Gimbel's, is no more, is there even a Kaufman's in Pittsburgh? Yes to both questions. Kaufman's has stores in many Pennsylvania cities, with Pittsburgh the chain's anchor so to speak. But Kaufman's is part of the May Company. I remembered May Company as "the" department store in Cleveland in my teens. Then when I moved to Southern California it was the largest Los Angeles store, as well. Meanwhile, May Company stores are no longer found in Cleveland, and the former Los Angeles May Company is now Robinson's-May (Robinson's, a very exclusive store—think "Neiman-Marcus"—when we moved to the area, was merged into May and they were recast in the hyphenated name).

May Company (which originated in Colorado and has its headquarters in St.,Louis) no longer has stores by just that name, but does have other divisions in other major metropolitan areas, including Strawbridges in Philadelphia, and others in Boston, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. (An aside, Philadelphia had three big department store chains when I lived in that area: John Wanamaker's, Gimbel's, and Strawbridge & Clothier. I can't imagine anyone at that time would have bet that Strawbridge's would be the only one of the three to survive, at least in name.)

So why does Altoona have Kaufman's and Johnstown Boscov's, and where did Boscov's come from? Last question first: Boscov's was actually founded by a merchant named Boscov, in Reading, relatively recently, and the chain is in several dozen locations throughout the Northeast (none of them "major" metropolitcan centers). I haven't found an answer to the first question (why is Kaufman's in Altoona), nor whether Kaufman's has been in Altoona all my life (even when Gable's was "the" Altoona store), or whether the still-downtown Kaufman's wedding boutique is part of the Kaufman's chain. Can anyone help us out on these?

A final "fun fact" on this merchantile line. I mentioned in the previous discussion of stores that Target, which some are hoping will revitalize downtown Johnstown by occupying the former SaniDairy property, was launched as the discount division of Minneapolis-based Dayton-Hudson. Dayton's was Minneapolis' major store; Hudson's, Detroit's. They merged in 1969. Eventually the company changed its name to Target Corporation and it also acquired Chicago's best known store, Marshall Field's. Now all the former Dayton and Hudson stores are named Marshall Field. And Target Corp. also owns a substantial "mid-slot" California-originated chain, Mervyn's (260 stores in 14 states; its probably closest to JCPenny in its merchandise; prices may be a bit lower, and the stores are usually not in malls but rather stand-alone or as anchor stores on strip malls rather than enclosed malls).

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Think about it (but not too long)

A man takes his Rottweiler to the vet and says, "My dog's cross-eyed, is there anything you can do for him?"

"Well," says the vet, "let's have a look at him." So he picks up the dog and examines his eyes, then checks his teeth. Finally, he says "I'm going to have to put him down."

"What? Because he's cross-eyed?"

"No, because he's really heavy."

—Sent by Bill Dalrymple 

Thought for today

How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world, given my waist and shirt size?

— Woody Allen 

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