Monday, May 9, 2011

NYC Vintage Image Of The Day: Gimbels Department Store

Gimbels Department Store, 1963, with rival Macy's next door. To the far right is the Hotel McAlpin, the largest hotel in the world when it opened in 1912. Close right is Hotel Martinique, a stately destination when Herald Square was the city's theater district, before it devolved into a dilapidated welfare hotel in the 1970s.
Who doesn't remember the mighty Gimbels Department Store as a child, and its world-famous rivalry with next-door-neighbor Macy's? Um, actually, I for one, since I grew up in the south...

But I do recall the fact that Kris Kringle, in Miracle on 34th Street, tells a mamer at Macy's that she can find sold-out skates at Gimbels, and that after Auntie Mame is fired from Macy's, she shouts out to buy "the little nippers" their Christmas skates at Gimbels... So when I moved to New York in 1995, I was eager to find the landmark.

Of course, unfortunately, by then it had closed. Gimbels began as a general store in Indiana in the 1880s, and expanded into Philadelphia in 1894, before opening its flagship in New York's Herald Square at Sixth Avenue and 32nd Street, just across from Macy's in 1910, beginning a 50+-year rivavlry. In 1923, owner Adam Gimbel also acquired what would become Saks Fifth Avenue.

Gimbels marketed to the middle class, offering NYC's first department store bargain basement, but had a tough time distinguishing itself from the larger Macy's—which did, after all, have a parade—and the legendary store shuttered in 1986. In its location now is what locals detest—Manhattan Mall—where Abraham & Strauss, then Stern's operated. In 2010, J.C. Penney opened its first New York retailer in the space.
Gimbels in the 1940s...
1951 on left, 1923 top right, 1911.
Gimbels' merch and advertising from 1934 through the 1980s.

See the site today and before Gimbels and Macy's, after the jump!

Here's the site today, with J.C. Penney's first New York retailer, opened in 2010.
And this amazing photograph shows pre-Herald Square, before Gimbels and Macy's, with a four-story residential building and dry goods retailer McDonalds on the ground floor. The billboard along the roof is an ad for Benedictine, a French liqueur.Gimbels in the 'burbs. Yonkers, NY, in the 1950s.


  1. gimbels,woolworths,b.altmans,alexanders,and korvettes are history in new york city. also in the grocery field bohacks,sloans,peter reeves,roulsetns,safeway,finast,grand union,food fair,pantry pride,dilberts,and daitch shopwell.

  2. One Christmas, mother told me she wanted poultry shears. I went to Gimbels. They had a case of almost 10 different designs of poultry shears. The lady took her time going thru the merits of each one so we could select the proper one for mother. Imagine having the choice of 10 different types!

  3. My father would bring my mother, my 2 sisters and I into NYC to go to Gimbels every 6 months to shop back in the late 1970s, early 1980s from New Jersey. He would drop us in Gimbels and then go to the camera stores that surrounded Herald Square. When I was in 6th grade, I got my ears pieced at Gimbels. There was a section upstair that had designer clothes marked way down for $3-15 each. My father would give me a $50 bill before we left the house and I would come home with a bag full of clothes. My NJ classmates could never understand how I had such nice clothes from NYC. Going to Gimbels with my father was one of the best memories of my childhood.

  4. In 1966 working at Gimbels in the advertising dept.was the greatest job I ever had .

    1. That ABSOLUTELY sounds like a wonderful job...advertising in the 60s and in gimbel's to boot. Cool era cool job

  5. Spent many hours there 32/6th perusing the floors..good times when NYC had some Flavor and grunge..original new yorker 1970 .NYC always in my heart.