A place to recall and celebrate the wonderful stores of a Downtown Boston now alive only in our memories

Monday 13 October 2008

Best & Co. In Boston

Hello my Friends!

 All the stores that I feature here were Boston based department stores or stores that had a large branch or branches in the downtown Boston area. Best&Co. was a New York City based department store that had a branch in Boston for many years. Best&Co. was one of those department stores that had a few areas of speciality that it served well and for many years in its main store in New York City and in the branches it had operated during its time in business from 1879-1971. 

Best&Co. was mainly known for children's and women's clothing and accessories. It had a very tasteful, upmarket style and a keen eye for fashions. I would say that in the Boston area it most looked and felt like RH Stern's on Tremont Street. 

The Boston branch of Best&Co. was located from the late 1950's until it closed in 1971 on Boylston Street in the Copley Square area. My research seems to indicate that it was in the building built to replace the very ornate Hotel Brunswick just behind Trinity Church. 

This typical "retro" style office and retail building housed Best&Co. on the first two floors.

The store may have been located in another spot prior to this time but I can find no information on this. 

In 1966, the declining company was acquired by McCrory's and sadly, this was the start to an even bigger decline and eventual closure in November 1970 of the flagship store in NYC and some branches. The Fifth Ave. marble faced flagship building would be sold and torn down in 1971 to make way for a "typical" NYC tower. Best&Co. was another of the many victims to fall during the closures of the 1960's and 70's. 

The Boston branch seemed to hang on for another year or so before McCrory's closed it as well.

Enjoy these stylish photos of the interior of the Boston branch circa 1960 and some sales adverts from the New York based stores. I also include some of the articles written in the New York papers at the time of the closure in 1970. 

I tossed in one shot of the Fifth Ave. building from 1961 located next to St. Patrick's on the left.


Tuesday 7 October 2008

Some Fun Raymond's Trivia

Hello All!

My friend Jan Whitaker wrote me with a bit of Raymond's trivia that I did not know and hope you will all enjoy reading. 

In 1998 Robert C. Schaye, who had served as president for the once great Boston institution, died and in his Boston Globe obituary a bit of trivia was found and recently located by Jan.

Raymond's department store was a fixture in downtown Boston for 100 years. Its spokesman was "Uncle Eph," a bewhiskered top-hatted swamp yankee with an eye for a bargain and a problem with spelling.

Every year, with much fanfare (and advance publicity), "Uncle Eph" arrived at South Station and was led to the store by a marching band to celebrate "originashun day," the anniversary of the opening of the store.

In 1872, the year of the Great Boston Fire that destroyed much of the downtown shopping district, George J. Raymond pitched a tent downtown and sold an assortment of hats he bought at a fire sale. His family-operated store soon became a permanent fixture on Washington Street. At one time Raymond's also operated outlets in Dedham, Lynn, Malden, Quincy, and Waltham. The firm filed for bankruptcy in 1972 and closed shortly thereafter.

According to Boston legend (and a story published in the Globe on May 12, 1957) Uncle Eph first arrived on the scene many years ago, when Frank Dorr, the general manager of Raymond's, received a letter postmarked Slatersville, R.I., and addressed: "The Big Mogul at Raymond's Where U Bot Th' Hat.'

The letter was from the Rev. Harvey B. Eastman of the Congregational Church in Slatersville, and related in familiar language and abysmal spelling how the preacher had been sending away for many years for Raymond's merchandise.

"After `awl these years," he wrote, `thot I'd set right down and write you how awl-danged pleased Ida' been with your guds and th' way they guv me years uf long wear."

To show his appreciation, The Reverend, "Uncle Eph," was coming to Boston Town to make a "speshul" trip to see Raymonds and thank 'em.

Mr. Dorr knew an opportunity for good publicity when he saw one. He met Eph with a marching band when his train arrived at South Station and thus was born a Boston tradition.

And now I present a few examples of 1920's adverts from a few Boston papers which showed Unkle Eph and his unique spellings.  The adverts in the 1920's were large and almost always a full page. Each contained a message from dear old Unkle Eph to fill us in on the goings on in his special world. Lessons to be learned and values to be found in the patchwork of buildings that made up the famous Raymond's Department Store on the corner of Washington and Franklin Streets. I will also repost a photo from the last days of Raymond's in this location before it was torn down to make way for the new BIG Woolworth's of the late 60's. 

Thanks Jan!  Enjoy!


ps...."Unkle Eph" always spelled his name this way. The Globe just had to fix it:-)