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

Thursday 3 March 2011

Conrad & Chandler's: The Story of a 1958 Retro Boston Merger

Hello, Retro Boston Lovers!

As many of my readers fondly recall, Boylston, Tremont and Washington Streets plus many of the smaller connecting streets were blooming with a host of smaller specialty shops to cater to the whims and fancies of the retro Boston shopper.

The big department stores worked very hard to meet all the needs of the average shopper but many folks loved to be looked after in slightly less “busy” surroundings. I think anyone born in the last twenty years in Boston can not possibly understand or imagine the fact that one could start a shopping spree at 10 AM in Boston and be exhausted, bag laden and have visited countless shops by 4 PM.

The stores in Boston, like most cities, came in four sizes…small, average, large and very large.
The very large stores like Filene’s, Jordan Marsh, Gilchrist’s, Raymond’s and RH. White’s carried vast amounts of stock and had departments upon departments.

The large stores like C. Crawford Hollidge and Conrad & Chandler’s were shops that specialized in outfitting women of all ages plus had other departments thrown in for good measure.

Today we shall focus on Conrad & Chandler’s and how they came to be one united store in 1958.

Conrad’s on Winter Street and Chandler and Company on Tremont Street each had a strong client base and had long histories dating well back into the 1800’s. Both stores grew larger and added on departments such as infant and toddler goods, a small selection of men’s apparel, beauty salons, and some children’s toys and clothing. A woman could have her complete wardrobe provided by either shop and also do a great deal of her family Christmas shopping there as well with ease.

Conrad’s became known as… “That distinctive store on Winter Street.” A slogan that would be carried into the merger in 1958.

Both had impressive buildings. Chandler’s on the corner of Tremont and West Street was by far the larger of the two. It had eleven floors and its location facing Boston Common put it in the class of RH. Stearns and C. Crawford Hollidge’s. History and accessibility made both stores survivors of the Boston retail scene and by the 1950’s, Chandler’s had a branch store in Belmont proving financial viability.

The shocking closure of two of Boston’s well known stores, White’s and Slattery’s in the summer of 1957 gave Boston retailers a chance to look at some bleak facts.

Boston was not the magnet for shoppers that is used to be, keeping up with the times was crucial and investing in suburban branches was a race that needed to be won!

The two store heads looked at the situation and decided on a course of action.
Merge and grow stronger…no more competing against one another…unite and go from strength to strength. They selected Winter Street as place to retain and merge their stores. The beautiful building on the corner of West and Tremont Streets was to be sold and converted to mainly offices. The branch in Belmont would carry on christened with the new name…Conrad & Chandler’s. The announcement of the merger came in late 1957 just as the Christmas shopping frenzy began. By January 1958, both stores were united on Winter Street with a sign above the doors proclaiming this new partnership.

Also in the works by this point was a new branch in the North Shore Shopping Plaza in Peabody. The merger was providing the much needed capital to back this suburban expansion that each on their own might not have been quite able to manage.
Boston had a new, stronger store and 1958 shoppers seemed to be pleased with the news.

The store would carry on and expand further into the suburbs over the next decade before things began to slide downward.

Today we are celebrating the merger…enjoy the look of the ads and articles before, during and after the merger. I also include a look at the former Chandler and Company building on the corner of Tremont and West Streets. The handsome building still stands today and is part of Suffolk University.

More information on Conrad & Chandler’s can be found at:








Denholms said...

I just can't get enough of those old illustrations in the newspapers.....wonderful post!!!


Charles Boston said...

Thanks so much!!!! I really enjoy finding them....and sharing them:-)

Happy Spring!!!

Anonymous said...

Where were the Conrad adn Chandler stores located?

cmack13 said...

These are great posts! Do you happen to know what store used to be in the Louis Boston Newbury street building? Phonetically, I think it was "bon-watellas," but this is obviously just a phonetic spelling. Any information you have would be great!