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

Thursday 23 June 2011

The Shepard Stores in Boston...A Retail Legend from 1865 to 1937

Hello, Retro Boston Lovers!

Today, I share with you some history about that once great department store in Boston, Shepard’s! Many folks have asked me to explore Shepard’s here on the blog and so today...we find out more!

The Shepard Stores in Boston...also located in Providence, Rhode Island, was a Boston shopping scene mainstay just upstairs at Park Street Station and housed in a collection of buildings that had frontage on Tremont, Winter Street and Temple Place. The business was always a family run company and Mr. Shepard Jr. was mainly the one in charge of Boston since his father founded the original business back in a small storefront in 1865. Mr. Shepard Jr.’s two sons were very much involved with the profitable company from the 1920’s on and instrumental in establishing a very early Boston radio station in the Tremont Street building in the early 1920’s.
The business originally called, Shepard Norwell & Company, grew steadily over the years. More buildings were added to its layout until it acquired the handsome building that is still standing on Tremont Street at number 132 next to St. Paul’s Cathedral Church in 1913(the lower floors at first and then the rest by 1915). The name changed to The Shepard Stores during the 1920’s and remained that way until it closed in 1937.

This department store was a store of “stores”…..the Shepard idea was to treat each department like a small specialty shop within the larger parent store. The idea was popular and made Shepard’s a very successful and respected department store in Boston and also in Providence, R.I. The early radio station venture that would come in 1922 (and remain in place until it relocated in 1929) and a very stylish multi-leveled restaurant were some of the highlights of the store once it fully occupied the Tremont Street building by 1915.
The Shepard Stores buying up and taking over as much of its block was very reminiscent of the way Jordan Marsh Company was consuming its own neighbors just down the street during these same years.

The Shepard Stores was still very successful when it ceased operations in late 1937. Mr. Shepard Jr. was getting quite old by this point and his sons were very busy with many new radio broadcasting ventures and the running of the large store in Providence...so the Boston store was closed for good.

Filene’s came along and bought the huge stock to sell off in its basement during the early months of 1938...Raymond’s and Filene’s were both masters in the art of mopping up the aftermath of a shuttered or failed stores.

The Shepard Stores in Providence carried on until mid-1973 and then joined the growing list of long, lost department stores.

John H. Pray and Sons Furniture Store would be the next occupant of 132 Tremont Street and last until nearly 1970 in that location before vanishing into a purely suburban existence. The other “Shepard” buildings on Winter Street and Temple Place would become homes to other offices and business establishments as the years went by….I would not be surprised if R.H. Stearns did not occupy some of the Temple Place holdings for a time.

Enjoy this collection of ads, articles and photos celebrating the once great Shepard Stores in Boston!



The Jordan Marsh Memory Project carries on! Please contact me with any memories, photos or thoughts on this HUGE topic. Love to hear from you!!!

Today’s update is dedicated with much love to the memory of Mrs. Madden.
Mrs. Madden will always have a very special place in my heart. I will forever see her as that quiet, warm and caring person who raised six wonderful children and lived just down the street from me during a large part of my childhood. Her strength and compassion were inspiring to all who had the pleasure of knowing her.
A blessing to us all!