6 The People’s Stores: Taylor’s and Bailey’s

The resurgence of the Euclid Avenue corridor over the past two decades as a premier residential neighborhood has brought new life to downtown Cleveland.  One of the new luxury apartment complexes, at 668 Euclid Avenue, affords quality retail and office space for this growing district.  Prior to this recent renovation effort, this massive structure had been all but abandoned.  What many Clevelanders today may not realize is that this refurbished landmark was once the home to one of Cleveland’s most popular department stores, the William Taylor Son & Company.

It all began in the 1850s when two Scots adventurers William Taylor (1832-1887) and Thomas Kilpatrick migrated to the U.S.  They first settled in Boston, MA where they worked for Hogg, Brown and Taylor the nation’s largest dry goods store.[1] Its Managing Partner was William Taylor’s older brother.  In the late 1860s, Taylor and Kilpatrick moved to Cleveland.  Cleveland was a boomtown then and they wanted to capitalize on it.  These two enterprising businessmen, in 1870, established their-own dry goods store called Taylor & Kilpatrick.[2] It began as a one-room dry goods store with 36 salespersons.  The store quickly gained a positive reputation based on “Honesty in Word and Ware.”

A part of the recently completed Block, located on the south side of Euclid Avenue just east of Public Square, this one-room establishment outshone local competitors in several distinct ways.[3] (PD 4/21/1940 p.24.)  They introduced such things as late store hours and radio photography.  They also initiated mail-in orders and customer service phone lines.  But, perhaps their greatest single contribution to local retailing involved eliminating the bartering system for purchasing goods.  Instead of using traditional bartering techniques, they applied non-negotiable price tags on all items.

Their business partnership dissolved in 1886 with the retirement of Thomas Kilpatrick.  William Taylor (1832-1887) took a great leap in faith that same year when he opened a second retail establishment downtown.  One store sold to wholesale clients while the other served everyday shoppers.[4] Mounting overhead expenses forced the closing of the additional outlet a short time later.  When his son John Livingston Taylor joined the firm in 1887, the senior Taylor renamed his department store William Taylor Son & Company.  Young Taylor died in in 1892.

The unexpected death of John Livingston Taylor posed a major dilemma for store officials.  Who would operate this growing enterprise?  After much discussion, the Board of Directors appointed his widow, Sophia Strong Taylor as its President.  The 31-year old Mrs. Taylor was no stranger to business.  Her father had owned a very successful engineering firm for many years.  Mrs. Taylor remained President until 1935 when she turned it over to her brother Colonel Charles H. Strong (1872-1960).  The board elected her its chairperson.  Mrs. Taylor died in September 1936 at the age of 75.

Mrs. Taylor guided this Cleveland department store into the 20th century.  A deeply religious woman she refused to advertise in the local dailies on Sunday or allow shoppers to gaze at the store’s display windows that day.  However, her strong religious convictions did not prevent her from making bold business moves when it helped the company.  For example, she did not hesitate in 1901 to purchase the entire stock of high quality rugs from one of her chief competitors Root & McBride Company.[5] Taylor’s literally overnight became a leading fine rugs merchant.

Although Mrs. Taylor rejected the idea of spending hard-earned dollars on Sunday advertising, that did not mean she overlooked it entirely.  She knew full-well the importance of advertising least the public forget who you are.  Therefore, Mrs. Taylor spent a great deal of money on it.  This included its-own promotion device called “Store News.”  It appeared in daily newspapers beginning in 1902.[6] This advertisement kept customers abreast of the latest fashion trends and the many bargains found only at Taylor’s.

Talk of building a modern facility on Euclid Avenue in the heart of Cleveland’s retail district first surfaced in 1901.  The fantastic increase of sales following Mrs. Taylor’s appointment convinced stockholders of the need for such a store.  After some deliberation, the board, in 1905, authorized the construction of a full-service department store.  Taylor’s, on March 19, 1907, opened its grand retail establishment at 666 Euclid Avenue.  Designed by Franz Childs Warner (1876-1947) on the former site of the Samuel Cowles mansion, this five–story terra-cotta clad structure included nearly 2,000 employees.[7] With its bright electric lights, extended canopied front, special in-house telephone system, fireproof construction, quality restaurant, customized vacuum cleansing process and free flowing heating and ventilation systems, it was, without a doubt, one of the finest department stores in the nation.  Increasing sales over the next several years led officials in 1911 to approve the construction of three more floors.

The store’s economic success continued into the 1920s.  Like its other downtown competitors, Taylor officials knew the importance of repeat business.  It was their lifeline.  Promotional activities directly aided this cause.  One such activity to receive very favorable publicity occurred in 1920.  Universal Studios produced a special movie clip to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of William Taylor Son & Company.  This film highlighted the store’s daily activities.  It also included a history of the City of Cleveland and a special fashion show.  The public loved it.[8]

Spectacular sales also insured returning business.  Many of Taylor’s most popular sales celebrated in-house events.  They covered the gamut from clearance sales; remnant sales and founder-day sales to anniversary sales, gift week sales and French fashion sales.  One of its greatest sales ever occurred on September 14, 1929.  This extravaganza called Taylor’s Expansion Sale brought thousands of people downtown.  The store was never busier.  Up to three hours of free parking at the Auditorium Garage located at the corner of East 6th Street and St. Clair Avenue also encouraged further business.

Taylor’s advertising at the time of the First World War emphasized the convenience of the store’s credit card.  Department stores including Taylor’s first issued credit cards during the first decade of the 20th century.  However, customers rarely used them.  Store officials attempted to change their thinking through advertising.  Early 1920s advertisements stressed efficiency by saying that shoppers who used their store credit cards often saved time by purchasing more items per visit than those who did not.  An important point to bring out, it had little impact on card usage.  The nagging question facing Taylor’s advertising department was how to reverse this trend.

Taylor’s advertising staff decided to use psychology.  Advertisements, beginning in December 1926, emphasized the fact that those who used the store’s credit cards enjoyed faster service at the checkout line.  Using these cards also lessened the need of customers to carry large amounts of cash.  Lastly, they provided an instant record of all purchases made.[9] Apparently, psychology paid-off.  The percentage of customers using Taylor’s credit card, between 1926 and 1929, increased five-fold.  The fact that store officials offered customers three hours of free parking at the Auditorium Garage on St. Clair Avenue also helped their cause.[10]

This department store also led the pack when it came to installment plans.  Store officials during the “Roaring Twenties” considered installment buying essential to increasing sales.  This was particularly true when it came to selling slow-moving luxury items.  Taylor’s, in 1926, introduced their-own special credit option.  Under this special agreement, customers with good credit had the opportunity to purchase luxury items with only a 25% down payment followed by six-monthly payments.[11]  The store charged a minimum carrying charge for this service.  Taylor’s used a similar installment plan for selling clothing.  Known as Taylor’s Apparel Budget Plan, it enabled shoppers the opportunity of spreading out their payments over a longer time span.

The Stock Market Crash, in October 1929, symbolized the beginning of the worst economic calamity in U.S. history.  Thousands lost their jobs literally overnight.  Over 25% of the work force, in 1932, was unemployed.  The country had never seen anything like this before or since.  Downtown department stores were not immune from it.  Sales plummeted everywhere forcing many popular retail stores to fold.  Cleveland was no exception to this rule.  Fortunately, Taylor’s weathered it.  Its board offered a wide variety of sales throughout the year and of course during the Christmas season.  Taylor’s, in the early 1930s, joined forces with other several other local retailers to sponsor a very special Christmas show for thousands of children.[12] This show concluded with a special visit from Santa Claus.

The slogan developed by Taylor’s advertising department, at that time, said it all: “The Store of the Christmas Spirit – A Gift from Taylor’s Means More.”  Store officials promoted loyalty among their salespersons by hosting gala dine and dance parties.  President Charles H. Strong, at one of these events, announced that the public is now welcomed to view the store’s window displays on Sunday and that Taylor’s would begin advertising in the Sunday newspapers.  Most of the staff supported these actions.[13]

Part of Taylor’s initial success resulted from its ability to anticipate the needs and wants of its patrons.  Store officials also recognized that brand name recognition played a major role in sales.  They further understood that modern retail establishments appealed to shoppers from all walks-of-life.  With those thoughts in mind, William Taylor Son & Company, in 1934, embarked upon a major store refurbishing effort.  This $500,000 renovation included installing an impressive bronze name plaque on the Euclid Avenue side of the store.  Other improvements included bronze light fixtures throughout; classic oriental rugs, highly polished chrome furniture upholstered in black and red, soft overhead lights, new speedy elevators and enlarged departments.[14] Board members also purchased the adjacent Clarence Building and Taylor Arcade.[15] Talks began in 1929 on purchasing the Taylor annex; however, the economic reversals of the early 1930s put everything on hold.

The annual meeting concluded with the stockholders approving a name change.  William Taylor Son & Company became Taylor’s Department Store.  Their latest motto “Try Taylor’s First” reflected this new upbeat mood.  The addition, in 1938, of Taylor’s Apparel Budget Plan appealed to many budget conscious shoppers.  Qualified customers, under this arrangement, could now buy quality merchandise for only a small down payment, minimal monthly payments and a small service charge.[16]

The May Company followed these developments by its competitor with great interest.  Any sudden surge in sales at that department store might prove disadvantageous for its Public Square facility.  Following the death of Mrs. Taylor in September, 1936, Taylor’s board started to liquidate her assets based on provisions spelled out in her will.[17]  The store’s President Charles H. Strong, in 1939, gained controlling interest when he purchased from his sister’s estate 10,000 shares of preferred stock and 5,000 shares of common stock.

New store directors, in 1939, included Charles H. Strong, Edgar A. Hahn and William C. Kenough.[18]  The May Company decided the time to act was now.  Its board took full advantage of this liquidation by becoming Taylor’s leading minority stockholder.[19]  Further investment in Taylor’s by May Company stockholders continued into the 1940s.  This buyout enabled Taylor’s to expand and grow well into the post-war years.  In keeping with Mrs. Taylor’s wishes, President Charles H. Strong, in 1939, resigned.  David H. Scholl succeeded him.  Scholl remained President until 1960 when the board named William J. Weinberg.[20]

Taylor’s executives did not view this buyout as a hostile takeover, far from it.  The May Company made it quite clear that its board did not plan to close Taylor’s Department Store.  Its stockholders believed that there was enough room for both retailers.  This favorable move by the May Company enabled that neighboring retailer to expand beyond its traditional upper middle class customer-base to embrace the working class who frequented Taylor’s.   The accounting department at the May Company believed that the more diverse the store’s portfolio the better the chances for long-term profit and reduced debt.   Looking to an even brighter tomorrow, Taylor officials, in 1941, adopted a new motto “In Cleveland Its Taylor’s for Young Fashions at Famous Thrifty Prices.”  Taylor’s board, that same year, approved further renovations.  Refurbishing resulted in a new fur department, personal service bureau and new budget shop.[21]

The surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 led the U.S. into the Second World War.  Many of Taylor’s most trusted employees fought bravely in the Armed Services.  Still others supported the wartime effort on the home front.  Taylor’s fully supported these efforts.  They sold Liberty Bonds and encouraged employees and their families to cultivate their-own liberty gardens.  Store officials utilized fewer resources and shortened store hours.  Taylor’s in conjunction with the Retail Merchant’s Board set up and manned collection booths for the March of Dimes an organization dedicated to eliminating polio in children.[22]

The board, immediately following the war, approved further store renovations.  That included new stainless steel elevators valued at $2,000,000.  A 1947 store slogan set the stage for further changes by saying that “You, too, will enjoy shopping at Taylor’s, Cleveland’s centrally located, easy-to-reach department store.”  Its newly remodeled French Room showcased the latest Parisian fashions and accessories.[23] Sports enthusiasts marveled at the technically advanced Martin “40” Outboard Motors for speed boats.[24] Still others took advantage of its many clothing sales.  There was something for everyone at the new Taylor’s.

Taylor’s Department Store remained very popular during the post-war years.  Officials, in the early 1950s, introduced their-own special gift certificates available at Christmas.  However, they were not your run-of-the-mill gift certificates in that certificate recipients were the shoppers who purchased it.  Under this unique arrangement, participants purchased a Taylor Book of Credit for a predetermined amount.  That dollar figure represented the amount of money a shopper planned to spend on Christmas gifts that year.  Customers paid a small down payment when receiving the book and then arranged with store officials to pay the remainder off over time.  The coupons in the book were the same as cash and could be used anytime in any department.

One novel promotion geared especially for children involved a national photography contest.  Sponsored in 1960 by the National Association of Department Store Photography Studios and Taylor’s photography studio, the winner received up to $10,000.  Contest judges included celebrates such as Anne Bancroft, Shari Lewis and Ed Sullivan.[25]   Hoping to increase its summer business, Taylor’s, in 1955, spent $1,500,000 to air condition its fifty year old store.  Albert Higley & Company; Horn & Rhinehart architects and Paul Fleming Consulting Engineer completed this major renovation.[26] The store’s new slogan said it all “You’ll Enjoy Shopping at Taylor’s, New Carrier Air-conditioning System Makes It Healthful to Shop.”  To celebrate this major event, Taylor’s ran a series of sales.

The Board of Directors, two years later, approved the building of a branch store at the Southgate Shopping Center in Maple Hts., OH.  Designed by Welton Beckett Associates of California at a cost of $5,000,000, this full-service store featured natural colored wood cabinets with appropriate trim.  Its exterior veneer with its glazed gray bricks, concrete and glass placed against a backdrop of California canyon stone was striking.  Southgate Shopping Center included 87 stores and 6,000 parking spaces.

Taylor officials in June 1960 unveiled plans to renovate their downtown facilities.  This $1,000,000 remodeling effort included updating Euclid Avenue display windows.  Customers also appreciated the new safety lighting installed on either side of to its main entrance.  Additional improvements ranged from a new Men’s Shop and self-service fabric department to an updated beauty salon and enlarged auditorium.[27] Unfortunately, these major changes came too late.

Two economic recessions, one in 1957-58 followed by another one in 1960-61, resulted in a downturn in department stores sales.  The largest retailers with low inventories and ample capital resources rebounded quickly, while those with less recognizable identities, high inventories and minimum capital reserves did not fare as well.  In fact, more than forty U.S. department stores, between 1958 and 1961, filed for bankruptcy.  That number might have doubled without consolidated and merger.  These legal tactics whereby two or more retailers join forces saved hundreds of smaller department stores from extinction.

Unfortunately, customers were not prepared at all for the major changes resulting from such actions.  Consolidation and mergers may have saved financially strapped retailers, but nothing was ever the same again.  Familiar names, retail customs and long-standing traditions were often sacrificed in the name of “progress.”  Excluding customers from this process may have made perfect business sense; however, it often led to disaster.  Customers wanted to feel a part of the process, and that local retailers were considering their needs and wants throughout it all.  Not including customers in the loop angered many.  In retaliation, they often left the fold and shopped at other establishments where they believed they were more appreciated.  Ultimately, the consumer, not the business community, determined which retailers survived and which did not.

This simple business lesson so readily understood at the turn of the 21st century completely eluded local retailers sixty years ago.  Business practices among large retailers were dictated by traditional profit and loss scenarios.   The big question facing large department stores such as the May Company, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, was whether a subsidiary like Taylor’s was worth the infusion of large amounts of capital to save it, with the hope that it would quickly rebound, or was it better to cut one’s losses?  In most cases, retailers favored cutting losses rather than continuing to invest within a questionable venture.  These business leaders spent very little time worrying about the economic, political or social ramifications of their actions.  It was an issue of dollars and cents, profits and losses, and nothing more.

Such was the case when on October 30, 1961 the May Company announced Taylor’s closing.[28]  Cutting mounting expenses through consolidation prompted the board’s decision.  May Company officials hoped to generate sufficient capital to promote further expansion and debt reduction.  The fact that many Clevelanders liked to shop at Taylor’s had little direct impact on the final decision.  In the minds of the Board of Directors, Taylor Department Store had indeed served the community faithfully for many years providing affordable, quality merchandise.  Unfortunately, decreasing sales posed a real dilemma.  Changing fashions and a changing customer-base also concerned thoughtful May Company executives and stockholders.  Keeping Taylor’s financially afloat through this period of uncertainty seemed very risky.  With no guarantee of future success, the board decided to fold Taylor’s into the May Company.

The official press release announcing Taylor’s closing was not that blunt.  Company officials attempted to soften the blow by saying that Cleveland economic picture had changes greatly during the post-war years.  They focused on the fact that changing patterns in shopping, led by the mass exodus of Clevelanders to the suburbs, had made Taylor’s obsolete.  More and more people in the 1950s had chosen to shop at the May Company, Halle’s and Higbee’s leaving Taylor’s behind. May Company officials further pointed out that over 80% of Taylor’s credit card holders enjoyed similar privileges at the May Company.  Executives concluded that providing duplicating services for a growingly diverse customer-base no longer made sense, and that in closing Taylor’s the May Company would be able to offer even a greater selection of merchandise at lower prices.[29]

The May Company wasted no time in closing the Euclid Avenue facility and converting Taylor’s suburban store at Southgate Shopping Center into its-own branch.  The once venerable Taylor’s Department Store was no more.  Perhaps the early 20th century architect Charles Lamb summed it up best when he said “the façade of a department store is as much an old familiar face as is a human face. When it’s gone we feel a personal lost.”[30] Grieving the loss of Taylor’s, many of its customers reluctantly turned to the May Company and other downtown retailers for merchandise and services.

William Taylor’s retail success, in the early 1870s, provided inspiration for a whole host of enterprising Clevelanders including Lewis A. Bailey, Colonel Louis Black and Charles K. Sunshine.  These three innovative businessmen in 1881 pooled their financial resources and opened their-own retail establishment.  Known as the L.A. Bailey Dry Goods Company and located in the former Farmer’s Block at the corner of Ontario Street and Prospect Avenue, this store offered reasonably priced quality clothing, groceries and home furnishings.  It also sold tailor-made dresses, trimmed hats, infant ware and silks.  Part of Bailey’s initial success rested with its competent sales staff.  They were always courteous and helpful.  However, it was more than that.  Lewis Bailey was an admirable man and a born salesman.[31]  He liked people and they liked him.  He also knew that effective advertising gimmicks and promotions would bring crowds into the store and that crowds meant sales.

One of his earliest promotions involved ringing a large store bell during Greater Monday Sales Days.  That store bell chimed every half hour.  Those customers lucky enough to be handing money to the cashiers at that very moment received those items free.[32] Store officials, in 1909, stimulated sales by introducing Merchant Stamps.  Customers who collected enough Merchant Stamps also qualified for free merchandise.[33]  Promotional gimmicks like those worked.

Bailey’s Board of Directors, in 1895, approved plans to totally refurbish the premises.  Store improvements ran the gamut from ornate iron elevators, bright electric lighting and proper ventilation to an expanded men’s shop, larger millinery parlor, bigger grocery and specialized children’s department.[34] He also, in 1900, added more floor space.  Bailey led the pack in other inventive and unique ways.  For example, this retailer encouraged recent immigrants to shop at his store by providing language interpreters at all sales stations.[35]  Bailey also promoted his employees with many rising in the ranks from cashier or stock boy to store buyer or department manager.[36]

Store employees, in 1899, mourned the loss of Lewis A. Bailey.  Colonel Black and Charles Sunshine took over operations.  These retailers, later that same year, acquired Cleveland Dry Goods Company.  The 20th century brought big changes to Bailey’s.  It began, in 1901, with the construction of a new store at the corner of Ontario Street and Prospect Avenue.  This impressive six–story building topped by a vintage Mansard roof opened to rave reviews.  Significant increases in sales over the next several years convinced owners, in 1910, to build a ten–story addition.  Bailey’s had found its retail niche.  Now known as “The Store for all the People,” it continued to offer great values for the money.  More and more customers shopped there.

Frequent sales brought thousands to Bailey’s.  Their Greater March Sales, in particular, appealed to pennywise shoppers.  It enabled customers to purchase some of the store’s finest items at greatly reduced prices.  Executives also encouraged customers to use their Bailey’s credit cards.  Those availing themselves of that service also qualified for the store’s special installment plan.  Under this arrangement, shoppers had up to ten weeks to pay-off the balance owed on their purchases without incurring interest or service charges.[37]  Customers also enjoyed Bailey’s Soda Fountain where they could purchase a reasonably priced lunch.

Bailey’s slogan in the 1920s “Let Nothing Keep You Away” truly reflected its new, upbeat attitude.  Sales nearly quadrupled between 1919 and 1926.  Skyrocketing sales convinced board members to expand their retail activities throughout the country.  Under the careful direction of President Victor Sincere (1876-1955), the Board of Directors, in 1927, established their-own nationwide chain with Bailey’s as its anchor store.  Called National Department Stores, this New York-based corporation operated for more than thirty years.  The store’s trailblazing leadership did not stop with the establishment of the National chain.

The 1920s symbolized a period of great growth and change for both Cleveland and this most ambitious retailer.  One significant breakthrough in urban life involved the development of middle and upper class residential neighborhoods within newly emerging suburbs such as Cleveland Hts; East Cleveland, Euclid, Lakewood and Shaker Hts.  Bailey’s officials, in 1929, tapped into this retail market by opening their first branch store.  This highly successful store, located at 10007 Euclid Avenue in Doan’s Corner, offered many of the same high quality items found downtown.

Many Cleveland retailers closed their doors during the Great Depression of the 1930s but not Bailey’s.  The store’s capable sales staff and effective board managed to keep it going even in the darkest economic times.  Its motto at that time “It’s Smart to be Thrifty” appealed to a great many Clevelanders with modest incomes.  Adding high quality Persian rugs with linen fringes to its line of merchandise put Bailey’s a cut above its competitors.  Bailey’s officials, throughout the 1930s, sponsored major sales on a regular basis.  One of the most popular sales occurred in each February.  This extravaganza encouraged shoppers to purchase fine quality pieces of furniture at great savings.

Christmas seasons, throughout the 1930s, brought thousands downtown.  Children, in particular, enjoyed visiting Santa Claus in his glistening white house.  Bailey’s, in the height of the Great Depression, opened a second suburban branch.  This no-frills full-service store, at 14725 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, OH, proved an instant moneymaker.  Steady increases in sales especially in the late 1930s convinced officials that they were doing the right things.  Their catchy slogan “Bailey’s Sign of Quality, Value and Style” summed it up best.

Like other downtown department stores, Bailey’s, in the 1940s, wholeheartedly supported the war effort.  Its officials worked diligently to sell war bonds and to conserve energy and natural resources whenever possible.  It hosted, in 1943, a very special war bond rally appropriately called Heroes Day.[38]  Store executives stationed thirteen members of the Armed Services in special booths throughout the store to sell war bonds.  Customers purchased thousands of dollars-worth of bonds that day.  By the end of the Second World War, Bailey’s and the seven other large downtown retailers had sold a total of $134,000,000 in bonds.  Bailey’s led its competitors in selling defense stamps.

Store officials after the war decided to modernize one of its branch stores and build another.  Board members considered such investments an effective way to insure permanent, long-term growth.  Modernization efforts began in August 1945, with its Euclid Avenue outlet.[39] Little had been done to improve this site during the war years.  Bailey’s legal counsel extended the store’s lease to 1955 with an option to renew for an additional five years.  It also purchased the adjacent Laurel Building and annex for $225,000.  This acquisition nearly doubled that outlet’s size.  Officials, in 1951, unveiled plans for a new store this time in Euclid, OH.  Designed by the well-respected architectural firm of Weinberg & Teare and located near the intersection of East 228th Street and Lakeshore Boulevard, this branch store drew thousands of customers mostly from the east side.[40]

Bailey’s celebrated its grand opening with a new slogan “East Side–West Side–All-Around the Town.”  The public loved it and net sales remained high throughout the 1950s.  This department store’s wide selection of durable affordable fashions prices appealed to money conscious Clevelanders.[41] Now with three locations, everyone could shop at Bailey’s.  Store officials took great pride in their top notched service and ability to anticipate customers’ needs.  To illustrate this last point, Bailey’s, in 1949, outshone their competitors when it introduced a teenage shop geared for high school girls.[42] Executives also prided themselves than many of their employees had been with Bailey’s for more than 25 years.

Bailey’s financial success did not escape the attention of other local and nationally-based department stores.  In fact, a number of large retailers tried unsuccessfully to purchase it.  Hoping to significantly increase its hold on the Cleveland retail market, Bailey’s in the early 1950s endeavored to buyout some of its competitors.  One merger attempt receiving a fair amount of local media attention involved Federal Department Stores.  Merger talks begun in 1955 continued well into the 1960s.[43] Major economic turmoil on Bailey’s home front ended further discussions.

Bailey’s parent company the New York-based National Department Stores, in 1955, announced plans to divest itself of all its retail operations.[44] National officials had first broached this subject during the height of the Korean Conflict when the demand for natural energy raised prices to unprecedented high levels.  Increasingly, its board members believed that harnessing natural energy sources such as coal, gas and oil represented the next great business opportunity.  It was an untapped market waiting for bold investors.  Those willing to take that gamble now would profit handsomely, while those who hesitated would be soon left behind.  Retailing, on the other hand, had seen its day.  Not much room for future growth within an already saturated local market.  National’s board concluded that the mid-1950s represented an ideal time to sell its retail assets and invest in mining and drilling operations.  That prompted the establishment of the International Mining Corporation (IMC).  IMC, over the next three years, sold all its stores in New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

The actions taken by National’s board members set the stage for Century Food Market Company (CFM).  CFM, in 1958, purchased Bailey’s Department Store.[45]  A Youngstown-based company with 26 stores and annual sales running somewhere between $13,000,000 to $15,000,000 CFM planned to convert Bailey’s into one of Cleveland’s largest department store chains.  The CFM board wasted no time and, in 1959, financed a fourth branch store at Eastgate Shopping Center in Mayfield Hts., OH.  Like the other Bailey branches, this retail outlet catered primarily to Cleveland’s working class.  Anthony Visconsi & Associates designed this new 75,000 square foot one-story store.[46]

One of the first challenges facing Bailey’s new ownership involved the rights of employees to unionize.  Based in Youngstown, OH, a pro-union town, CMF had always supported workers’ causes.  Therefore, it came as no surprise when the board, in 1959, upheld the right of its employees to unionize and participate in collective bargaining.  Now an active member of Retail Employees Local #880, Bailey’s represented the first Cleveland downtown department store to encourage employee unions.[47]

CMFs also led the fight to repeal the blue laws that prohibited Sunday sales throughout Greater Cleveland.  Officials said that it no longer made any sense to remain closed on Sunday since many of their customers worked off hours and could only shop on the weekend.  Tightly upheld blue laws prevented many customers from shopping in their favorite department store.  Why deny them their right to shop based on outmoded laws?   Bailey’s Euclid and Mayfield Hts. locations in 1963 were opened on Sunday.[48]

The national recession of 1960-61 did not dampen CMF’s enthusiasm.  Great fanfare accompanied the grand opening, in 1960, of the Mayfield Hts., OH store.  Unfortunately, gala grand openings did not always insure long-term success.  Bailey’s now found itself competing against a new breed of retailing, the discount department stores.  The Mayfield Hts. outlet at the Eastgate Shopping Center seemed old fashion when compared to new sleek competitors such as K-Mart or Giant Tiger.  This store never generated sustained profits.

Part of the problem facing traditional retailers such as Bailey’s originated with the shoppers themselves.  The 1960s introduced a whole new generation of customers who were not in the least impressed with functional stores like Bailey’s.  Younger shoppers demanded excitement and flair.  They wanted to be dazzled by bright lights, colorful displays, glistening counters and fancy promotions.  Leading discounters of that era such as Zayre’s, K-Mart, Bradlee’s, Giant Tiger and Uncle Bill’s catered to those customers.  Bailey executives were not unaware of what was happening.  They made a consorted effort to update their store’s drab image by introducing affordable quality merchandise within a more appealing setting.  Unfortunately, the public did not buy it.

Declining store sales, throughout the 1960-61 shopping season, led to major changes.  CMF President Jules J. Aron on February 14, 1962 unveiled plans to downsize current operations.[49]  Downsizing, in this instance, meant reducing the number of employees in all branches and demolishing the downtown store.  Demolition of this landmark took place in August 1962.  The public expressed outrage.  How could CMF tear down Bailey’s?  That kind of public outpouring convinced store officials to reopen this time at another, smaller location.  The local media praised CMF for its action.  Under the direction of the store’s newest President Irvin J. Ware, the former Bing Furniture, at 514 Prospect Avenue, soon became the latest Bailey’s Department Store.[50]

The CMF board, the following year, announced further reductions.  These cutbacks included reducing the sales staff and converting its less-than-profitable Eastgate outlet into a new discount store.  Behind the scenes, CMF discussed merger possibilities with several other retailers.  However, nothing materialized until autumn.  The Plain Dealer, in November 1963, announced a merger between Bailey’s and Miracle Mart.[51] Miracle Mart, a successful chain of 25 stores located in nine states, wanted to expand into the Great Lakes region.  This merger provided a way to do just that.  Under this agreement, CMF remained in charge of Bailey’s with Miracle Mart handling all financial and legal issues.  Miracle Mart executives were very optimistic.  They projected profits of at least $70,000,000 by the mid-1960s.

Miracle Mart, hoped to offset recent losses by infusing some much needed capital into this ailing retailer.  Its board firmly believed that all Bailey’s needed was sprucing up.  Renovations began in March 1964, with the Lakewood, OH store.  Plans called for adding another 24,000 square feet to this thirty-year old facility.  Other improvements included a new second-story entrance that led into the adjoining garage; a brand new white concrete façade accented by mosaic panels and special lighting, an expanded men’s department and a special area for young girls.[52]  Neville’s Department Store, later that same year, bought it.  Austere business measures during the 1965-66 shopping season did not appreciably improve sales.  CMF, in a last ditch effort, disbanded its clothing lines to focus exclusively on furniture.  The new Miracle Mart failed to impress shoppers and Bailey’s, in 1968, declared bankruptcy.

Analysts, at that time, blamed both CMF and Miracle Mart for Bailey’s demise.  They said that neither company knew anything about retailing traditions in Cleveland.  If they had, then they would have left Bailey’s alone.  Critics claimed that the financial problems currently plaguing stores, like Bailey’s, were only temporary.  The local economy would soon rebound and that would undoubtedly restore confidence within the local retail sector.  It was just a matter of time.  Regrettably, outside retailers such as CMF and Miracle Mart lacked the patience necessary to ride out the storm.  That sealed Bailey’s fate.

In reality, the store’s demise was not that simple or straight-forward.  Bailey’s served the needs and wants of an earlier period in Cleveland history.  Its shoppers, primarily working class Clevelanders, made up a large percentage of its buying public then.  However, as the city grew and prospered the demand for no frills retailers such as Bailey’s lessened.  More sophisticated Clevelanders, in the 1960s and 1970s, insisted upon upscale department stores and specialty shops, many in the suburbs, and they were willing to pay for them.[53] CMF and Miracle Mart cannot be blamed for the demise of Bailey’s.  Its time had indeed come and gone.  Nostalgia notwithstanding, no corporation in the 1960s or 1970s could have saved it.

The taste of customers had changed greatly and only the most sophisticated department stores with plenty of available capital had a fighting chance of surviving this challenge.  Unfortunately, Bailey’s was not destined to be a part of the select few.  However, that does not lessen its importance or impact on Cleveland’s local retail scene.  Less we forget, Bailey’s represented a wonderful store that served the needs of Clevelanders for many years and, for that alone, it should be commended for a job well done.

 

ENDNOTES

1. William Ganson Rose, Cleveland: The Making of a City, (Kent: Kent State University Press, 1950), 72.
2. “Taylor’s Closes After Ninety Years,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 17, 1961.
3. Ibid.
4. “Birthday of an Old Store, This is the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Opening of Taylor’s History of the Company,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 21, 1900.
5. “Very Important Store News from Taylor’s,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 1, 1902.
6. Ibid.
7. “Taylor’s Store is Thrown Open,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 20, 1907.
8. “Golden Film to be Made for Taylor’s Jubilee,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 2, 1920.
9. “They Know Me at Taylor’s,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 10, 1926.
10. “Today at Taylor’s Store-Wide Semi-Annual Remnant Day.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 22, 1927.
11. “Easy Payment Plan at Taylor’s,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 15, 1926.
12. “Santa Drops In to Start Season.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 19, 1935.
13. “Eight Hundred Hail Taylor’s 69th Anniversary,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 10, 1939.
14. “Taylor’s Store is Dream Realized,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 29, 1934.
15. “Taylor Expansion Sale,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 14, 1929.
16. “Mid-Season Clearance Taylor’s Store for Men,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 10, 1938.
17. “May’s Interest in Taylor’s Revealed,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 13, 1945.
18. “Major Strong Acquires Taylor Store Control,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 22, 1939.
19. “May’s Interest in Taylor’s Revealed,”
20. “Erieview Is Vital Now, Says Mayor,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 31, 1961.
21. “Taylor’s Opens Wide the Doors to Christmas Time,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 23, 1941.
22. “Stores to Spur March of Dimes,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 24, 1943.
23. “Taylor’s, The French Room.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 12, 1947.
24. “Taylor’s is the Only Cleveland Department Store that Sells the Famous Martin Motor,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 23, 1948.
25. “Taylor’s Abound for Treasure,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 8, 1960.
26. “Taylor’s Starts Work to Air-Condition Store,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 13, 1955.
27. “Taylor’s Set for Extensive Remodeling,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 21, 1960.
28. “Erieview is Vital Now, Says Mayor.”
29. “William Taylor Son & Company,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 31, 1961.
30. Ibid.
31. “L.A. Bailey’s, Great Department Store – A Model Establishment Successfully Opening of all the Departments Yesterday,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 15, 1895.
32. “A Model Department Store, L.A. Bailey’s Great Department Store is Becoming Very Popular,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 5, 1895.
33. “The Bailey Department Store,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 21, 1899.
34. “Tomorrow at Bailey’s, Begins a Week of Celebration Sales,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 10, 1909.
35. “A New Grocery Store, L.A. Bailey Successful Opening of His New Pure Food Department,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 20, 1895.
36. “Euclid Bare When Bailey’s Started,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 22, 1951.
37. Ibid.
38. “Yes, Bailey’s Greater March Sales Begin Monday Morning,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 3, 1929.
39. “Cities Loss of Guns to Spur Big Bond Push,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 16, 1943.
40. Adin C. Rider, “Bailey to Expand East Side Store, Adjoining Property,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 9, 1945.
41. “Advanced Styling In Store Design, New Suburban Bailey Store Embodies Novel Ideas,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 22, 1951.
42. “It All Began in 1899,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 11, 1951.
43. “Golden Anniversary for Bailey Company,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 1, 1949.
44. “Bailey Continues Negotiations for Federal Stores,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 7, 1961.
45. John E. Bryan, “Bailey’s Stores’ Sale in Under Negotiation.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 11, 1958.
46. Ibid.
47. “Bailey Store Plans Branch at Eastgate,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 22, 1959.
48. “The New Bailey’s Cleveland First Union Department Store,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 27, 1959.
49. “Two Bailey Stores to be Opened Sundays,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 15, 1962.
50. John E. Bryan, “Closing Downtown Bailey’s to Expand in Suburbs Soon,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 15, 1962.
51. Rober Glueck, “Ware Directs Bailey Growth,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 16, 1964.
52. “Bailey’s Will Buy 67% of Chain in East,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 18, 1963.
53. “Santa at Bailey’s, Store is Ready for Yule Shopping,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 29, 1964.
54. Philip W. Porter, “A Look at Erieview and Shopping Habits,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 16, 1962.


  1. Rose, William Ganson. Cleveland: The Making of a City. Kent: Kent State University Press, 1950, pp. 72.
  2. “Taylor’s Closes After Ninety Years.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 17, 1961.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “Birthday of an Old Store, This is the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Opening of Taylor’s History of the Company.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 21, 1900.
  5. “Very Important Store News from Taylor’s.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 1, 1902.
  6. Ibid.
  7. “Taylor’s Store is Thrown Open.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 20, 1907.
  8. “Golden Film to be Made for Taylor’s Jubilee.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 2, 1920.
  9. “They Know Me at Taylor’s.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 10, 1926.
  10. “Today at Taylor’s Store-Wide Semi-Annual Remnant Day.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 22, 1927.
  11. “Easy Payment Plan at Taylor’s.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 15, 1926.
  12. “Santa Drops In to Start Season.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 19, 1935.
  13. “Eight Hundred Hail Taylor’s 69th Anniversary.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 10, 1939.
  14. “Taylor’s Store is Dream Realized.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 29, 1934.
  15. “Taylor Expansion Sale.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 14, 1929.
  16. “Mid-Season Clearance Taylor’s Store for Men.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 10, 1938.
  17. “May’s Interest in Taylor’s Revealed.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 13, 1945.
  18. “Major Strong Acquires Taylor Store Control.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 22, 1939.
  19. “May’s Interest in Taylor’s Revealed.”
  20. “Erieview Is Vital Now, Says Mayor.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 31, 1961.
  21. “Taylor’s Opens Wide the Doors to Christmas Time.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 23, 1941.
  22. “Stores to Spur March of Dimes.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 24, 1943.
  23. “Taylor’s, The French Room.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 12, 1947.
  24. “Taylor’s is the Only Cleveland Department Store that Sells the Famous Martin Motor.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 23, 1948.
  25. “Taylor’s Abound for Treasure.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 8, 1960.
  26. “Taylor’s Starts Work to Air-Condition Store.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 13, 1955.
  27. “Taylor’s Set for Extensive Remodeling.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 21, 1960.
  28. “Erieview is Vital Now, Says Mayor.”
  29. “William Taylor Son & Company.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 31, 1961.
  30. Ibid.
  31. “A Model Department Store, L.A. Bailey’s Great Department Store is Becoming Very Popular.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 5, 1895.
  32. “The Bailey Department Store.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 21, 1899.
  33. “Tomorrow at Bailey’s, Begins a Week of Celebration Sales.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 10, 1909.
  34. “A New Grocery Store, L.A. Bailey Successful Opening of His New Pure Food Department.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 20, 1895.
  35. “Euclid Bare When Bailey’s Started.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 22, 1951.
  36. Ibid.
  37. “Yes, Bailey’s Greater March Sales Begin Monday Morning.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 3, 1929.
  38. “Cities Loss of Guns to Spur Big Bond Push.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 16, 1943.
  39. Rider, Adin C. “Bailey to Expand East Side Store, Adjoining Property.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 9, 1945.
  40. “Advanced Styling In Store Design, New Suburban Bailey Store Embodies Novel Ideas.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 22, 1951.
  41. “It All Began in 1899.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 11, 1951.
  42. “Golden Anniversary for Bailey Company.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 1, 1949.
  43. “Bailey Continues Negotiations for Federal Stores.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 7, 1961.
  44. Bryan, John E. “Bailey’s Stores’ Sale in Under Negotiation.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 11, 1958.
  45. Ibid.
  46. “Bailey Store Plans Branch at Eastgate.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 22, 1959.
  47. “The New Bailey’s Cleveland First Union Department Store.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 27, 1959.
  48. “Two Bailey Stores to be Opened Sundays.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 15, 1962.
  49. Bryan, John E. “Closing Downtown Bailey’s to Expand in Suburbs Soon,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 15, 1962.
  50. Glueck, Robert. “Ware Directs Bailey Growth.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 16, 1964.
  51. “Bailey’s Will Buy 67% of Chain in East.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 18, 1963.
  52. “Santa at Bailey’s, Store is Ready for Yule Shopping.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 29, 1964.
  53. Porter, Phillip W. “A Look at Erieview and Shopping Habits.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 16, 1962.

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The People's Stores: Taylor's and Bailey's by Richard Klein, Ph.D is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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