The Department Stores of Main Street

The Department Stores of Main Street

Journeys into Hackensack

There are still folks around to whom a shopping trip locally did not mean a trek to Paramus or Riverside Square.

Back then a quality shopping day offered two alternatives. One could hop on the 165 or 55 bus to the city where one could find the likes of Altmans, Lord & Taylor, Bests, Sterns and Saks in close proximity on Fifth Avenue. There was also Macy's, Gimbels, Abraham & Straus, Kleins, Alexander's and others around the city. Others recall an outing to Newark for Bambergers.

The second option was c loser by - a visit to Main Street in Hackensack.

Many are aware that Hackensack had movies I(Fox, Oritani) small stores and eateries. Less remembered isd that Hackensack had department stores up and down Main Street as well.

The last of the standing stores, of course, is Sears in its classic art deco. It has seen many a store come and go - including a next geberation of Sears stores in places like Paramus Park and Willowbrook whic when they opened intended to put the Hackensack store out of business. But the old lady outlasted them all.

And, in Hackensack there were stores to the north and south of Sears.

Many still fndly recall Packard-Bambergers afew blocks to the north just past B&W - the site that a Target calls home. It was said to be one of the nation's first supermatkets, but it was a larger store that carried othyer items inclyuding hardware and housleghold goods. It wasl also the home of the Print Room restauanrat - whioch was high regarded for its good food atmosphere.

The commercial duistrict inckluded the likes of Woolworths, Lamstons's 5 and 10. But was anhiored by two stores with New York roots and city pretiuge - Farnklin Simon and Arnold Constable.

Arnold Constable was major New York Store.  At one point it was the oldest department store in America, operating for over 150 years from its founding in 1825 to its closing in 1975. At the company's peak, its flagship "Palace of Trade" in Manhattan – located at 881-887 Broadway at East 19th Street, through to 115 Fifth Avenue – was acknowledged to be the store which took the largest portion of the "carriage trade", in New York, serving the rich and elite of the city, such as the wives of Grover Cleveland, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

There were branches in locations such as Hempstead, Manhassett, New Rochelle, Upper Darby, PA as well as the store in Hackensack. All had reputations for being classic and classy.

Arnold Constable closed in Hackensack in 1972, a victim of the malls in Paramus. Today the site's exterior was been mostly preserved. It is housed by the County of Bergen (Bergen Community College).

Franklin Simon, up the block, was smaller but equally as vital. Franklin Simon & Co. was a department store chain specializing in women's fashions and furnishing based in New York City. The store, started in 1902 with its flagship at 19th Street and Broadway,  was conceived as a collection of specialty shops rather than a traditional U.S. dry goods store. Each "shop" had a specialty product line, such as ready-to-wear apparel for women, misses, girls, boys, men, young men and infants. When the chain closed in 1979, there were 42 stores - including the one in Hackensack.

Many planned their shopping so they could visit both stores.

Today the former Franklin Simon is a recently renovated supermarket. There had been little to tip off anyone that a department store once called the place home. Now any remnant of that era is gone as the place has been spruced up for a new time.

We read that shopping centers are no longer held in the high regard they were a few years ago. We also read of a migration back to downtowns and Main Streets.

In the era of the internet, shopping has changed radically over the past a few years - let alone from how it was 50 years ago when Arnold Constable and Franklin Simon gave Hackensack a Manhattan shopping feel. Nonetheless, one can't help contemplate whether there is a renaissance in store for the next generation department store in Hackensack. If so, the whole thing would have gone full circle.

The Department Stores of Main Street

Photo Credit: The Department Store Museum, Vintage Postcard (Pinterest)