Wilmington dry Goods - 1969


"A GREAT STORE"

414 - 420 Market Street

From April 1960 to September 1961, between graduating from high school and enlisting in the Army, I worked in the Curtain Department near the King Street doors selling Venetian blinds, porch and window awnings, bamboo roll-up shades and drapery hardware. I was put in charge of opening two of the King Street doors, but only after the National Anthem was played on the PA System. I remember on the mornings of a special sale day, how large groups of customers waited for me to open the doors. I also recall the ceremonial-type presentation when the department manager gave me my personal key to the men’s room. During my seventeen months of employment, I got to know all of the managers and every square foot of the store and was entrusted by my manager in performing special assignments.
My wife and I met while working at the Dry Goods. When we heard that the store was being demolished, we went to the site and gathered up two bricks, that we still have.  Some history and other recollections I have of the Dry Goods are offered here:

Wilmington Dry Goods opened in 1924 by J. M. Lazarus when he founded his store at 414 Market Street. His policy was to “sell a lot for a little”. This policy continued through the years until the Market Street store closed in 1977 followed by the closing suburban stores in the 1980s.

The Dry Goods, as it was referred to, operated as a “Cash & Carry” business – there were no credit cards or “charge plates”, as they were called. The motto was “More for Your Money or Your Money Back”. Signs saying “The Miracle On Market Street” were placed throughout the store.

The Dry Goods had a “Layaway Policy” where you could make your purchase by paying a little at a time each week until the full amount was reached. Unlike today with computer databases, each department kept track of the customer's layaway balance in a ledger book.  Additionally, home delivery, using Scari’s Delivery Service, was available for a small fee.

The presence of the Dry Goods was everywhere, from the well recognized store’s gray, pinstriped bags to the multi-page sale ads in the daily newspapers, always located in the rear of the last section.

The Dry Goods store had a ‘Chopped Up’ design. As stores closed on the 400 block of Market and King Streets, JM Lazarus would purchase them for expansion but never to the point in obtaining the entire block.  The New York Restaurant, the stores along 4th Street and several stores on King Street remained the entire time.

The basement and Main 1st floor each had balcony levels. There was one elevator and an escalator, installed in the late 1950s, connected the main floor to the 2nd floor. A small balcony was also located off of the Paint, Hardware & Automotive Department on 5th & King Streets that was used as the salesmen’s break area. A 2nd floor balcony was reserved as the saleslady’s break area.  The store offices were located on the first floor balcony beyond the Shoe Department.

Merchandise departments from Ladies Dresses and Men's Wear to Tile & Rugs, Toys and Watch Repair, were positioned throughout the store.  A manager headed each department with the larger ones having a lead salesperson.

Each department had a large 5-drawer cash register with one or more small registers. The large main registers’ 5th drawer opened to the rear where a cashier sat for the big sales enabling the sales people to offer more help to the customers.

A ‘Sign Printing’ shop was located just off of the Men’s Clothing Department on the basement balcony and, although the lower level was referred to as the ‘Basement Level’, there was a basement where the Receiving Department was located. Sidewalk elevators and delivery conveyers were used to receive merchandise. Delivery trucks on King Street would take their turn double-parking to unload.

In the summer, the store closed for a day and the employees were treated to a picnic at the Riverview Park.  Also, the employees were recognized for their service with an annual Christmas Party given at the Hotel DuPont's Gold Ball Room.

For a very short time during the early 1960s, Dry Goods operated a furniture store across the street from their Market Street store. The store also had a warehouse in an abandoned ACME Food Market near 3rd & French Streets.  The opening of several suburban stores around 1970 continued the expansion.

The store was eventually bought by SCOA (the Shoe Company of America), which ended “The Miracle On Market Street”.

When the Market Street store closed, it was soon demolished and a parking lot existed on the King Street side until the Renaissance Centre construction began in 2005.

JM Lazarus, Founder - Wilmington Dry Goods

J. M. Lazarus, Founder

Wilmington Dry Goods, 1956 - Click to enlarge...

Courtesy Delaware Historical Society

Wilmington Dry Goods, 2005 - Click to enlarge...
Store Front, 1956 Store Front location, 2005

Store Front, 1960s

Store Front, 1960s

This view just inside the right front Market Street entrance.

This view just inside the right front Market Street entrance. The sign indicates to use the stairway to the Men's Clothing Department on the front basement balcony. This was also the same level for the location of the Employee's Service Area with the 'Time-Punch Clock' and the Sign Department. A stairway on the right also took you up to the first floor balcony where you would pass through the Shoe Department. Beyond that were the store's office's, the main cashier, the phone operator and the Girl's Department. The 2nd floor escalators are to the left of the first column. The main stairs, under the 'No Smoking' sign, accessed all levels. The elevator was next to this stairway.

Looking towards the front of store, the 1st floor balcony with the Girl's Department is on the left.

Looking towards the front of store, the 1st floor balcony with the Girl's Department is on the left. A 1st floor balcony stairs and the main stairs beyond are on the right. In the center is the underside of the escalators. Rows and rows of the wooden merchandise tables were throughout the store. All of the store merchandise signs were hand painted on pre-printed blanks. Signs indicated '2 for $1 or 59¢ each'. But, if you bought three, you were charged $1.50.

Pictured is the basement Curtain Department with the King Street doors in the rear.

Pictured is the basement Curtain Department with the King Street doors in the rear. On the left are displays of curtains, drapes and bed spreads. To the left of the door are displays of window and porch awnings. Against the right wall are the furniture slip covers and curtain & drapery hardware. Towards the rear, out of view, were the venetian blinds and bamboo roll-up shades. On the other side of the left wall was the Domestic Department and the Automotive, Paint & Hardware Department. Because of the downward hill from Market to King Streets, this level was referred to as the basement. However, under this level was a basement were the Receiving Department was located. On King Street, there were the freight elevators that would 'pop-up' through double steel doors on the sidewalk.

Pictured standing on the 1st floor right rear stairs are three of the 'Dry Goods' Managers (Buyers).

Pictured standing on the 1st floor right rear stairs are three of the 'Dry Goods' Managers (Buyers). From the left: Robert Seitner, Albert Weinstein and Morris Klein. Many of the managers traveled together on the train from Philadelphia, all arriving at the King Street entrance at the same time.

Out of view on the right were the Baked Goods and Delicatessen Departments. The Baked Goods featured extra-large Fig Bars and the Deli sold locally made Barczewski Brother's Polish Sausage.

A view of a multi-drawer cash register similar to that used at the Dry Goods.

A side walk receiving elevator, similar to that used by many stores in Wilmington.

The 5th & King Street entrance

The 5th & King Street entrance to the
Automotive, Paint & Hardware Department, 1969

The former Dry Goods Site as a parking lot, 2003

The former Dry Goods Site as a parking lot, 2003

The former Dry Goods Site during construction of the Renaissance Centre building, 2005

The former Dry Goods Site during construction of the Renaissance Centre building, 2005

The former Market Street entrance with the Renaissance Centre in the background, 2008

The former Market Street entrance with the Renaissance Centre in the background, 2008

Click to enlarge...

A 1960 newspaper ad

Once a year, each department's senior saleslady ran their perspective department. Pictured from left, 1st row: all unknown
2nd row: unknown, unknown, Myrtle Rogerson, unknown
3rd row: unknown, unknown, Mary Ryan, Minnie Kupis, unknown

Dry Goods, Market Street Main Entrance

A close-up view of the Dry Goods Main Entrance, 1950s

A 1960 Listing of the 'Dry Goods' Managers/Buyers and Office Personnel
NAME POSITION / DEPARTMENT
Joseph M. Lazarus Founder
Erdman Kuhn General Manager
Leonard Zimmerman Assistant Store Manager
Jack Ber Merchandising Manager
Martha Reamer Personnel
Edgar Ballin Receiving
Sidney Jacoby Boy's Wear
Rubin Berkowitz Men's Work Clothes
Richard Hershorn Ladies Dresses
Milton Pomerantz Records
Tim Taylor Automotive & Hardware
Raymond Goldstein Housewares
Leonard Brown Men's Suit's
Ben Gershman Women's Suit's
Joe Cirillo Shoe Repair
Louis Schwartz Shoes
Benjamin Goldberg Paints & Hardware
Joe Earvase Tile & Rugs
John Maggitti Baked Goods
Albert Weinstein Men's Wear
Robert Seitner Accessories & Lingerie
Daniel Adler Toys & Sporting Goods
Morris Hershgordon Curtains
Carl Hechmer Domestic
Betty Eby Ladies Hoisery
Seymour Fertig Infants & Tots Wear
Joe Elfman Drugs
Jack Shulman Watch Repair
William Fallers Deli
Maurice Klein Girl's Wear
Nancy Rogerson Phone Operator / PA Announcer
Jean (Earvase) Gallo Main Cashier, Accounting

 

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Created: 08/15/2008
Revised: 02/15/2013