I noticed in the paper today, and Jack Bog noticed as well, that the venerable department store, Meier and Frank, is getting a big fat name change soon. The parent company, Federated Department Stores, Inc, is changing most of it’s stores to it’s flagship’s name: Macys.
Most of you are probably marginally aware of Macys, being the famous store in New York City, but there are Macys all over the US. The May Company, which bought Meier and Frank back in 1966, owned Macys and other department stores all over the country.
It’s a shame, as M&F was a store with valuable Oregon history, and the name change will probably be the final blow in what was once a Portland jewel.
M&F was started by Aaron Meier and Emil Frank in 1873, after Meier immigrated from Germany almost 20 years earlier and started his business of selling goods on Front Street.
The business was kept in the family for decades. Sigmund, Emil’s younger brother, took over after the death of the founders. Meier’s widow brought relatives from Germany to work the store. One of those was Max Hirsch, who left to partner with Harry Weis, forming Hirsch Weis (White Stag).
M&F moved to it’s flagship location, between 5th and 6th and Morrison and Alder, in 1898. The building was rebuilt to it’s present 10 stories in 1915.
Some interesting tidbits about the store:
- Julius Meier, son of Aaron, became governor in 1930, the first Jewish governor of the state.
- For a while, M&F was the largest retail outlet west of the Mississippi, and one of the largest in the nation.
- During the Great Depression, Bud Frank canceled the interest on all the store’s customer accounts.
- During WWII, Frank used the advertising budget to devote newspaper space to the war effort.
- M&F sold more war bonds than any other outlet in America
- M&F has an one time or another sold everything except cars and farming implements.
- Clark Gable once worked at M&F selling neckties
- In 1960, M&F became the largest tenant in what was then the largest shopping center in America, The Lloyd Center.
A bitter battle between Aaron Frank and Jack Meier over who to sell the company to led to the company being sold to the May Company in 1966. Up until that point there were just a few stores. The main store, the Lloyd Center store and a Salem store. After the May purchase, several stores opened at the main Portland malls, and Eugene and Medford.
Not long ago, the May Co. bought Zion’s Department Store in Utah. May changed the names of the Zion stores to Meier and Frank, doubling the number of M&F stores.
Farewell, Meier and Frank.