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New Book Looks Back On ‘Philadelphia’s Golden Age Of Retail’

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(Credit: John Ostapkovich)

(Credit: John Ostapkovich)

John Ostapkovich John Ostapkovich
John Ostapkovich brings humor and wit, and a wealth of experience...
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By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Although the internet attracts a lot of shopping dollars today, there was a time when a few blocks of Philadelphia’s Market Street were like the Mt. Everest of merchandizing.

Two of the buildings still stand at 8th and Market, but Strawbridge’s and Lit’s used to be locked in fierce competition with Gimbels there, and with Wanamaker’s a few blocks off. Philadelphia’s Golden Age of Retail, by Thomas Keels and Lawrence Arrigale, documents the growth, triumph and then withering of a shopping Mecca.

“All of these [at 8th and Market] were major department stores, and during the 1920s and 1930s, according to some sources I’ve read, you would find more retail traffic here than anywhere else in America—including 5th Avenue and including Herald Square,” says Keels.

Keels also says cars, the suburbs and the erosion of the city’s industrial base brought hard times for department stores, which often consolidated, leading to the end of iconic brand names.

Would Macy’s tell Gimbels? Can’t, anymore.

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