Chronology: Baltimore’s Downtown Department Stores Part 4

Posted on May 20, 2019 by

Compiled by K. Meghan Gross, former JMM curatorial assistant. Originally published in Generations – Winter 2001.


1956: Hecht’s opens a branch department store opposite the Edmondson Village Shopping Center.

The Hecht Company, feeling the need to expand its operation west of the city, built a large facility directly across from the already successful Edmonson Village Shopping Center. The parking area was built to accommodate 1,000 cars, and like its Northwood location, it was built as a “complete” store, with all departments represented. That same year Hutzler’s and Hochschild Kohn both open branches in Eastpoint.

1958: Hutzler’s opens in Westview.

Choosing a location father west than Hochschild Kohn and Hecht’s, Hutzler’s opened its second Baltimore branch location at Westview, which served as an anchor for the Westview Shopping Center. The department store and shopping center were situated at the junction of the newly opened (but not yet complete) Baltimore Beltway (I-695) and Route 40.

1959: Hochschild Kohn and Co. integrates its sales force.

Walter Sondheim, Jr. promotes stock clerk Mamie Collins to salesperson in the glove department.

1959: Hecht’s and the May Co. merge, closing The Hub store at Baltimore and Charles.

The Hecht Company made its appearance at the corner of Howard and Lexington Streets in 1959 when it merged with the May Company, which had occupied that corner since it bought Bernheimer-Leader in 1927. The store was then known as Hecht-May, and later, the Hecht Company. Hecht’s continued to operate its stores under its name at Baltimore and Pine Streets and at Howard and Franklin Streets, as well as its suburban stores in Northwood and Edmondson Village.

1959: Gutman’s and Brager’s merge.

Julius Gutman & Co. and Brager’s (formerly Brager-Eisenberg) shared the position of the “popular-price department store” until they merged in 1959. Brager’s vacated its location at Eutaw and Saratoga Streets to move into the Gutman location at Park and Lexington Street. Hochschild Kohn and Company then bought the former Brager building and moved its bargain shop there. Brager-Gutman’s, as it was called, continued to serve the bargain customer until it closed in 1984.

1960: Baltimore department stores integrate their lunch counters.

Responding to pressure from local college students at Morgan State University who protested department store segregation at Hecht’s Northwood branch and elsewhere, the department store managers made a joint decision to serve African Americans at lunch counters and provide equal credit and return policies.

1960: Hecht’s spends millions of dollars to renovate its Howard and Lexington Street store.

Hecht’s also expands its suburban store in Northwood.

1965: Hutzler’s Southdale opens.

The opening of Hutzler’s at the Southdale Shopping Center completed its chain of stores around the city. The shopping center was located at the intersection of Ritchie Highway and Mountain Road in Anne Arundel County. Hutzler’s also expanded its Eastpoint branch.

1968: Hochschild Kohn and Co. opens a new branch in the York Mall, York, PA.

The same year, the Hecht Company opened the largest complete department store on the Eastern Shore, located in the Salisbury Mall.

1977: Hochschild Kohn closes its downtown store.

Hochschild Kohn continued to expand its suburban stores, opening new branches in areas around the city. Despite growth in its suburban business, the downtown store gave way to economic difficulties caused by a declining urban population. In 1983, the former Hochschild Kohn building at Howard and Lexington was destroyed by fire.

1984: Downtown Hutzler’s moves to Atrium at Market Center.

Baltimore’s urban life declined in the late 1970s through the 1980s, causing many long-standing establishments to leave the former retail hub at Howard and Lexington Streets. Hutzler’s remained in the area but moved their operation to the Atrium at Market Center in 1984, only to reopen the Palace building in 1985. Hutzler’s then closed its downtown locations in 1989, making its Towson branch the flagship store. The Towson store and other branch locations closed in 1990.

1989: Hecht’s closes its downtown store.

The Hecht Company which still thrives today, remained at the corner of Howard and Lexington Streets until 1989. This company’s only surviving urban store is at Metro Center in Washington, DC. By 1993, Hecht’s was operating 45 stores in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia with a total of 74 stores on the East Coast.

1990: Hutzler’s closes all locations and goes out of business.

Many of the department store palaces still stand in Baltimore’s historic shopping district. Some are used as office space, while others have been adapted for residential property.

2001: The Jewish Museum of Maryland presents Enterprising Emporiums, an exhibition and catalog celebrating the history of the Jewish-owned department stores of downtown Baltimore.

~The End~

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