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Industry Retail
Fate Acquired by Macy's
Successor Macy's
Founded 1871; 147 years ago (1871)
Defunct September 9, 2006; 11 years ago (September 9, 2006)
Headquarters Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Key people
Jacob Kaufmann, Isaac Kaufmann, and Edgar J. Kaufmann
Products Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, housewares, and auto centers
Parent Federated Department Stores (2005–2006)
The May Department Stores Company (1946–2005)
Website Archived official website at the Wayback Machine (archive index)
The flagship store in downtown Pittsburgh in 1984, with a trolley car stopping in front

Kaufmann's was a department store that originated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was owned in the early 20th century by Edgar J. Kaufmann, patron of 'Fallingwater'. In the post-war years, the store became a regional chain in the eastern United States, and was last owned by Federated Department Stores. At the height of its existence, it had some 59 stores in 5 states. Formerly part of May Department Stores prior to that company's acquisition by Federated on August 30, 2005, Kaufmann's operated as part of the Filene's organization in Boston, Massachusetts.[1] On February 1, 2006, the Filene's/Kaufmann's organization was dissolved and the management of its stores was assumed by Macy's East and the new Macy's Midwest. On September 9, 2006, Macy's retired the Kaufmann's name as Federated Department Stores converted the former May Company brands to its masthead.[2] In 2015, Macy's closed and sold the iconic Pittsburgh store for redevelopment as part of the company's ongoing reorganization of its owned properties. Core Reality of Philadelphia, the new owners of the building, have named the proposed mixed-use property "Kaufmann's Grand on Fifth" in honor of the historic property.[3]


Kaufmann's was founded in Pittsburgh in 1871 by Jacob and Isaac Kaufmann as a small South Side men's store.[4][5] In 1877, the brothers moved downtown to a location that became known as The Big Store.[6] In the first half of the 20th century, the store was owned by Edgar J. Kaufmann.[7]

For a time Kaufmann's was the most prominent of seven department stores in downtown Pittsburgh which included: Kaufmann & Baer, founded by cousins of the original 'Kaufmann's' founders (became Gimbel Brothers in 1925); Horne's; Boggs & Buhl; Frank & Seder's, Rosenbaum's, and Boggs & Buhl of Allegheny Center.[4]


In 1913, several cousins of Edgar Jonas Kaufmann, son of founder Morris Kaufmann, left the store and established their own company known eventually as Gimbels. [8] Gimbels later purchased Kaufmann Baer Co. in 1925. [9] Batus Inc., a tobacco conglomerate, purchased the entire Gimbels chain. In 1986, after years of declining sales, BATUS announced that Gimbels was for sale.[10] Unable to find a buyer for the entire chain, Batus closed the unprofitable Gimbels-Pittsburgh division, closing all of its locations and selling the properties, except for some of the high profit Gimbels locations in shopping malls rebranded as Kaufmann's stores.[4]

May Company

With Edgar J. Kaufmann remaining as president, the Kaufmann's chain was acquired by the California-based May Company Department Stores in 1946. The Kaufmann's division operated stores in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.[11]

The Kaufmann's chain dominated its local region, absorbing several other department stores including Strouss (1986) based in Youngstown, Ohio; Sibley's (1991) based in Rochester, New York; May Company Ohio (1992) based in Cleveland, Ohio (which had merged with O'Neil's (1989) in Akron, Ohio); and in 1995 the remnants of McCurdy's stores of Rochester and Hess's of Allentown, Pennsylvania.[12][13]

Into the 21st century

In 2002, the Kaufmann's stores' Pittsburgh business headquarters closed, and its back-office operations were consolidated into those of Filene's Department Stores in Boston.[14] In 2005, Federated Department Stores Inc., agreed to by May Department Stores Co. for $11 billion. [15]

Kaufmann's Flagship Store

The flagship store in downtown Pittsburgh was built in 1887 at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street and became known as The Big Store. It has undergone several expansions and renovations since. Architect Charles Bickel designed the H. and I Kaufman and I. Kaufman stores in 1898. In 1913, the architects Janssen & Abbott designed a larger white terra cotta-sheathed addition in a Neoclassical revival style structure with Renaissance Revival style details and a large ornamental public clock at the corner. In the late 1920s, Edgar G. Kaufmann commissioned a redesign of the main floor of the department store. Local architect Benno Janssen and his partner William Cocken rose to the challenge and created an art-deco masterpiece. It is remembered for its striking black Carrara glass columns, bronze metalwork, terrazzo floors, and a million dollars' worth of new elevators. The building was the largest department store in Pittsburgh with twelve retail floors totaling 750,000 square feet (70,000 m2), and spanning an entire downtown city block. Kaufman commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design his executive offices on the top floor of The Big Store, as well as his country house 'Fallingwater' (1934) at the company's Bear Run retreat in Pennsylvania. The office interior was saved and reinstalled in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.[16] He also commissioned renowned architect Richard Neutra to design the iconic desert Kaufmann House (1946) in Palm Springs, California. Kaufmann's started several holiday traditions that were carried on after it was taken over such as animated Christmas windows and Santa Land. Although Macy's has taken over the building, it continued its policy of leaving the original brass plaques of flagship department stores on their buildings. Currently, 13 Kaufmann's plaques still grace the building. As of 2009, Macy's consolidated from 12 floors to 6.

On July 13, 2015, Macy's announced it sold the downtown property to Core Reality and closed the store after 128 years on September 20, 2015. Core Realty plans to redevelop the building for mixed use.[17]

Meet Me Under Kaufmann's Clock

Kaufmann's famous historic clock

Kaufmann's flagship Big Store had a landmark outdoor clock at Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street since the building's construction. The original clock was installed in 1887 and was free-standing with four dials.[18][19][20] It immediately became a popular downtown meeting place, with the oft-used phrase "Meet me under Kaufmann's clock." With the expansion of the store in 1913, the current clock was installed.[21] The clock is a Pittsburgh icon, and is often featured in visual materials representing and marketing the city. Both the Kaufmann's flagship building and the clock are designated as Pittsburgh Historical Landmarks. Upon announcing the 2006 retirement of the Kaufmann's name and the store's rebranding as Macy's, it distributed tote bags printed with the clock image and its phrase "Meet me under the Kaufmann's clock" to honor the store's 135-year history. Also in 2006, USA Today ran an article about the regional chains merging into Macy's which featured memories from Pittsburghers about the store and the clock: "As girls in their best dresses and Mary Jane shoes, they rode streetcars downtown to the 11-story Kaufmann's department store here. Jean Wenner, 81 [in 2006], and her friends grew up on Kaufmann's, meeting under the store's ornate clock, lunching at the Tic Toc restaurant and bringing their own children to the Secret Santa."[22]

As part of the political fireworks between City Councilman "Jeep" DePasquale and Councilwoman Michelle Madoff in the 1980s, Madoff took up DePasquale's dismissal of a tax she proposed when he joked at a council meeting that he would "kiss [her] you-know-what" if it ever raised just $20. After the tax raised $1,542.15 ($3,911 today) in a short time, she challenged DePasquale to make good on his promise by waiting for him under the Kaufmann's Clock with a dozen reporters and 100 on-lookers on January 24, 1983. DePasquale, however, was a no-show, later telling reporters that "I thought it would be undignified".[23]

In 2013 the Kaufmann's Clock celebrated its 100th Anniversary, to celebrate Macy's redecorated the store's windows along Smithfield Street with photos of the iconic clock from over the years, one held the results of a contest held by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in which readers submitted their best memories of "Meeting Under Kaufmann's Clock". Macy's also held a weekend of festivities including a block party on Smithfield Street in front of the store. Macy's also sold limited edition merchandise such as mugs, postcards, replicas, and Wendell August Products all depicting images of the iconic Pittsburgh timepiece.[24]

Kaufmann's Parade

Kaufmann's was the main sponsor of the Celebrate the Season Parade since its inception in 1981; the parade, which is the city and region's largest, is always the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Kaufmann's continued sponsoring the parade for twenty-five years. The parade had included balloons, musical acts, and celebrities for the main acts in front of the Kaufmann's Fifth Avenue flagship store. The local NBC-affiliated station, WIIC (now WPXI), broadcasts live 'Celebrate the Season Parade' coverage, with hosts Mike Hambrick-Edye Tarbox (1980–1991) and David Johnson-Peggy Finnegan (1991–present). After the Macy's merger with Kaufmann's in 2006, it continued sponsorship of the parade which it renamed the "My Macy's Holiday Parade" in 2010 as part of the store's "My Macy's" campaign. In February 2014, Macy's announced it would end its partnership with WPXI as main sponsors of the parade.

Kaufmann's artifacts

Though converted a year prior to this image's creation, this Macy's store located at The Waterfront still had Kaufmann's signage. The current Macy's sign can be seen slightly behind the trees. Macy's has since put a sign over this, but Kaufmann's is still readable beneath.

Although Kaufmann's was renamed Macy's, some of its namesake signs remain. There are several terra cotta plaques on the flagship store's facade still reading Kaufmann's, including above the original store entrance. The parking garage also has old signage still in place. One of the company's former warehouses, the 1901-built Kaufmann's Department Store Warehouse, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The phrase "Does Horne's tell Kaufmann's its business?" was used in Western Pennsylvania to put-off to inquiring people, with the meaning that a company does not give proprietary information out to its competitors.[citation needed]

See also

External links

  • Official website (Archive)
  • official Fallingwater website
  • official Western Pennsylvania Conservancy website


  1. ^ Abelson, Jenn; Palmer Jr., Thomas C. (July 29, 2005). "It's official: Filene's brand will be gone". The Boston Globe. 
  2. ^ Lindeman, Teresa F. (September 9, 2006). "Party ushers out Kaufmann's and welcomes Macy's". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  3. ^ "The Grand at Fifth Avenue". December 29, 2016. Retrieved December 30, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c Stouffer, Rick (March 1, 2005). "'Kaufmann's is gone,' analyst predicts". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Store Planned for Pittsburgh". The Vindicator. Youngstown, Ohio. United Press International. March 13, 1990. Retrieved January 6, 2016. 
  6. ^ Macy's to continue Christmas-shopping extravaganza[permanent dead link], Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 7, 2006
  7. ^ "Kaufmann's, Pittsburgh, and the End of an Era - Belt Magazine". beltmag.com. Retrieved 2018-06-21. 
  8. ^ "The Kaufmann Legacy". Retrieved 2018-06-25. 
  9. ^ "GIMBELS PURCHASE PITTSBURGH STORE; Kaufmann & Baer Company, a $16,000,000 Business in 1924, Now Owned Here". Retrieved 2018-06-25. 
  10. ^ "11 GIMBELS STORES ARE SOLD BY BATUS". Retrieved 2018-06-25. 
  11. ^ "Macy's History: 1900-1949". Macy's. Retrieved January 6, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Kaufmann's gave start for many". old.post-gazette.com. Retrieved 2018-06-21. 
  13. ^ Savage, Letitia (2016). Kaufmann's: The Big Store in Pittsburgh. Charleston SC: The History Press. 
  14. ^ Schooley, Tim; Elliott, Suzanne (May 13, 2002). "Loss of Kaufmann's HQ wounds Downtown emotionally, economically". Pittsburgh Business Times. Retrieved January 6, 2016. 
  15. ^ Byron, Ellen (25 June 2018). "Federated Agrees To Acquire May In $11 Billion Deal". 
  16. ^ "Kaufmann Office; Frank Lloyd Wright Room". Victoria and Albert Museum. December 1, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2016. 
  17. ^ Hazen, Bob (September 14, 2015). "Macy's to close landmark downtown Pittsburgh store". WTAE-TV News. 
  18. ^ "Under the clock: Kaufmann's clock anecdotes". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 7, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  19. ^ Pitz, Marylynne (April 21, 2013). "Meet me under the clock: The Kaufmann's Clock turns 100". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  20. ^ Dayton, Rick (May 17, 2013). "Kaufmann's Clock Turns 100 This Year". KDKA-TV News. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  21. ^ Vondas, Jerry (June 27, 1987). "Kaufmann's clock taking some time off". Pittsburgh Press. p. B5. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  22. ^ O'Donnell, Jayne (August 6, 2006). "Beloved stores get a lot more than a new name". USA Today. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Political kiss canceled". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. January 25, 1983. p. 3. Retrieved January 6, 2016. 
  24. ^ Karlovits, Bob (May 13, 2013). "Iconic Downtown Pittsburgh clock is closing in on the century mark". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
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