In Flatbush, Brooklyn, a notable and landmarked Sears, Roebuck store stands tall in the parking lot behind the Kings Theatre. The Art Deco building stands as a reminder of the bustling commercial district that activated this neighborhood in the earlier part of the 20th century. This retail flagship was so important, Eleanor Roosevelt delivered the opening remarks in November of 1932 and she is said to have made the first purchase ever in this location, “a pair of baby booties,” reported the Brooklyn Eagle. This building is also the only Sears retail stores opened by the company in the 1930s that is still in operation.


The high tower on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Beverly Road was an architectural characteristic applied to all of the Sears retail outlets at this time, “to distinguish each branch from more utilitarian structures,” the Landmarks Preservation Commission describes. It contains the original signage “SEARS ROEBUCK AND CO.” Department store branches such as this one were key to Sears’ new strategy in a company that had been founded as a mail order business. The firm hired the firm of Nimmons, Carr & Wright, based in Chicago, to design many of the Sears retail outlets.



As this article explains, the “windowless” style of the Sears department stores after this one in Brooklyn was actually inspired by the the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago in 1934. The windowless design provided far more display space for the stores than before. The covering over of the windows with plastic panels at the Flatbush Sears store have brought the design of the store in line with the rest of the chain, whether inadvertently or purposefully.


The most notable features, besides the tower, are the entrance bays of the shop, one each on Bedford and Beverly. There were once display windows lining each bay of the building which have since been filled in, unfortunately. The entrance bay was recessed slightly, “to protect customers from inclement weather,” writes the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Above the doors remain the company name, carved into the building. Above this are decorative relief panels that extend to the top of the three floor wing.


One of the more morose bits of history is the pipe bomb that went off inside the store in 1970, supposedly hidden in a purse on a sales counter. One of Untapped Cities’ readers, Bobby Tanzillo, was there when the bomb went off. He says, “I was there once as a kid when a pipe bomb blew up. I was 3 so I don’t really remember but my mom does.” There were just two minor injuries from the incident.

The main entrance today is through the parking lot in the rear, where extensions were constructed, so the original entrances and facades are rather overlooked. Paint covers over part of the original metal plaques that denote the company name, but much of the structure of the store remains intact.



Surrounded by nondescript, utilitarian structures and businesses, like Stop & Shop, Staples, and more, the Sears store continues to remain a visual landmark in this neighborhood, as its architecture was designed to do.

Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of Bloomingdale’s and the nearby Kings Theatre.

3 thoughts on “A Landmarked Art Deco Sears, Roebuck Store in Flatbush, Brooklyn

  1. The one in Hackensack (I’ve read it opened the same day as this one) is still in operation, too.

  2. I was an executive in that store from 1973-1978. Part of my responsibilities was inventory control. At the time the store experienced frequent break-ins, usually smash and grab of windows, forcing doors, and similar. The neighborhood at the time was very rough, NYC in general was lawless, under Mayor Ed Koch and before Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg restored safety to the city. Police response time to alarms was typically 15-20 minutes. After dealing with 50 break-ins with in six months I came up with the idea of removing all glass at street level, using cement block to replace the show windows. Break-ins immediately went to none for the next year. Then the bad guys started crashing stolen cars through the doors; the next step was to install the large yellow bollards in front of the doors.

  3. That Sears Store had huge display windows on the first floor when I was there in 1962 as a child. Now it looks like a bomb shelter

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