4. Gimbel Brothers (Gimbels)

Gimbel's poster
Gimbel Brothers poster. Image in the public domain via Wikimedia user RCraig09.

For one hundred years from 1887 to 1987, Gimbel Brothers (Gimbels) operated as an American department store corporation. After opening his first store in 1842 in Vincennes, Indiana, Gimbel patriarch Adam moved the company’s operations in 1887 to the Gimbel Brothers Department Store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. From there, Gimbels became a national chain, opening its second store in Philadelphia in 1894 and a Manhattan flagship store surrounding Herald Square in 1910.

Gimbels came to be the primary rival for the leading Herald Square retailer Macy’s, whose flagship store was one block north. This rivalry went on to become famous across the country, inspiring the classic idiom “Does Macy’s Tell Gimbels,” which is used to brush off inquiries on matters the speaker does not wish to divulge. With 27 acres of sales space and doors designed to lead directly to the Herald Square Subway station, Gimbels’ Manhattan location became a frequent target for shoplifting, having the highest rate of “shrinkage” in the world.

Over the years, the Manhattan store has been featured in numerous films including Miracle on 34th Street and Fitzwally, and it was even frequently referenced as a shopping destination for Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz’s on the 1950s television series I Love Lucy. After closing, the structure was converted into a mall in 1989, known today as the Manhattan Mall.