This is Georganne, reporting from Chicago.
After an amazing first day of leading “The Next Wave of
Loyalty Track” at the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo I was
excited to take Ian Scott and Jack Stratten, two of our favorite retail wizards
from the U.K., on an exploration trip to Marshall Field & Company’s
flagship store on Chicago’s State Street – now Macy’s – was a must.
I began my retail career at T.A. Chapman’s, a four store,
indie-owned department store chain located in and around Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Chapman’s flagship store on Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Avenue was a show-stopper and
it was a privilege to work there.
I still love a good department store, and Macy’s State
Street is one of the best. I love that the top floor not only houses the
world-famous Walnut Room, but also a Marshall Field’s mini history museum and
The Archive, a spacious area filled with historical store treasures.
we saw window and display props from decades of the store’s annual Flower
Show, a Norman Rockwell display featuring Field’s famous clock, glass cases of
merchandise sold over the decades, a memorial to Field’s employees who were
lost in WWI, and the paneling from Marshall Field’s Board Room. This paneling
was built in the U.K. in 1609 and brought and reassembled in Field’s in the
1800s. Fun fact: the paneling ultimately ended up in the office of the VP of Visual
Merchandising, which I say well deserved!
We also found our way into deserted rooms of display props,
and Lord knows what else. Which of course we were obligated to check out…
I can get lost in this store. The overall merchandising was
typically Macy’s, although a lot tidier than what we have found lately in the
branch stores, but it’s Marshall Field’s history that makes it a special place.
Special is what I feel in old department stores. In their day – and I am
talking as recently as the 70s and 80s – department stores were amazing places,
some still are. I feel sad for the generations of retailers who never got to
experience working in one of these Grande Dames, and for shoppers who never had
the chance to visit.
This photo was taken in the fabulous Walnut Room. If you
have never had the chance to eat here put it on your list the next time you
The Walnut Room still serves Mrs. Sarah Hering’s pot pie
recipe. And it’s good! In 1890, Mrs. Hering, an associate in the millinery
department, overheard shoppers talking about lunch and offered them the
homemade chicken potpie she had brought for her lunch that day. She set a beautiful
table and served her pot pie. The ladies so enjoyed their luncheon they
convinced Mrs. Hering to do it again the next day, promising to bring friends
with them to visit her and try on the latest in chapeaus.
Soon after, Marshall Field’s opened its first restaurant.
The Great American Flag made its debut at Marshall Field’s in
1916. It is 5000 square feet of pure wool and weighs 500 pounds. It was
replicated in 2003, adding a curved bottom that replicates a flag waving in the
I love how Macy’s honors the Marshall Field &. Co legacy.
Mr. Field was known for saying, “Give the lady what she wants!” Add
the book Give
the Lady What She Wants: The Story of Marshall Field & Company to
your reading list.
This visit The Archive featured window and display props
from past Flower Shows, some going back decades.
Field’s Board Room. It was built in the U.K. in 1609 and brought and
reassembled in Field’s State Street in the 1800s. Fun fact: Part of the paneling ultimately ended up
in the office of the VP of Visual Merchandising.
Norman Rockwell’s tribute to Marshall Field’s famous clock,
a Chicago landmark that can be found outside the store. A favorite saying of
Chicagoans’ was (is) “Meet me under the clock at Marshall Field’s!”
It was personally supervised by Mr. Tiffany himself. The 6,000 square feet of
mosaic was hand created by 50 artisans, most of whom were women.