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Sakowitz Memories


Reefmonkey

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I was just thinking about Sakowitz, what a great store it was in its day. Mostly we went to either the downtown Sakowitz or the Post Oak one, but I remember there was even a scaled-down Sakowitz in the Northwest suburbs, at FM 1960 and Champions Forest Drive. It's now a Sun and Ski Sports.

Growing up as little kid in just a bit of the late 70s and then the early 80s, I remember my mom taking us to Sakowitz to buy us our "sunday best" clothes. Mostly what we liked was going to the lunch room afterwards, and the meals they had for kids. They brought baskets of cheddar cheese straws and sweet orange rolls, and for kids there were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into the shape of animals with raisins for eyes, as well as a great vegetable soup. It was also one of the few places my mom would let us drink chocolate milk (Luby's being the other, and she would let us buy it once a week with our lunch at school).

When the Post Oak store finally went out of business, they had a huge going-out-of-business sale, sometime when I was in junior high. Everything was for sale, even back office equipment, fixtures, displays, etc. My mom bought a huge wardrobe like the one in "The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe".

If anyone has any pictures of the interior of either the downtown or Post Oak Sakowitz, or any old lunch room menus or other memorabilia they could post, that would be great!

I read an interesting book on the Sakowitz family: "Blood Rich: When Oil Billions, High Fashion, and Royal Intimacies Are Not Enough" by Jane Wolf. Utimately the book focuses on Oscar and Lynn Wyatt's feud and lawsuit against Lynn's brother Robert, but the first several chapters give great indepth historical background on the Sakowitz family and stores, going all the way back to the original Sakowitz brothers who emigrated from Russia and started a small department store in Galveston, later moving it to Houston just after the 1900 hurricane. It has some good pictures; I'll try to scan and post them this week.

Edited by Reefmonkey
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No pics, but I remember the store across Westheimer from Neiman's. It was white painted brick with (like) Greek Revival columns in front. For some reason, I remember something red on the interior. Was the carpet red?

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I remember shopping at the one at Champions Village and Post Oak. Once or twice downtown. I don't recall shopping at the one at Town & Country, but there was one there, and there was one at Gulfgate too.

I worked at Sakowitz Town & Country from the day it opened, in November of 1967, until 1972. The store was really pretty inside - the Spanish style that was popular then. The problem with Town & Country, was that it could never "match up" to the Post Oak store. People would go to Post Oak to buy stuff, and come to Town & Country to return them. I used to be cashier in the shoe dept. and it made my manager furious when we would get PO's returns.

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I worked at Sakowitz Town & Country from the day it opened, in November of 1967, until 1972. The store was really pretty inside - the Spanish style that was popular then. The problem with Town & Country, was that it could never "match up" to the Post Oak store. People would go to Post Oak to buy stuff, and come to Town & Country to return them. I used to be cashier in the shoe dept. and it made my manager furious when we would get PO's returns.

It would be great if you started a topic solely based on Town & Countries early days! When I was a kid we always would see TV commercials and radio talking about T & C mall. Thats when the city was much smaller so the mall seemed like miles and miles away to most of us. :D

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The book Houston - A History of a Giant (Authors Jim Hutton, Jim Henderson) (1976), states that Sakowitz's *downtown store opened in 1951, a Sakowitz Shop opened in the Shamrock Hotel (1953), Sakowitz Gulfgate in 1956, Post Oak in 1959, expanded 1970, Town & Co. Village 1967...Sakowitz Stella Link Fabric Shop 1972... . Sakowitz claims many firsts, including "establishing the first Yves St. Laurent Boutique in America, launching Emilio Pucci menswear,...".

*See my Correction edit below post.

Edited by NenaE
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The book Houston - A History of a Giant (Authors Jim Hutton, Jim Henderson) (1976), states that Sakowitz's downtown store opened in 1951, a Sakowitz Shop opened in the Shamrock Hotel (1953), Sakowitz Gulfgate in 1956, Post Oak in 1959, expanded 1970, Town & Co. Village 1967...Sakowitz Stella Link Fabric Shop 1972... . Sakowitz claims many firsts, including "establishing the first Yves St. Laurent Boutique in America, launching Emilio Pucci menswear,...".

I'll check the Blood Rich book for the exact dates, but Sakowitz's original downtown store was open much earlier than 1951. They may have moved at one point. The Post Oak location year sounds about right, but I think it was actually a few years earlier than 1959.

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The book Houston - A History of a Giant (Authors Jim Hutton, Jim Henderson) (1976), states that Sakowitz's downtown store opened in 1951, a Sakowitz Shop opened in the Shamrock Hotel (1953), Sakowitz Gulfgate in 1956, Post Oak in 1959, expanded 1970, Town & Co. Village 1967...Sakowitz Stella Link Fabric Shop 1972... . Sakowitz claims many firsts, including "establishing the first Yves St. Laurent Boutique in America, launching Emilio Pucci menswear,...".

Are you saying that they expanded the PO store in 1970? If so, what did they do? Clearly, the picture is how I remember it in the end. Judging from the cars (1963 Chevy) in the picture, it was taken well before 1970.

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Sorry, my mistake, I didn't quote the book, "The first Sakowitz Houston store opened in 1908 with Simon in charge while Tobe managed the Galveston store". "Sakowitz ...downtown store on Main at Dallas was opened in 1951 with 225,000 square feet of space..".

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This is a simple question that may require a complicated answer but why did the Sakowitz retail chain go out of business?

SImple answer - They over-extended and went bankrupt when they couldn't meet their financial obligations

On another note: For one of my "You will always remember where you were when..." stories;

I was driving down Westheimer when I heard on the radio that John Lennon had been shot. I pulled into Sakowitz parking lot to listen for futher news, and that is where I was when I heard that John Lennon was dead.

Edited by isuredid
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This is a simple question that may require a complicated answer but why did the Sakowitz retail chain go out of business?

You are right, it is a complicated answer. Like isuredid says, the biggest problem was overexpansion. At the time, Sakowitz wanted to compete with Neiman's, wanted to become a nationwide chain. Most department stores that wanted to do that sold part of the business to investment companies to get the capital to do that, but Sakowitz wanted to remain family owned, so that overstretched them quite a bit. Certainly the mid-80s oil bust dealt the mortal blow - selling to the wives of rich Texas oilmen had been Sakowitz's bread and butter. Ultimately, it was Robert Sakowitz's poor management that drove the company into the ground, though. Up until Bernard Sakowitz turned over the reigns to Robert, the Sakowitzes who had run the company had been pretty conservative, low key. Robert was anything but. He loved to live in the limelight, be a jetsetter, hobnob with European royalty almost as much as his sister Lynn Wyatt. Growing the company too fast was part of his desire to make a bigger name for himself, but he was also taking money from the store to help finance his extravagant lifestyle and invest in questionable real estate ventures. Often he was tying these real estate deals to store expansion in a way that was unfavorable to the store in order to line his pockets - a clear conflict of interest.

Sorry, my mistake, I didn't quote the book, "The first Sakowitz Houston store opened in 1908 with Simon in charge while Tobe managed the Galveston store". "Sakowitz ...downtown store on Main at Dallas was opened in 1951 with 225,000 square feet of space..".

Okay, that sounds about right.

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Are you saying that they expanded the PO store in 1970? If so, what did they do? Clearly, the picture is how I remember it in the end. Judging from the cars (1963 Chevy) in the picture, it was taken well before 1970.

Just says they expanded the PO store in 1970 to "equal almost the size of the downtown store". Doesn't elaborate on the details of construction. It's under "Sakowitz A Great American, a Great Texas Success Story", p. 180-81

It also says in the 1920's, "Sakowitz became a prominent name in Houston retailing, and in 1929, another large expansion took place. Sakowitz Brothers moved into the new 35-story building on Main at Rusk which Jesse Jones had built as an expression of civic pride".

Sorry, kind of jumping around here with the dates. :P

Edited by NenaE
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You guys talking about overexpansion & business closing is sad, after just reading about how the Sakowitz Bros. (after the 1929 growth) didn't suffer during the depression so much, due to "Tobe's astute and conservative financial planning, [sakowitz] never feared that it had overexpanded".

Talks about Robert T. Sakowitz taking over the business, this is a 1976 publication, he hadn't made bad investments yet.

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This is from a book titled "Texas Under Many Flags" published in 1930:

Tobias Sakowitz

The career of Tobias Sakowitz, president of the firm of Sakowitz Brothers of Houston, contains all the elements that issustrate a life of self-made manhood. Coming to this country a poor immigrant boy, from the outset of his career he has kept his goal constantly in mind, working industriously and honestly, building up confidence through fair dealing, and making the most of the opportunites which are to be found in his community and the head of the largest store of its kind in the State of Texas.

Mr. Sakowitz was born December 25, 1882, at Kiev, Russia and is a son of Louis and Leah (Nathan) Sakowitz, natives of the same place. His father, born in 1851, came to the United States alone in 1884 with a colony of farmers who settled at Dickson, Texas, but soon found that agriculture was not his forte and accordingly established a modest men's clothing business at Galveston, with which he was connected until his death July 30, 1919. He was a man of fine character and an active member of the Jewish orthodox church. Mrs. Sakowitz, who was born in 1855, passed away December 25, 1915. Tobias Sakowitz was six years of age when he and the other children were brought by their mother to the United States to join their father at Galveston, where the youth aquired his education in public schools. From boyhood he had been trained along merchantile lines, and was not yet twenty-one years of age when, August 1,1903, he and his brother, Simon, started a small men's furnishing store at Galveston. Their capital was not large at the outset and they were forced to feel their way carefully for several years, but both were hard working and industrious and possessed the business sense to either grasp opportunities or create them. By the year 1908 their little establishment had grown to pretentious size, and Simon Sakowitz moved to Houston to take over the business formerly conducted by Emile Lipper, this founding the original firm of Sakowitz

Brothers. Tobias Sakowitz, however, remained at Galveston, where he conducted the business with success until 1916, at that time coming to Houston. In May, 1917, the firm of Sakowitz Brothers was incorporated, with Tobias Sakowitz as president and Simon Sakowitz, vice president, and these positions they retain today. The Galveston store was disposed of in 1919, and since then the brothers have concentrated their attention and energies on the Houston establishment, which is now the largest men's and boy's exclusive wear store in the State of Texas, handling only high-class merchandise and catering to the best trade. The store is situated at 314 Main Street and is modern in every particular. Mr. Sakowitz has made service his watchword, and his large force of employees have been carefully trained as to courtesy and expeditious care of the interest of the customers. Mr. Sakowitz is a member of Beth Israel concregation, in which he is active, the Independant Order of B'nai B'rith, the Young Men's Hebrew Association, The Houston Club and the Glenbrook Country Club, and is a thirty-second degree Mason and member of the Mystic Shrine.

At Galveston Mr. Sakowitz married Miss Tillie Littman, a daughter of Jacob Littman, a native of Germany, and a pioneer clothing merchant of Galveston. She died August 5, 1922, having had two sons, both talented musicians: Bernard a graduate of Fishburne Military Academy and the Wharton School of Business and Finance, at The University of Pennsylvania, where he is assitant director of the University of Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra, a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, and a director of the student body publication, the Punch Bowl, and Alexander Hirsch, attending the Horace Mann School, New York City, who is also a musician of parts.

Benard was the one who inherited the business and was the father of Lynn and Robert (Bobby).

Edited by isuredid
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This is a simple question that may require a complicated answer but why did the Sakowitz retail chain go out of business?

Bobby Sakowitz ran the family busines straight into the ground. His father Mr. Bernard Sakowitz was a real old school gentleman, just like his father and uncle....

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Every year mom took me to Sakowitz to buy my new school clothes and shoes. We usually went to the one in Gulfgate or if we wanted to eat at Coney Island we went to the one downtown. This would have been the years of 1962-1970. After that I chose Foleys for my bell bottoms. At Sakowitz in Gulfgate the woman that worked in the little girls dept. was named Mrs Tyre. And Mrs Cox was the woman in the boys dept. I miss the old stores like Sakowitz, Battlesteins, Joskes and now Foleys.

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Every year mom took me to Sakowitz to buy my new school clothes and shoes. We usually went to the one in Gulfgate or if we wanted to eat at Coney Island we went to the one downtown. This would have been the years of 1962-1970. After that I chose Foleys for my bell bottoms. At Sakowitz in Gulfgate the woman that worked in the little girls dept. was named Mrs Tyre. And Mrs Cox was the woman in the boys dept. I miss the old stores like Sakowitz, Battlesteins, Joskes and now Foleys.

We always shopped at the one in Gulfgate. It made me sick when they closed. When I was working, I went to the one in the Galleria. Loved it.

[

Edited by PapillionWyngs
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  • 7 months later...
I was just thinking about Sakowitz, what a great store it was in its day. Mostly we went to either the downtown Sakowitz or the Post Oak one, but I remember there was even a scaled-down Sakowitz in the Northwest suburbs, at FM 1960 and Champions Forest Drive. It's now a Sun and Ski Sports.

Growing up as little kid in just a bit of the late 70s and then the early 80s, I remember my mom taking us to Sakowitz to buy us our "sunday best" clothes. Mostly what we liked was going to the lunch room afterwards, and the meals they had for kids. They brought baskets of cheddar cheese straws and sweet orange rolls, and for kids there were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into the shape of animals with raisins for eyes, as well as a great vegetable soup. It was also one of the few places my mom would let us drink chocolate milk (Luby's being the other, and she would let us buy it once a week with our lunch at school).

When the Post Oak store finally went out of business, they had a huge going-out-of-business sale, sometime when I was in junior high. Everything was for sale, even back office equipment, fixtures, displays, etc. My mom bought a huge wardrobe like the one in "The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe".

If anyone has any pictures of the interior of either the downtown or Post Oak Sakowitz, or any old lunch room menus or other memorabilia they could post, that would be great!

I read an interesting book on the Sakowitz family: "Blood Rich: When Oil Billions, High Fashion, and Royal Intimacies Are Not Enough" by Jane Wolf. Utimately the book focuses on Oscar and Lynn Wyatt's feud and lawsuit against Lynn's brother Robert, but the first several chapters give great indepth historical background on the Sakowitz family and stores, going all the way back to the original Sakowitz brothers who emigrated from Russia and started a small department store in Galveston, later moving it to Houston just after the 1900 hurricane. It has some good pictures; I'll try to scan and post them this week.

Wikipedia said the Sakowitz brothers started the store in 1902.

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The only Sakowitz I ever experienced as a kid was the Gulfgate one. It was where the rich people shopped. Was a white bldg with green canopies over skinny, long rectangular windows, and a round roofed porte-cochere dropoff. I always get it mixed up with Joskes. Sakowitz was on the northern side, right?. Joskes was by the pink granite rocks, by the basement entrance doors, correct? I love seeing those old store logos.

P.S. When I look up things in Wikipedia, I always look at the references (listed at the bottom)...you can sometimes find parent links that are reputable by using these footnotes.

For Sakowitz, one source is Handbook of Texas On-Line.

link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakowitz

I would like to see a Houston Retail History book published.

Edited by NenaE
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Are you saying that they expanded the PO store in 1970? If so, what did they do? Clearly, the picture is how I remember it in the end. Judging from the cars (1963 Chevy) in the picture, it was taken well before 1970.

My dad worked on the Post Oak Sakowitz expansion in 1970. The expansion, all to the north side, nearly doubled the size of the original store's footprint.

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I'm kind of curious about the one in Ohio. That's right--an arrogant developer bought the chain just so he could place it in some blue-collar suburb in Ohio. Sakowitz and the other chain, B. Altman died soon after the Ohio mall was built (it is now Cincinnati Mills) but Bonwit Teller was sold to Pyramid. If only Foley's was bought by an "arrogant developer" instead of Macy's, then sold it, we could still be seeing Foley's right now... :angry:

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shopped at the houston stores growing up (post oak and downtown). i remember using there personal shopper when i was graduating from college and needed work clothes. once i told them what i was looking for, they would just bring clothes in my size to my dressing room. the clothes were well made and classic styles that i could wear forever.

sakowitz even expanded to midland. i remember going there in 1982 and it was deserted. can't remember when it closed. i was living in dallas when sakowitz went bankrupt. i rarely shopped at the dallas store.

i read the book blood rich a couple of years ago. still can't figure out how lynn sakowitz wound up with oscar wyatt. talk about opposites attracting. but then again, they did have money in common.

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shopped at the houston stores growing up (post oak and downtown). i remember using there personal shopper when i was graduating from college and needed work clothes. once i told them what i was looking for, they would just bring clothes in my size to my dressing room. the clothes were well made and classic styles that i could wear forever.

sakowitz even expanded to midland. i remember going there in 1982 and it was deserted. can't remember when it closed. i was living in dallas when sakowitz went bankrupt. i rarely shopped at the dallas store.

i read the book blood rich a couple of years ago. still can't figure out how lynn sakowitz wound up with oscar wyatt. talk about opposites attracting. but then again, they did have money in common.

Yes....Lynn needed money and Oscar had it!

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In my teenage years I worked contract for a small telephone company. I helped move the phone system from the downtown store to the Post Oak location. As we gathered the phones from the downtown store we rumaged through some of the stuff left over. My parents have some of the silver spoons from the restaurant.

One day it became one of my duties to crawl through the ceiling of the Post oak store to drop new phone lines to the counters below, because the knothead cabinet contractor covered up our conduits in the floor. That was scary crawling over and under pipes and A/C ducts 25 feet above the floor below across a stucco ceiling.

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The thing I miss the most about all the old department stores--their dining rooms. The Bamboo Room at Joske's; the great view and the great desserts at Marshall Field's, etc. I remember how sophisticated it would feel to lunch at those places in the middle of a shopping day. Sakowitz had these great snack breads that they'd serve from enormous trays that would circulate constantly. There were some things on that tray that I wish I had the recipe for. I'd also love to have the recipe for Foley's oatmeal cookies. But alas....

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The thing I miss the most about all the old department stores--their dining rooms. The Bamboo Room at Joske's; the great view and the great desserts at Marshall Field's, etc. I remember how sophisticated it would feel to lunch at those places in the middle of a shopping day. Sakowitz had these great snack breads that they'd serve from enormous trays that would circulate constantly. There were some things on that tray that I wish I had the recipe for. I'd also love to have the recipe for Foley's oatmeal cookies. But alas....

I miss those days, too. I lived in St. Louis from 1983-1991, and for a while, both Dillards and Famous Barr (think a Foley's/Sakowitz combo) had dining rooms. It brought me back, I've gotta tell you. Thoses were the days, weren't they? And Foley's downtown had that cookie/pastry counter! That was good stuff.

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  • 10 years later...

While this may be a little late, in answer to why Sakowitz closed in 1990.  The original Sakowitz feel victim to over expansion when oil collapsed  and then the real estate market in the southwest followed suit, in the ensuing credit crunch, most of the regional savings and loans as well as many of the banks failed.  In 1985 Sakowitz Inc filed for bankruptcy.  The company emerged from bankruptcy a smaller company, but the majority ownership was held now by an Australian Real Estate Developer, L.J. Hooker.  By 1990 Sakowitz was profitable, but L.J. Hooker fell into bankruptcy.  The bankruptcy court tried to find a buyer for Sakowitz so it was liquidated.  https://www.upi.com/Archives/1990/06/06/Finding-no-buyers-Sakowitz-stores-to-be-liquidated/4891644644800/

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