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Was Sakowitz A Famous Store From Houston?


citykid09

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The first job I had after college graduation was in the Sakowitz advertising department. It was in the basement of the downtown store. I lasted for about a year and a half. Oh, I could tell you amazing stories about that place and its owners and the people who worked and shopped there, but I would be sued for slander, defamation of character and who knows what else!

In another life, I shopped at all of Houston's upscale stores - Sakowitz, Neiman's, Esther Wolf, Everitt-Buelow, Frost Bros., Lord & Taylor ( I've never really liked Saks 5th Avenue or boutiques). My mother stored her furs in the Sakowitz cold-storage vault. When I was maid of honor in a cousin's wedding, I hostessed the bridesmaid's luncheon at the Sakowitz Sky Terrace restaurant. My family was middle-class, but knew that buying cheap clothes, furniture, etc., that didn't last was throwing money away.

Obviously your idea of middle class and mine are different. My mom never had a fur coat. We never had expensive cloths and new furniture...because that was considered thowing money away. But we had nice things and never did without things we needed.

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  • 2 weeks later...
This should test out a few memories.

anyone remember 'globe' dept. stores? If memory serves me correct it was the poor man's weiners.

Ricco

yea there was one across from what is now Pasadena Town Square, when it was just the stand alone Foley's.....

I remember also going to a store as a very small todler called GEMCO, i think it was like a pre-Sam's thing you had have a membership to get in.

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  • 1 month later...

I was just over at the old Saks location at 1800 Post Oak and they appear to be remodeling the entire structure. Is this the same business?

And the theatre is still there, just hasn't been operated since Landmark vacated ten years ago.

post-4507-1187999191.jpg

Edited by SirTonk
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I was just over at the old Saks location at 1800 Post Oak and they appear to be remodeling the entire structure. Is this the same business?

And the theatre is still there, just hasn't been operated since Landmark vacated ten years ago.

Wow, I had forgotten all about that theater. The theaters were actually in the basement level, right?

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I love that this thread has been resurrected. As most know I tend to be nostalgic.

I am surprised by the number of people on this site that shopped at Sakowitz. Maybe we were poorer than I thought. We did shop at Joskey's and Kaplins, but Sakowitz was way out of our league.

I remember when the store closed on Westheimer, they were selling bricks for $100 each. Needless to say I did not get one  :(

When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to take me to lunch at Sakowitz' "tea room." They had a big fake tree in the middle of the restaurant and twinkly lights in the ceiling. Those were the days when we got "dressed up" to go downtown shopping. And all the department stores had real toy departments. Great memories.

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When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to take me to lunch at Sakowitz' "tea room." They had a big fake tree in the middle of the restaurant and twinkly lights in the ceiling. Those were the days when we got "dressed up" to go downtown shopping. And all the department stores had real toy departments. Great memories.

Yes, about the most "dangerous" toy you could get was a cowboy six-shooter that you loaded a roll of popping caps into it. How could you harm yourself with Silly Putty?

Edited by northbeaumont
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  • 1 month later...

Several people I spoke too concerning prison time for Oscar Wyatt was glad to see him go. They were mad because he didn't write a check to save the Sakowitz Stores despite the fact his wife Lynn Sakowitz Wyatt spends millions on fashion and jewelry. Was the feud between her and baby brother Robert true? Is this the reason the stores went under?

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Several people I spoke too concerning prison time for Oscar Wyatt was glad to see him go. They were mad because he didn't write a check to save the Sakowitz Stores despite the fact his wife Lynn Sakowitz Wyatt spends millions on fashion and jewelry. Was the feud between her and baby brother Robert true? Is this the reason the stores went under?

I don't know about an alleged feud, but there were many reasons that caused the Sakowitz stores to close. There was a great deal of time, effort and money spent in trying to compete with perceived rival Neiman-Marcus. Unfortunately, the company did not possess Stanley Marcus' sense of style, taste or originality. The stores expanded too rapidly into other areas of the country. They also misread their customer base and didn't adjust their merchandise offerings to meet the needs of the clientele they hoped to attract. I worked in their advertising department - saw and heard a lot!

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  • 2 weeks later...
I was just over at the old Saks location at 1800 Post Oak and they appear to be remodeling the entire structure. Is this the same business?

And the theatre is still there, just hasn't been operated since Landmark vacated ten years ago.

Ok, nevermind. The whole building is being torn down in two years. Some developer is ripping up everything from the Saks to San Felipe and building a huge shopping complex. If you want to see the drawings, drop by the Saks building and their office is in the front section by the department store entrance. I'll see if I can get a pdf of it if anyone is interested. We're going to ask them to let us in the old theatre to take some pictures before they fill it with concrete.

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We're going to ask them to let us in the old theatre to take some pictures before they fill it with concrete.

Love to see those posted here, assuming you're able to get in.

I really miss the Loews (later Landmark) Saks - I believe it was the last movie theater in Houston that still had a functional curtain covering the screen which retracted at the beginning of the show and closed at the end of the show. Such things are no more than quaint relics to most modern multiplex patrons, but were an integral part of showmanship in the old days, when the thought of leaving a screen uncovered and fully visible before the movie started would have been unthinkable.

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Love to see those posted here, assuming you're able to get in.

I really miss the Loews (later Landmark) Saks - I believe it was the last movie theater in Houston that still had a functional curtain covering the screen which retracted at the beginning of the show and closed at the end of the show. Such things are no more than quaint relics to most modern multiplex patrons, but were an integral part of showmanship in the old days, when the thought of leaving a screen uncovered and fully visible before the movie started would have been unthinkable.

The retractable curtain is still there at the River Oaks, but it broke during Blair Witch's run. It's rather expensive to fix, so they haven't bothered. But yeah, I can't think of any theatres built after the early 70's that had curtains and it's cool that you remember it.

We got in there while some workers had the doors open and saw the base of the theaters (no lights). It reeks of mold and the fabric is in horrible shape, but the theatre seemed to be in decent enough shape overall. I'd try to reopen it as an independent theatre if they weren't going to demolish the property.

Edited by SirTonk
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  • 3 weeks later...

What fun to read this thread!

I moved to Houston in 1968 (my senior year at "then" Robert E. Lee High School) and my Mom worked at Joskes Post Oak. She got me a temporary job there and I ended up staying almost 5 years. Whenever I was home from college, Mrs. Ginsmer would let me work. :)

I remember Sakowitz well though we rarely bought much. I can't remember if the Neiman's was built that year or already there, but I know there was no Galleria! Neiman's had a special sale and I bought a full length khaki trench coat for 36$!!! I still have that thing after 40 years and it still looks great. I used to drape it over chairs so the label would show!

What was on the other corner? Was it a Weingartens? I hat to go to that area now; traffic is terrible and prices are atrocious. Way back when I first worked at Joskes we were restricted to navy, black, grey, and burgundy dresses and suits. Times have sure changed!!

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  • 1 year later...

I was a Bridal Consultant at Sakowitz downtown Houston in 1953, freshly graduated from SMU. It was a most elegant store, definitely on par with Neiman's in Dallas. The Bridal Department on the 3rd floor, along with couturier & furs, was beautiful. I used a middle name as a first name then.

It was a most impressive building. The Bridal Department enjoyed the big windows on the 3rd floor overlooking Main Street. I remember watching a parade with the King and Queen of the Netherlands riding in an open limo from the window. The original Foley's was across Main Street from Sakowitz.

myskwtzcrd.jpg

sakowitz-houston.jpg

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I don't know about an alleged feud, but there were many reasons that caused the Sakowitz stores to close. There was a great deal of time, effort and money spent in trying to compete with perceived rival Neiman-Marcus. Unfortunately, the company did not possess Stanley Marcus' sense of style, taste or originality. The stores expanded too rapidly into other areas of the country. They also misread their customer base and didn't adjust their merchandise offerings to meet the needs of the clientele they hoped to attract. I worked in their advertising department - saw and heard a lot!

I believe that the final straw was Forest Fair. Basically, it happened when a developer decided to buy Sakowitz, Bonwit Teller, and B. Altman to make an upscale mall (which was also oddly anchored by a grocery/hypermarket called Bigg's and Elder Beerman), but the mall was in a very middle-class area which could not afford the stores, and all Sakowitz and B. Altman stores closed soon after.

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Nice Sakowitz bldg design above, it reminds me of the Foley's in downtown Houston. I have a fondness for the Houston retail bldgs. Wish they could be respected, preserved, and re-developed, with some of their elaborate details left intact.

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Nice Sakowitz bldg design above, it reminds me of the Foley's in downtown Houston. I have a fondness for the Houston retail bldgs. Wish they could be respected, preserved, and re-developed, with some of their elaborate details left intact.

The Sakowitz building is still standing on Main Street--facing the Macy's that used to be Foley's. But it's been totally gutted & is now a parking garage. The Ed Wulfe & Co signs are gone--do any of you movers & shakers know of any plans for the old hulk?

In my childhood, Sakowitz was a bit rich for our blood. Even fancier than Joske's, but not as terrifiying as Neiman's. Downtown was a long trek for shopping, but Gulfgate put Sakowitz (& Joske's) within reach. So we could walk through, even if we never bought much. For us, Sears opening in Pasadena was a big event. At last, an upscale alternative to Weiner's! Or Mobud.

I do remember a Sunday drive out to Westheimer & Post Oak Road--to see the brand new Sakowitz. Why would anybody build such a fancy store on the bald prairie?

Edited by MaggieMay
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I was a Bridal Consultant at Sakowitz downtown Houston in 1953, freshly graduated from SMU. It was a most elegant store, definitely on par with Neiman's in Dallas. The Bridal Department on the 3rd floor, along with couturier & furs, was beautiful. I used a middle name as a first name then.

It was a most impressive building. The Bridal Department enjoyed the big windows on the 3rd floor overlooking Main Street. I remember watching a parade with the King and Queen of the Netherlands riding in an open limo from the window. The original Foley's was across Main Street from Sakowitz.

Welcome to HAIF - and thanks for posting and adding pictures

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  • 2 weeks later...
Can someone tell me about Sakowitz? What was it like? What happened to it?

Sakowitz was a very attractive store taking up almost a full block across from the downtown Foley's. (Foley's was built first).The prices were higher than Foley's and there was a nice restaurant in the store where I recall eating with my Mother occasionally. An example of the prices: I couldn't spend the $200 for the beautiful formal gown in Sakowitz window for a school dance, so I drew a picture of it and had it made for much less. At that time (1950s) $200 was a lot of money.....equivalent to thousands now, I believe.

Later there was a smaller Sakowitz across from Galleria.

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Posted by smartalek:

QUOTE (Houston Retail @ Thursday, November 11th, 2004 @ 1:02am)

Under the "Daddy, what was Sakowitz like?" category, I can offer the following.

(it seems that I cannot use the %7Boption%7D tag to post an image, so please click away at the links)

Sakowitz 1

Sakowitz 2

Sakowitz 3

Sakowitz 4

Sakowitz 5

Sakowitz 6

Sakowitz 7

Sakowitz 8

And for those of you who dont live in Houston, here is a clean scan of the 002 article"

The links don't work now and I would love, love to see the pictures again. Is smartalek still active? I did see the pictures and they were AMAZING! Hopefully they can be posted again.

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Sakowitz was a very attractive store taking up almost a full block across from the downtown Foley's. (Foley's was built first).The prices were higher than Foley's and there was a nice restaurant in the store where I recall eating with my Mother occasionally. An example of the prices: I couldn't spend the $200 for the beautiful formal gown in Sakowitz window for a school dance, so I drew a picture of it and had it made for much less. At that time (1950s) $200 was a lot of money.....equivalent to thousands now, I believe.

Later there was a smaller Sakowitz across from Galleria.

Is that where Dillard's is now?

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Is that where Dillard's is now?

No, the current Dillard's was originally Joske's. The building exterior is much the same.

Sakowitz was directly across Westheimer from Neiman-Marcus. A freestanding building situated well back on the property, it was demolished to make room for the fancy-schmantzy strip center currently at that site.

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  • 6 months later...

I read somewhere that Frost Brothers was going to merge with Sakowitz in the late 1980s. Was that ever carried out? That would mean that there would be Sakowitz in North Star Mall and Sunrise Mall (Corpus Christi). Obviously, it if did happen, as all the Sakowitz stores in Houston (and, um, Cincinnati) closed.

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I read somewhere that Frost Brothers was going to merge with Sakowitz in the late 1980s. Was that ever carried out? That would mean that there would be Sakowitz in North Star Mall and Sunrise Mall (Corpus Christi). Obviously, it if did happen, as all the Sakowitz stores in Houston (and, um, Cincinnati) closed.

Turns out I was wrong. Frost Brothers and Sakowitz did not merge, and instead separately went out of business by 1990.

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  • 5 weeks later...

As I recall, Sakowitz was the premier department store based in Houston. It was "higher end" than Foley Brothers. Joske's was San Antonio's comparable department store and they both competed with that store in Dallas, Neiman-Marcus. When Neiman's opened its first Houston store in the 1950s, Houstonians stayed away in droves. For those who don't know, the Neiman-Marcus building is still on Main Street. When they opened the Galleria store, they closed the Main Street location and Palais Royal took over that building. The building is now the CVS Pharmacy on Main. Sakowitz had a large clientele of wealthy Latin Americans who made Houston a destination for their shopping trips. I won't even go into the stories about Robert Sakowitz. ;)

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As I recall, Sakowitz was the premier department store based in Houston. It was "higher end" than Foley Brothers. Joske's was San Antonio's comparable department store and they both competed with that store in Dallas, Neiman-Marcus. When Neiman's opened its first Houston store in the 1950s, Houstonians stayed away in droves. For those who don't know, the Neiman-Marcus building is still on Main Street. When they opened the Galleria store, they closed the Main Street location and Palais Royal took over that building. The building is now the CVS Pharmacy on Main. Sakowitz had a large clientele of wealthy Latin Americans who made Houston a destination for their shopping trips. I won't even go into the stories about Robert Sakowitz. ;)

In a previous life I was employed in the advertising departments of both Sakowitz and Foley's. Sakowitz and Neiman's were considered specialty stores rather than department stores. They featured high-end clothing, accessories, bridal gowns, fine jewelry, furs and gifts. Joske's and Foley's were full line department stores since they carried furniture, appliances and housewares in addition to apparel, jewelry and gifts in a wide range of prices.

Wealthy Latin Americans still come to Houston to shop. I was working at Lord and Taylor in the Galleria when the company closed its Houston locations a few years ago and heard their wails of distress over losing a favorite store!

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  • 1 month later...

Bad shots,

but that is some Sakowitz.

This was in the Jewish cemetery.

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There is some guy named Westhimer too!

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Anyone from the Wards knows Hirsch.

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This is a piece in the same cemetery. I have gotten better with ISO since this was taken.

post-8959-12610632539544_thumb.jpg

Edited by BARK
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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

The wonderful flagship store in San Antonio was ruined when Dillards took over and stripped it of character. This is the wonderful large building on the corner of commerce and Alamo.

if it makes you feel any different, the third floor of that Joske's, which was used for their Christmas display, is being converted to condos.

FYI< I remember Sakowitz's very well. They had a superb Christmas display. Although the store was upscale, the Sakowitz kids went to San Jacinto High School with my mother and aunt, and did all the things mischievous high school students did in the early 50's.

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Bad shots,

but that is some Sakowitz.

This was in the Jewish cemetery…

no offense to you, but some of the truly religious Jews consider photography of gravesites to be sacrilegious. Oh, and it's also customary to leave a memento of your visit; a small pebble is common.

The photographs are nicely done.

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speaking of sakowitz, looks like Ann Sakowitz died monday.

full article

Ann Baum Sakowitz, mother of Houston socialite Lynn Wyatt and matriarch of the family whose specialty stores were a Houston fixture for decades, died Monday at home. She was 96.

Ann Sakowitz was as comfortable with world leaders as she was with cowboys and enjoyed gardening at the East Texas ranch she shared with her husband, Bernard Sakowitz, until his death in 1981, said her son, Robert T. Sakowitz of Houston.

“She would sit and shell peas and then she'd can them,” he said. Sakowitz also made pickled okra and jalapeno jelly, which she gave to friends and later sold at the family stores' Tastemaker Shops, her son said.

Known for her beauty and charm, she was offered a film contract in the late 1930s by producer Louis B. Mayer, but her husband objected, her son said.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I worked part time at Sakowitz on Post Oak around 1965. It was pretty ritzy. worked in men's accessories, i think. we sold Countess Mara ties which sold for $100, or some outrageous sum. There was a popular sandwich/deli next door where I used to have their delicious club sandwich.

Also worked at Joske's, on the other side of Westheimer, not as classy, but more fun to work in. I was a stock boy and had a crush on a young salesgirl who looked exactly like Samantha in Bewitched, which was popular at the time. I even called her Samantha. I got fired.

I wonder where she is now....?

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  • 1 month later...

I barely remember Battlestein's. Most of my memories of it are from after they were bought out by Frost and the stores were renamed under the Frost name for a few years before Frost finally went under.

While we're on the topic, remember Joske's? They were acquired by Dillard's about 1987, giving Dillard's an instant presence in cities like Houston and San Antonio where they hadn't really expanded yet. Some of the old Joske's stores that converted to Dillard's are closed now (Northline, Westwood) but some are sitll around like Post Oak and Greenspoint.

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Battelsteins was the most exclusive aparell store in Houston during the late 1930's and 1940's Later Sackowitz opened their stores and gave Batelsteins competition.

Abe Battlestein was the son of Russian immigrants. His father, Phillip, a taylor, settled in Houston with his wife and 5 children in the 1920's.

By 1930, Abe Battlestein had opened a men's clothing store in downtown Houston. By the 1940's the store sold exclusive lines of both women, men's and children's clothing. There was also a cosmetic section and shoe section.

In the 1940 "Pap Battlestein" would stand by the front door of his store and hand out dimes to the children of the customers who frequented the establishment. I was one of the luck little girls that was able to pocket a dime given to me by Pap Battlestein.

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  • 1 month later...

I read somewhere that Frost Brothers was going to merge with Sakowitz in the late 1980s. Was that ever carried out? That would mean that there would be Sakowitz in North Star Mall and Sunrise Mall (Corpus Christi). Obviously, it if did happen, as all the Sakowitz stores in Houston (and, um, Cincinnati) closed.

Frost Brothers and Battelsteins were both bought by a New York Firm (it seems like it was Manhattan Shirt Company). Eventually, the Battelsteins were converted to Frost Brothers in Houston and the remaining stores (like Greenspoint) was sold to Bealls. Frost had a location in The Galleria and River Oaks. Frost went bankrupt and was liquidated.

There is a great book I got on Amazon called "Blood Rich" that goes into the Sakowitz saga in great detail. It is a very good read.

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  • 3 weeks later...

One of my cousins, about 18 years older, worked for the downtown store for many years. When I was in high school in the 60's, she gave me her 'old' winter coat. It looked almost new to me and still had the satin Sakowitz label in it. I sure thought I was something when I wore it. It was gray wool with a black velvet collar.

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  • 1 month later...

Can someone tell me about Sakowitz? What was it like? What happened to it?

Well for one thing, it had the coolest escalators I had ever seen. I got to know it in the late 60s, and whereas the railing of most escalators were flat, the ones at Sakowitz bulged out from the top of the handrail, and then curved back to the top of the steps. They were also illuminated from inside. As a kid I used to love riding up and down, leaning against the side, being bumped every time I came to a juncture between the panels.

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  • 1 month later...

This could not be true. Battelsteins pre dated Sakowitz and there was at least one elevator in the Battelstein's store on Main Street, Houston in 1939.

There were elevators in Houston office buildings at least as far back as the 1920's -- multi-storied retail stores had them, too.

If you're thinking of escalators in department stores here, I believe the first ones were in the Sears Roebuck store on Main Street.

If this isn't correct, our local history buffs will post the right answer.

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This could not be true. Battelsteins pre dated Sakowitz and there was at least one elevator in the Battelstein's store on Main Street, Houston in 1939.

Are you sure Battelsteins pre-dated Sakowitz.....the Sakowitz brothers opened their first store in 1902 in Galveston, or were you just referring to specific down town stores?

Edited by Earlydays
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