Hecht's no more

July 31, 2005

SAMUEL M. Hecht would have understood. As the grandson and namesake of the 148-year-old retailer's founder, he might have felt a pang of family pride at the loss of the Hecht's name. But as a businessman, he would have completely understood the decision by Federated Department Stores Inc. to consolidate area stores under the Macy's logo next year.

When Mr. Hecht oversaw the merger of the family-owned company with the May Department Stores Co. of St. Louis in 1959, similar decisions were made. Only then it was the May's store downtown that had a name change. The new corporation that resulted from that merger was the May Department Stores Co., whose Hecht's stores continued to trade under the family name.

A remnant of Baltimore history is disappearing as retailing history repeats itself. A one-time peddler, Samuel Hecht founded a furniture store in 1857 in Fells Point. As the business grew and diversified, son Morris brought about innovations today's shoppers take for granted. He put price tags on individual merchandise and sent out store credit cards to woo potential customers.

FOR THE RECORD - In an editorial Sunday on the closing of Hecht's stores, an incorrect first name was given for Moses Hecht, the son of the founder. The Sun regrets the error.

With Federated's acquisition of the May stores, Hecht's will soon join a long list of department stores where once we shopped: Hutzler's in Baltimore, Garfinckel's in Washington, Wanamaker's in Philadelphia. The shopping landscape is that much more homogenized. But Hecht's shoppers should take heart. Next year, if they're not buying online or looking for that boutique gift, the birthday sweater bought at Macy's in White Marsh and mailed to that grandniece in Paramus, N.J., will be exchangeable at 23 stores in the Garden State - and about 700 Macy's in the U.S. Mr. Hecht would have appreciated that.

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