Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

I just wanted to wish everyone the very best for the holiday season.  I thank you for stopping by and reading my blog.  Hopefully with all of the terrible events going on in the world these days, a trip back in time can take you away... even for a moment.  
All my best to you all.
Chris


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Denholms book Kindle edition

Amazon.com is now selling the Kindle edition for the Denholms book!  Even though I am old fashioned and still prefer a paperback, times are changing and more people are reading on their tablets or Kindles.  Here is the link to purchase if you are interested. 
http://www.amazon.com/Denholms

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Denholms holiday windows

This week the Denholm Building received a holiday touch to update the present windows.  As part of the downtown initiative to get retailers and other businesses to beautify their buildings, a contest was set up named "Let There Be Light".  I think it is such a great idea to help foster a brighter appearance to the landscape of the central core of Worcester.  The general public is available to vote for the best holiday windows, within a few themes.

Voting will begin with paper ballots available at each location.  For the Denholm building the ballots are on the first floor at the Post office entrance.
Ballots are also available at the main location of city hall.  You can also go to http://www.facebook.com/WorcesterEventsTheCreativeCity and cast a vote there after December 1st.

Regardless of the winners, it is so nice to see people interested in Downtown.

Here are the windows and a brief movie of the Denholm installation.
 
 
 












Friday, November 16, 2012

Let There Be Light

The Denholm building with be a contributor to the "LetThere Be Light" initiative to help beautify the storefronts and buildings of the downtown area and help foster a more vibrant Main Street.  The display will go up promptly after Thanksgiving and will consist of 1,000 lights and the existing paper sculpture.  Voting will begin after November 30th and I will post photos on this blog if you can't get out to see it.  I hope that you all like the final result!


Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Tribute to Josephine Carbone

Josephine Carbone
We all have that special someone in our lives.  A person who helped form us and influence us in a positive manner.  For me that person was my grandmother who the public knew as Josephine or "Jo" Carbone.  To me, she was a larger than life person, part Auntie Mame, part Diana Vreeland. As a child growing up, I was so lucky to live next door to her.  Many, many days were spent at her house doing daily shopping, rearranging her house, and simply talking on the couch.  My favorite stories were those of her early days in the field of retail, and her days spent at Denholms.  She talked about the past, ...and of Denholms like that of a long lost friend who she wished to revisit.  She reminisced about her 25 year span at Denholms and how her career changed over the years.  Her favorite years were the 1960's, " fashion was changing,everything seemed new again" she would remark. And she was right, the 1960's were the pinnacle of her career.  She had just been promoted to buyer of all of women's ready-to-wear after Elsie McCarthy's retirement.  This afforded her more opportunities to travel the world and purchase imported sweaters, blouses, etc... for the store, as well as hold in house fashion shows where she would do the commentary which would help educate the customers towards the new trends, silhouettes, and color pallet of each season.  She also enjoyed her time spent with the fashion advisory board which was made up of young high school and college students training under her and other managers at Denholms.

  As her career grew, so did her responsibilities with the store.  Within the next few years she would be promoted to Divisional Merchandise Manager responsible over all of the women's, children's, and mens departments.  Unfortunately she did not get more than a few years into her new title before the store changed hands and ultimately closed. 

left to right- Lucy Lonergan, Clarisse Morrisey, Edith Thomas, Jo Carbone, Lillian MacNeil at Elsie McCarthy's retirement party 1961
In her office on Chatham 3

Photo taken on the third floor in the Dress department

Leaving work by the High street entrance

My Grandmother with Marion Freedman, Taken at my grandmothers going away party at Denholms
  Personally I want to thank my grandmother for influencing and inspiring me to this day.  My passion for Denholms is directly related to her days spent there.  Whenever I go into the building and escalate up to the third floor I always think of her walking around in high heels, conducting business and decked out in the latest fashions. My love of Denholms was spawned from my grandmother, and in my heart, both she and the store will live on  forever.

 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Downtown Worcester then and now

Here is an interesting new feature that the Telegram and Gazette is featuring.  Of course I was so happy to see my beloved Denholms in the picture.
Enjoy!

WORCESTER —  America’s love affair with the suburban mall changed the look of downtown's across the country.

Over time, consumers made it clear they preferred the convenience of one-stop shopping in a climate-controlled bazaar with food courts and other amenities.

No snow, rain or heat to contend with.

But this is May 25, 1971. Auburn Mall is just starting to excite people and the much-anticipated Worcester Galleria won’t open for another two months.

So shoppers patronize this stretch of boulevard for much of their non-food shopping needs. It’s filled with retailers, some of which have since passed into history.

1971 was an eventful year.

Charles Manson went to jail and former U.S. Army Lt. William Calley was sentenced for his involvement in the My Lai Massacre. The Apollo 14 crew played golf on the Moon and President Richard Nixon installed his secret taping system at the White House.

Ed Sullivan ended his successful television run and made way for the edgier comedy of Archie Bunker and his dysfunctional clan on “All in the Family.”

Shoppers stopped by Liggett’s drug store, browsed W.T. Grant’s for household goods and sat down at Kresge’s food counters for a hot dog, lime-rickey, root beer float or other treat.

Then, it might be a trip next door to upscale Denholm’s, “the Boston Store” that introduced Worcester to its first escalators.

Today the Telegram & Gazette and telegram.com introduce a new weekly series, Then & Now. Go to telegram.com to weigh in on where you think this historical photo was taken and leave a comment. Here’s a clue: This one mile shopping mecca also served as the transportation hub for local buses, much as it does today.

Return to print and online tomorrow for the answer and a photo of the locale today.

- Bronislaus B. Kush

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Denholms book is still available

 
For those of you who are still interested in purchasing the Denholms book, I have added a few links below.  If you prefer to get it locally you can buy them at -
The Worcester Historical Society
Worcester Public Library
Tatnuck Booksellers.
or online at-

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer

With summer here, please excuse my absence from posting.  Lately Pat Wolf and myself have been doing more lectures and book signings which have eaten up a lot of free time.   I am also working on a line of Denholms related products which will be launching in the fall.  Due to an overwhelming response, we have decided to sell a line of  Denholms calendars, mugs, totes, Christmas ornaments and note cards.  If anyone has any other suggestions on products that you feel would be appropriate please let me know!

The blog will also be getting a new look by the end of the summer with a link to a new website which the merchandise will be sold on.
Until then I look forward to anyone's memories or suggestions.  please feel free to email me at denholms1@yahoo.com

Best,
Christopher

Saturday, June 2, 2012

New Denholms windows

Denholms book window 484 vestibule
This week I took vacation and worked at the Denholm building to refresh the window displays.  It was a lot of work but I was happy with the outcome.  It is hard to do windows when you are working with various non-profit organizations as most of their collateral consists mostly of posters and print work.  Because the windows are so large I decided to do a large sculpture that floats through all three of the main windows like a ribbon of flowers to help fill some of the negative space.  The building is celebrating 130 years since it was built so I decided to take the sculpture idea (which consists of tissue paper) and work it throughout the building to create continuity. I hope that you all like!
Dress for Success
Worcester computer center

Worcester Community Action Council & Denholms Coffee shop 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Russell Stover candies

Here is an ad from the early 1960's.  Many people don't realize that at one time Denholms had the exclusive ( in central Massachusetts) for Russell Stover which was then a high end line of chocolates.  The new candy department could be found on the Chatham Street entrance located on the first floor alongside the gourmet shop.  I remember as a kid receiving a box of these whenever I went to work with my grandmother for the day. I guess it was a good way of keeping me occupied while she worked.
To all of the mothers out there, I wish you all a very happy day!
an early advertising card 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Denholms Easter window 1951

Here is a charming window display for the Millinery department which was then located on level two.  The vendor being showcased was Elizabeth Ford who was a New York hat designer who leased space out at Denholms.  The origional hatboxes were gold and white striped, with a gold rope handle.  I remember my grandmothers closet full of these hat boxes.  recently I was able to locate one at a Wrentham antique store.

Until the next post I would like to wish you all a very Happy easter!
Christopher

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Denholms light fixture

Recently I was so lucky to obtain the last original light fixture from The Denholm building.  The condo association there was so gracious to let me have it.  I had been searching for one of these for the past 25 years and could not believe it when I saw one hanging in the basement.  I took it to a local restorer and had the lamp completely re-wired and cleaned up.  I love the lighting that it gives off in the room.

Does anyone remember this fixture?
 



Thursday, February 23, 2012

A song about Denholms


Here is a wonderful rendition of Alexander's Ragtime Band that has been reinterpreted by Steve  Eide the Senior Research Associate for the Research Bureau in Worcester.  I love how he captured the history and memories of Denholms into this song.
Have a look, and sing along!




My Denholm’s Sugar Baby
(Tune: “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”)
[Horn intro]

Come on along,
You boys and girls,
And let me tell you ‘bout that place
That shiny place!
Them starry lights!
Ya’ll see them lights from outer space!

And when that Christmas tree be shinin’ and them elevators hummin’
- Folks so happy that the holidays are comin’ -
You know Santa’s lap is so invitin’…for…sugar babies!

Who’s gonna be?
Who’s gonna be?
My Denholm’s Sugar Baby!
Who’s comin’ home?
Who’s comin’ home?
The only home I know is Denholms!

And if you need some drapes or shoes or corsets,
Of course it’s… all at Denholms
‘Cause you’re my own
My one and own-ly
Denholm’s Sugar Baby

But then one day
But then one day
My sugar baby went away
Away from Worcester
Away from Worcester
Even though I barely kissed her

No more nylons, pearls, or notions, no more storewide promotions
- Santa’s lap has gone from warm to cold -
I don’t know where I’m gon’ buy my tie...Only Lord knows!

But come someday,
I know someday,
Them Christmas lights gon’ shine again
To light up downtown
Wipe off the sad frown
And I’ll find my Sugar Babe

And once again we’ll see the girls and all the mannequins be panickin’
- All so jealous because you look so fine -
We’ll watch those starry times return-to Denholms!
[Horn takes us on home]

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Another great review

This review is from Steve Eide who is the Senior Research Associate for the Research Bureau in Worcester.  I was so happy with this review, and we were able to chat on the phone regarding the Denholms building present day.
Enjoy!

Research Bureau Angle 1-23-12

Hi, this is Steve Eide for the Research Bureau Angle. Today I want to talk about a fascinating book on Worcester’s history that came out last year, called Denholms: The Story of Worcester’s Premier Department Store.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with Worcester’s industrial history knows about the city’s proud tradition of technological innovation. This book’s contribution consists in showing what a glamorous and exciting place Worcester used to be, especially downtown Worcester.

Denholm and McKay’s opened in 1870. Branded by its owners as “The Boston Store,” Denholms prided itself on being on the cutting edge of retail and department store fashion. It had seven floors and 450 employees, 600 at Christmastime. Like America’s other grand department stores, Denholms was a distinctly middle class institution. In modern times, retailers are strictly divided between high end specialty stores like Neiman Marcus and low end discounters like Wal-Mart.

Denholms was both: it had something for everyone, but it was also classy and elegant.

The authors of this book about Denholms are relatives of longtime and high ranking former employees, and they provide an impressively detailed account of Denholms operations.

This is one of the best books of Worcester history ever written and easily the best book about downtown. It vividly captures the connection between commercial and civic life that characterized downtown in its heyday. People had to go downtown because it was the most convenient place to buy most goods and services, but they also wanted to go downtown, because of the spectacle and excitement. And Denholms was responsible for much of that spectacle and excitement. In addition to its legendary Christmas decorations, Denholms hosted fashion shows and cutest baby contests; for several months in 1968, it ran store-wide a promotion with the Italian Trade Commission; and it had an entire department just devoted to its interior and window displays. Indeed, at times the book reads like a love letter to the dying art of window dressing.

But nothing good ever lasts. Shortly after its centennial celebration in 1970, Denholms was overwhelmed by a perfect storm. Suburbanization and the construction of the Worcester Center Galleria in 1971 both cut into sales. A series of rapid ownership changes between non-local companies then delivered the death blow, by diverting profits and corporate expenditures away from Denholms to other, less profitable entities. In 1973, Denholms closed its doors and was forced into liquidation. For the next ten years, the city had possession of the property, until it was bought by a Boston-based property manager and converted into its current form of office space condominiums.

Aside from stores in big wealthy cities like Boston and New York, retailing in general has lost most of its glamor. Denholms thrived in the old retail economy, wherein people believed in a close connection between showmanship and sales. In modern times Wal-Mart sets the agenda, with its relentless focus on providing the lowest prices to the consumer, period. Denholms defined “customer service” in a much broader, and, from Wal-Mart’s perspective, vaguer, sense. Denholms was extravagant and probably also wasteful. We must admit that the public has benefited in many ways from the decline of stores like Denholms. It’s never been easier to buy things, and many consumer goods have become cheaper over time. But there has also been a loss, in terms of charm and, I would argue, civic life. Depicting what was lost is what this valuable new book accomplishes.

This has been Steve Eide for The Research Bureau Angle on AM 830 WCRN.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

When Denholms was king

Here is such a great article written by Albert B. Southwick which appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.  The press that the book has been receiving has been wonderful and I cannot thank the Telegram and Gazette enough for all that they have done.   I also want to thank Cruisin Bruce from The Pike 100 FM for interviewing Pat Wolf and myself.  The podcast is available online at www.worcesterpike.com   In a week I will be posting more dates for future book signings and lectures.  

Best,
Christopher

When Denholms was king
The rise and decline of Worcester’s heavy manufacturing base has been duly chronicled over the past century and a half.

Less attention has been paid to the parallel rise and decline of downtown retailing, which in its heyday here employed thousands and dominated the central city for decades.

Fifty or sixty years ago, downtown Worcester was a lively place. More and more automobiles rolled along the streets and jammed the available parking spaces. The street cars and then the buses brought loads of people ready to shop at the retail stores within walking distance of City Hall.

The J. C. MacInness store was directly across from City Hall. C.T. Sherer was located on Front Street, Barnard’s a block or two north on Main Street. Filene’s with its bargain basement sat on Main Street next to the Park Building. Bargain shoppers headed for Woolworth’s or Newberry’s on Front Street or Kresge’s on Main Street across from City Hall. There were also a clutch of more specialized stores — Richard Healy’s, Ware Pratt, etc.

But the grand dame of downtown stores was Denholms, originally Denholm and McKay, now the subject of a memoir and history: “DENHOLMS — The Story of Worcester’s Premium Department Store,” by Christopher Sawyer and Patricia A. Wolf.

Pat Wolf’s father was Harry Wolf, the man who guided Denholms for years until his death in 1966. He was a fine tennis player, great rival of Bob Bowditch, another icon of Worcester tennis.

Denholm and McKay was founded by a couple of canny Scots, William Alexander Denholm and William C. McKay. They set up a dry goods shop in Worcester in 1870, at the corner of Main and Mechanic streets. Within a few years, their business was bursting at the seams and they were looking for more space. Enter Jonas G. Clark.

Mr. Clark had gone into shipping at the time of the California gold rush and it made him wealthy. He later moved to New York and went into the furniture business. When he moved back to Worcester, he built a big granite house on Elm Street and watched as the thriving city grew. He paid special attention to the store on Mechanic Street and its diligent owners.

He owned a large piece of land diagonally across from City Hall where he built a large, five-floor, state-of-the-art building with every modern improvement, including electric lights powered by its own generating plant. It probably was the first Worcester building wired for electricity, years before there was any central power plant. It had capacious elevators and wide stairways linking its five floors. By contrast, the old City Hall diagonally across Main Street looked worn and dilapidated.

Mr. Denholm and Mr. McKay wasted no time in setting up their new “Boston Store.” They aimed to be as progressive as any store in Boston with a full range of offerings. Mr. McKay died in 1884 and Mr. Denholm in 1891. They left an establishment with a tradition and a momentum that carried it triumphantly through the next 70 years and made it a byword throughout New England.

This booklet explains why it thrived, decade after decade. Time and again Denholms was able to find, one after another, unusually able leaders. For 50 years after 1920, Frank Krim, Harry Wolf and Russ Corsini led the store to new heights of service and quality merchandise. At its peak, it employed more than 500.

It was a full-service store in all respects. Women’s wear, men’s clothing, kitchen utensils, toys, hosiery, costume jewelry, cosmetic creams, electrical appliances, furniture, draperies, rugs and many other lines were offered over the years. And the store managed to stay on the cutting edge of fashion, particularly in regard to women’s styles and fashions. The store had sophisticated window displays and promotional literature. A sixth floor was built and repeated interior expansions added 100,000 square feet to the original 150,000. The adjoining empty Richard Healy store was added and a large addition was built in back on the High Street side. The new fa├žade and Worcester’s first escalators were installed in the ‘60s.

Pat Wolf describes Denholms as “a combination Disneyland, a shopping adventure and a community center.” It was all that and more. Its imaginative window displays were a constant education and entertainment for passersby. Holidays were especially important. Many recall the spectacular Denholms Christmas tree, 80 feet high, emblazoned by thousands of lights over the Main Street entrance.

The final days of the great store were sad. Business started to decline in the 1960s when outlying and suburban shopping malls transformed the retailing business. When plans for the new Worcester Center galleria were being drawn up, the developers wanted Denholms to be an anchor store. After much deliberation, Russ Corsini decided against it. Denholms later opened a branch in the Auburn Mall, but the magic of the mother store could not be easily transferred.

Could Denholms have been saved? Probably not. Inner cities all over the land were suffering the same fate as downtown Worcester. The galleria here drained the retail life out of Main Street. Even if Mr. Corsini had moved the store to the galleria, it probably would not have made much different in the long run. It would have been impossible to duplicate the grand old store — all six stories of it — in the new structure.

Denholms closed its doors on January 14, 1974. All that was left was the memory, thankfully preserved in this heartfelt memoir-history.

Albert B. Southwick’s column appears regularly in the Telegram & Gazette.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Denholms radio interview with Al Vuona

 I recently had an interview with Al Vuona from WICN 90.5 Public Radio.  The interview aired on Sunday December 18th and revolved around the Denholms history. Al was such a pleasure to speak with, and we talked for another hour after the interview was over.  Great guy!
For those of you who missed it, please click on the link below.

*Please note the introduction repeats 3 times before the interview.  You can fast forward it to start at 2:55.
http://www.wicn.org/podcasts/audio/christopher-sawyer

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

I look forward to sharing new imagery, stories, and a Denholms product line with all of you in 2012.  Until then, I wish everyone a safe,healthy and happy new year.
Christopher