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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

G. Fox & Co. - Hartford, Connecticut

Above is something we don’t see too often anymore, a hatbox. It is from a store we no longer have here in New England, Hartford’s grand and famous G. Fox & Company.

G. Fox holds a special place in the memory of its employees and especially its thousands upon thousands of customers. It was unique among many grand department stores which stood as flagships for thriving cities in that it never did branch out into the suburbs, not when it was operated by the Fox family. There were never any outlet or branch stores of G. Fox, just the one. It was among the first in New England to adopt progressive policies for the treatment of its employees, and was among the first to hire African-Americans in administrative positions.

It was also run by a single family, and during its golden period from the late 1930s to the mid-1960s, by a single remarkable woman.

Beatrice Fox Auerbach was the third generation of the Fox family to run the store. It had been founded by her grandfather Gershon Fox as a dry goods store in 1847 as I & G Fox. Hartford was a burgeoning city in the late 1800s. It more than thrived; it catapulted itself into one of the most prosperous and commercially energetic cities in the country.

G. Fox went from father to son, and then for a time, granddaughter Beatrice along with her husband George Auerbach joined the business. When Mr. Auerbach died in 1927, Beatrice ran the store equally with her father, Moses Fox. The store was now an 11-story Main Street building put up after a fire destroyed the prior building in 1917.

When her father died in 1938, Beatrice took the helm alone, and was responsible for guiding the business to its golden age. There were many expansions, renovations to the building, the adding of air conditioning, the application of Mrs. Auerbach’s elegant taste to the décor, and the addition of host of services to the customer including phone orders and home delivery.

Many recall eating at the luncheonette in the store, or the more grand tea room called The Connecticut Room with its murals of 19th century Connecticut. Her own farm in Bloomfield supplied produce and dairy products.

What Mrs. Auerbach displayed in her approach to her running of G. Fox was more than a willingness to reinvest in her business, but also an eagerness to invest in her community. Her interest in Hartford and her staunch support of the community was famous.

G. Fox was sold to the May Company in the late 1960s, and then closed in 1992. Its like may not be seen again.

A recent comment on the post from last year about Springfield’s Forbes and Wallace (see here) added a wonderful personal insight to the description of that store. I hope anyone who remembers working, or shopping, at G. Fox (lots of folks took the train north from the Connecticut shore and south from the Springfield, Mass. area just to shop at the store) will stop by with your memories. Memories are all we have now of G. Fox. We might as well dig them out and dust them off.

For more on G. Fox, have a look at this Connecticut Historical Society website.


Holly Goes Lightly said...

I grew up in Glastonbury, Connecticut before the huge mall in Farmington and the revamping of I-84 & I-91 changed the way people in Hartford shopped forever. My grandmother and mother both worked at G. Fox, and between undergrad and law school I too spent time in its buying offices. One of my earliest memories is when I was 6 or 7, riding up and down the elevators at Christmas while my parents shopped for bedroom furniture on 11. Incredible that none of us had to worry for my safety! It was a wonderful store in the tradition of Marshall Field, Lord & Taylor, and Bonwit Teller, and I'll never forget it...

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Holly, thanks so much for sharing your wonderful memories of G. Fox. This is terrific. How nice that you were safe on the elevator without supervision. Was there an elevator operator?

Robin H. said...

Wow. I have the fondest memories of G. Fox. When I was a kid in the 1960s it was a very special treat to go to downtown Hartford and gaze in awe at the windows of G. Fox. In the late 1970s and early 1980s I worked at Connecticut Bank and Trust Company - easy walking distance to G. Fox. I spent many a happy lunch hour browsing the beautiful merchandise at G. Fox. I remember saving for months to buy myself a rabbit fur jacket - I know, not very politically correct these days - but I felt like a "woman of the world" because I was able to afford my own fur (even if it was rabbit).

Thanks for reminding me of those days and the fond memories of G. Fox.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Welcome, Robin, and thank you so much for sharing your memories of G. Fox. I can just imagine how much fun it was to spend your lunch hours browsing through the store. I'm glad you enjoyed your fur jacket, even if buying real fur isn't the thing these days.

Thanks again for commenting.

Anonymous said...

My father's family owned a store on Main St. (near Pearl St.) by the name of "Salz". It's my understanding that it did well during the 1940's and 1950's. There were even radio advertisements to the effect of "charge it at Salz". Is anyone familiar with this store or have pictures of the storefront?

Thank you.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks so much for sharing your info, and I hope someone chimes in with their own memories of Saltz.

Deborah Young said...

I have fond memories of working in the misses department at G. Fox & Co. during high school in the 70's in Waterbury, CT. I still have my old G. Fox & Co. credit card from 1973.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks for stopping by, Deborah, and sharing your memories of G. Fox in Waterbury. I wonder if others saved their old credit cards for souvenirs.

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