Stern Brothers was founded in 1867 by Isaac, Louis and Benjamin Stern, sons of German Jewish immigrants. In that year, they began selling dry goods in Buffalo, New York. From these humble beginnings, the Stern Brothers became an important merchandising family in New York City.

In 1868, they moved to New York City and opened a one-room store at 367 Sixth Avenue. In 1879, the store was again relocated to larger quarters at 110 West 23rd Street. 

In 1892 this enormous, six-story building was executed in the Renaissance Revival style designed by architect William Schickel.

The company’s monogram is still located above the central arch. (This structure is still in use today. The first floor houses a Home Depot, while the upper floors are showrooms.). The entire Stern family worked in this store, which carried both luxury goods and merchandise for the working classes. It was an elegant store noted for its fashionable clothes. Ladies from all over the city came to Stern Brothers for their Paris fashions. This enterprise was distinguished by its elegant door men in top hats and the generous and friendly service of the Sterns themselves.

Stern Brothers was a family business. The family for decades ran the store and family members filled the many positions in the store. It was not uncommon for customers to be greeted by the brothers themselves. The family was joined by Arthur D. Brandeis in 1914. His daughter had married Irving C. Stern, one of the directors of Stern Brothers.

In 1913, Stern Brothers moved farther uptown and built a new flagship store near Fifth Avenue and West 42nd Street across from Bryant Park. The new store had nine floors with the buying offices located in the basement. Stern Brothers catered to the Carriage Trade and had a separate entrance for customers like the Goulds and Astors. Since the store was near the Theater District, many up and coming stars worked in the store. The busy hours of the store were between 11am to 2pm, when local workers from the area where on their lunch.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, sales began to decline as most white New Yorkers moved to the suburbs. In its final years, Stern Brothers closed this location in 1969 and left New York City to focus on their stores in New Jersey. The flagship store was moved to the Bergen Mall, New Jersey location. The 42nd Street building was sold and demolished to make way for the W.R. Grace chemical company which moved into their new building in 1974. 

The chain was in business for more than 130 years, prior to its 2001 integration into Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.

info via wikipedia


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14 Responses to STERN’S DEPARTMENT STORE, Madison Square

  1. Nick says:

    any ideas what happened to require the 1950s style renovation top left?

  2. Pat Collum says:

    Loved that store. All my shoes and most winter coats came from Sterns

  3. Etta says:

    Question: When did the top left two floors get “modenized”? Such a wonderful grand building ruined to a degree by that change, which definitely subtracts from the whole visual effect.

  4. Its exterior was used for the offices of the toy company in the Tom Hanks film “Big.”

  5. queensbee says:

    RIP Sterns. many a good time spent, esp in their Flushing store. (wipes away a tear)

  6. PGK says:

    The glazed remodeling of the east upper stories of the building is not “1950’s” style, as some commentator assumed; that “modernization” dates to 1914/1915! It was designed by the architectural firm of Starrett & Van Vleck for the Estate of Isaac Stern, the owner of the building by that time.

  7. ron s says:

    Definitely the strangest Home Depot I’ve seen, including shopping cart escalators.
    Re-use as a Home Depot at least saves it from being a new 50 story ugly luxury condo.

  8. Alan Gregg Cohen says:

    I never really heard heard much about Stern Brothers untl leaving the New York area and hearing of their take over by Federated (Macy’s). My mom, who grew up in Brooklyn and worked at Metropolitan Life Ins in Manhattan in the early 1950’s before she married, mentioned how she shopped at Stern’s Fifth Avenue location for clothing. From the pictures I’ve seen of my mom from that era, she must have spent a small fortune on clothes as she was always very sharply dressed. What a beautiful building this 1892 edifice is, and it’s wonderful to hear that it was converted to adaptive re-use as a Home Depot, rather that to suffer the demolition that so many other beautifully designed historic buidings in New York had to, and which are pitifully no longer extant.

  9. Don says:

    I worked for Bozell Advertising which was in that building from 2000-2004. Bozell served as the offices for the toy company that tom Hanks worked for in the movie Big

  10. Nancy says:

    Just found some amazing pictures and documents belonging to my grandfather, who worked for Stern Brothers for 50 years. They are some incredible pictures of dinners and events. Anyone out there have any interest?

    • Joe says:

      WOW!!! Must be really nice to have that memorabilia. Did he work in the NYC store? I really like the look of the original one, used to stop be to look it over when I was in the area. Worked in the NJ stores but no quite that long as the Training Manager. Actually would start off Day 1 with a giving a short history of the stores – “The Stern Brothers began selling garments during the Civil War and upon moving to NYC, opened their first store in 1867 . . . ” Did you g-father ever tell any stories about the place and the culture of the company? Sure hope so. I ‘only’ worked for Sterns (as it was called). If he actually was at the Stern Brothers, must have been prior to 1950s (?) when it was just the 3 stores. If nothing else, you forcing me rise up a great deal of memory – THANKS!!!

      • Jim Caffrey says:

        I worked for Stern Brothers from 1971 until 1976. I started my retail career pre opening of the Woodbridge (WOS) store in 1976 as a Green Pencil in the boys dept. Eventually was promoted to Dept Manager of China, Glass Silver & Gifts. Was asst manager of mens sportswear. Selling manager of The Now Shop, Foreign Market and Mens Outerwear, slacks & sport coats. Herbert Witkin was company president and Howard Fox, Store manager followed by Harold Pinker. Sterns was a great company to work for. We had the famous Super Sale and loved the fresh baked blueberry muffins sold in the restaurants.

    • Jeffrey says:

      My father worked for Sterns in the Furniture dept for 41years
      He was devistated when the store closed
      Sad sad
      Macy’s destroyed regional retailing all over America

  11. Joe says:

    Good ole’ Sterns! I was the PT Training Manager within the WillowBrook (1975-78) & West Orange (1978-90) stores. Really liked the company very much. Though now retired and living in New England, my spouse (who also worked there, for a much shorter time) and I still plan our shopping around the “Super Sale” timeframe. Week prior to Thanksgiving for Christmas, mid-Feb to get out and find bargains, 2 weeks before Memorial Day to get the summer stuff, and third week of September for the fall things. Even still have my ‘badge’ in an old suit jacket, the charge card, a metal book end (actually garnered from my old full-time job as a Librarian) with the 69 cent label still on it. 😀

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