by Kevin Walsh

ROWLAND Hussey Macy (1822-1877) was a Nantucket seaman aboard the Emily Morgan whaling ship at age 15, and while serving there he picked up at a port of call a red, five-pointed star tattoo. After a period of apprenticeship he opened four dry goods stores in the 1850s, all of which failed; undeterred, he moved to the Big Apple in 1858 and opened yet another on Sixth Avenue and West 14th Street, where sales on the first day of business came to $11.06. Obviously business has picked up since.

After a couple of decades on 6th Avenue and 14th and later, 18th Street, in 1902 Macy’s moved to a magnificent building that after several additions and acquisitions takes up nearly the entire block between Broadway, 7th Avenue, and West 34th and 35th Streets designed by architects De Lemos & Cordes.

Macy’s has grown to a retail empire consisting of seven divisions with store locations in 45 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. There are now nearly 100,000 Macy’s employees! I worked for the World’s Biggest Store from 2000-2004, during which the company celebrated 100 years on 34th Street. I was proud to be part of the organization at this time, but working in midtown disagreed with me: what a madhouse; and my immediate boss was as mean as they come (to this day, if you asked her, she’d tell you she didn’t coddle mistake-makers). I forgive, but do not forget, after over 20 years.

If you walk down West 35th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, you pass by the side of the Macy’s flagship building that turns its back on the city. This is where the loading docks are, and the expense and care given to the other three sides of the building are nowhere in evidence here…except for the red stars you see if your gaze shifts upward, in honor of the red star tattoo of Rowland Macy. Similar stars can be found at the back end of an earlier Macy building on West 13th Street just off 6th avenue in one of the buildings now occupied by the New School.

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John ulrich March 9, 2022 - 10:50 pm

I also worked at Macy’s flagship for 6 months from 7.74 thru December. I was working in the pharmacy dept to obtain my internship hours after graduating pharmacy school that June.
I t was also not a happy experience.
I loved your post on those old elevators all wood that where still in use then .
Macy’s still manufactured their entire brand of toiletries and. OTC drugs like Aspirin.
They were made in LiC on an upper floor of their big warehouse operations that then moved to Middle Village in 1976 for more efficient space, my home town!
Anyone else have any Macy memories.?
Kevin please say hello to me.

John ulrich March 9, 2022 - 11:50 pm

Typo :escalators, not elevators sorry.

Mike Olshan March 22, 2022 - 1:31 pm

I also worked at Macy’s nights,putting labels on merchandise in the stockroom when I was at Brooklyn College in 1963. The school was free back then but the money I earned allowed me to move out of my parents’ apartment and live with two friends in a party pad on Bedford Ave. My manager at Macy’s was a very nice friendly guy and as an employee I was eligible to march in the Thanksgiving Parade, which was a big thrill I will never forget. I wound up wearing a red cap and jump suit and holding a cable attached to the Bullwinkle balloon’s right hand.

P-j Greiner April 23, 2022 - 12:17 pm

From 1977 to 1983, I worked at Macy*s Queens, the “round one” on Queens Blvd, that is not quite round (due to Ms. Sendek’s hold out property) and today, not quite Macy*s. I had a great time working there with great people and understanding bosses. I met my first wife there and I got to hold the cable attached to Snoopy in the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I remember that if you worked a double-shift into the evening, they called it an “iron”, because it was “hard as iron”. You would then receive a chit for working late which you could turn in at the small customer restaurant on the second floor for a hot meal and dessert.


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