The McAlpin Co., Cincinnati, Ohio





A  great new book by a
devoted Cincinnati author
that covers McAlpins's
Photo of the West 4th Street store, showing McAlpin's
two adjacent buildings, and the store's famous clock.
Advertising image of McAlpin's.
Where Fashion is Foremost
The McAlpin Co. (McAlpin's)
13 W. 4th Street
Cincinnati, Ohio (est. 1852)

DUnbar 1-4400


Lower Level
Housewares • Small Electrics • Paints  Trim-the-Home Shop • Sporting Goods  Toys

Main Floor
Jewelry • Fine Jewelry • Cosmetics • Handbags • Small Leather Goods • Gloves • Rainwear • Hosiery • Scuffs ‘n Socks • Neckwear  Accessories • Blouse Bar • Popular Sportswear • Popular Lingerie • Popular Foundations • Casual Dresses • Cameras • Stationery • Candy • Bakery Counter • Health & Beauty Aids • The Kopper Kettle
Gentleman's Corner Men’s Furnishings • Men’s Shoes • Men’s Clothing • Young Men’s Shop

Second Floor
Infants’ Wear • Nursery Furniture  Tots 'n Toddlers’ Shop • Girls’ Wear • Boys’ Wear • Children’s Shoes • Children’s Accessories • Tweenteen Shop • Maternity Shop • Uniforms • Fashion Fabrics • Necchi Sewing Center  Art Needlework • Linens • Bath Shop

Third Floor
Sportswear • Dresses • After Five Shop  Half-Size Dresses • Large-Size Sportswear • Coat Salon • Fur Salon • Contemporary Sportswear • Better Dresses • Better Sportswear • Designer Dresses • Designer Sportswear • Sophisticate Shop • Young Juniors • Junior Sportswear • Junior Dresses • Loungewear • Body fashions  Lingerie • Millinery • Wig Boutique  Beauty Salon

Fourth Floor
Rugs • Furniture • Draperies • Bedding

Fifth Floor
The Tea Room • Gentlemen’s Grill • Prime Rib • China • Silverware • Glassware • Gifts • Lamps • Pictures • Mirrors • Luggage • TVs/Stereo • Radios • Appliances

Sixth Floor
Offices • Personnel • Credit Office
(250,000 s.f.)




Middletown
Central Avenue
(Acquired William T. Knott Company)
July 2, 1951
Western Hills
November 17, 1954
102,000 sq. ft.
The Kopper Kettle

Kenwood
Kenwood Plaza
September 20, 1956
240,000 sq. ft.
The Kopper Kettle

Cherry Grove Plaza
Sepember 24, 1959
126,000 s.f.
The Kopper Kettle

Middletown Plaza
November 5, 1959
80,000 s.f.

Turfland
Harrodsburg Rd., Lexington KY
August 9, 1967
168,000 sq. ft.
The Kopper Kettle

Lexington Mall
Richmond Rd., Lexington KY
October 14, 1971
The Kopper Kettle

Northgate
Northgate Mall
June 4, 1972
175,000 sq. ft.
The Kopper Kettle

Towne Mall
Rte. 122 & Dixie Hwy.
February 16, 1975 
The Kopper Kettle
Kenwood Home Furnishings Store
Kenwood Plaza
September 9, 1976
Crestview Mall
I-275 at Dixie Hwy., Crestview Hills, KY
August 1, 1979

The Kopper Kettle




McAlpin's, one of Cincinnati's favorite department stores, was officially founded in 1852, when Cincinnati native George Washington McAlpin (1827-1890) became a partner in the Wholesale firm of John W. Ellis & Co, and the firm changed its name to Ellis, McAlpin & Co. McAlpin, one of three sons of Glasgow native Andrew McAlpin, attended Woodward High School and Cincinnati College before embarking on a business career in 1842 at the wholesale house of John Taylor in the Queen City.

In 1880, the company moved to a 5-story building at 13-17 West 4th Street, formerly occupied by the John Shillito Company.
13-17 West 4th Street
George W. McAlpin lived at a capacious mansion at 318 Lafayette Avenue known as Oak Hall. In addition to directing his own firm, he was a member of Cincinnati city council for 15 years, and a director of the First National Bank in his home town. McAlpin died on April 20, 1890. He had been in Old Point Comfort, Virginia, visiting his daughter, where he contracted a cold. After his return to CIncinnati he died suddenly at his home.

George McAlpin's younger brother WIlliam took over the company and in two years, converted it into a combined wholesale and retail firm. McAlpin's prospered under the Yale-educated William, who was for 16 years head of the Cincinnati YMCA and also served on the board of the University of Cincinnati. In 1887, he married Mattie Woodruff, a noted opera singer. From that time the couple was very active in the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

WIlliam McAlpin died in 1899, and the store continued in popularity, expanding westard in 1901 into the adjacent six-story Morgan building. McAlpin's is one of few department stores to occupy the same buildings from its inception as a retail store throughout its whole life. 1901 saw the installation of McAlpin's famous clock on 4th Street.
McAlpin's Clock
McAlpin's became associated with the New York wholesale firm of H. B. Claflin & Co., and when that firm failed, the Cincinnati concern was thrown into receivership, ultimately emerging as a subsidiary of New York-based Mercantile Stores Corp. Under Mercantile leadership, it prospered, and the store was rebuilt in its 75th anniversary year of 1928. By the time of a further remodel in 1934, the company had 500 employees.
McAlpin's remodeled entrance in 1928
Escalators were first installed in the building in 1948, and McAlpin's celebrated its centenary in 1952. For a few years in the 1950s, Mercantile's other Cincinnati store, The Fair, was consolidated with McAlpin's familiar 4th Street store. The store was known as McAlpin's 6th Street, but closed in 1956. At the time of the consolidation in 1951, McAlpin's operated a small store in Paris, Kentucky, and acquired the Knott Store of Middletown, Ohio as a branch operation.

A pioneer in suburban branch development, McAlpin's opened stores in suburban shopping plazas, which were so popular that they were expanded multiple times. In 1967, the store entered the Lexington, Kentucky market and added a second store there four years later.
McAlpin's first suburban branch: Western Hills in 1954
A beloved member of Cincinnati's "big four" department stores, McAlpin's prospered downtown on fourth street for many years. Known as the most value-oriented of the stores, it nonetheless offered familiar service and served a broad clientele who particularly appreciated McAlpin's food services, ranging from the popular "Kopper Kettle" on the main floor to the more elegant Tea Room upstairs. Frequent remodeling, and a modern 1960s storefront helped the building masque its age and remain up-to-date.

Downtown Cincinnati appeared to have a bright future, but by 1980, retailers began to lose the battle in the face of suburban competition and retail consolidation. Across-the-street competitor Pogue's was merged into Indiana's L.S. Ayres & Co., thus loosing its own identity, and closing by 1988. Deterioration of the retail district began to set in with the takeover of Mabley & Carew in 1978 by Dayton's Elder-Beerman. That store closed a few years after, in 1985, leaving only Shillito's as a competitor up on Race Street.

By 1992, McAlpin's had moved its executive offices to its suburban Kenwood location. It was announced that the downtown store had become unprofitable. When the city of Cincinnati subsidized Shillito's (by then named Lazarus) move to smaller quarters on Fountain Square, McAlpin's made it public that it would close the venerable 4th Street store if it could not be accommodated in the same development.

Lazarus prevailed at Fountain Square West, and McAlpin's left downtown in February of 1996. By this time the store had opened large suburban branches at Eastgate (1991, causing the closure of the 1959 Cherry Grove store) and at Tri-County in 1993.

The McAlpin name disappeared from the Cincinnati landscape with the purchase of Mercantile stores by Dillard's in 1998. McAlpin's had served the Queen City for 146 years.




23 comments:

  1. There was an additional branch in Lexington, KY at the Fayette Mall in the early-to-mid 1990s (around 1992-93) which became the anchor of the store's new wing (which now had customers walking through the middle of Sears, which was now in the 'middle' of the expanded mall.

    The store converted to a Dillard's a few years later along with all the rest of the McAlpin's stores, is still going strong today and is now the ONLY of the three Lexington locations to remain in business.

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  2. The photo above is actually of McAlpin's Western Hills Plaza location. The location I grew up going to. It closed in July 1998 and moved down the street to the old Shillito's/Lazarus location. That location still operates today as a Dillard's. The building shown above has operated as a full line Sears store for about 10 years now.

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  3. Out of all the DS, I miss McAlpins the most.

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  4. They had a good food court always with the Orange Julius'! (:

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  5. Finest Department Store in Cincinnati- Greatest place to work- Employees were real Family. Always treated Patrons with respect, unlike the ones who replaced it. It will never happen again! So Sad!!!! Proud of my 27 year association. MFC

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  6. And who can ever forget the ultimate sale that everyone planned for all year. Moonlight Madness!!

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  7. What was the store brand of women's clothing? I know that the men's was Royal Knight. Loved Moonlight Madness... twice a year... used to buy all my kids clothes for the next year.

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  8. I was born in Cincinnati and was always raised by my Cincinnati parents to believe that McAlpin's department store was the greatest that the area had to offer. We shopped in the other big stores (Pogue's and Shilito's are two names that immediately come to mind), but we did most of our buying at McAlpin's. I know for an absolute fact that my mother still has boxes and bags and other assorted items bearing the McAlpin's label.

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  9. There was also a location in Northern Kentucky, where the Crestview Hills Towne Center is now. I am not sure when it was established, but I remember going there all the time. I used to go there all the time growing up in the late 80's and the 90's, some great memories shopping with my mom!

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  10. How I miss going to McAlpin's at Turfland Mall in Lexington with my Mom. She is gone now and so is McAlpin's. :(

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  11. The women's brands were Merville and First Lady. I have a book published by Mercantile Stores (the parent company) in 1975 that was given to new employees so that they would know the history behind the company and the stores they owned.

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  12. I'm trying to find a clip or picture or anything really of some of the old McAlpin's commercials for my friend, Greg, that used to be their model in the mid and late 80s. Does anyone have any ideas of where to start?? Thanks for the help!

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  13. McAlpin's Jewelry Dept. sold a gold cutout monogrammed necklace charm. Me and my sister had one. My sister has misplaced hers. Where could I find one or who was the manufacturer of these? Thank you.

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  14. To the person looking for photos of her model friend - I would suggest the Cincinnati Public Library. Go the the periodicals desk and ask to see archives of the Sunday Enquirer from that era. The paper always ran large ads from the department stores, usually in the first section, but sometimes in the local news or "arts" sections. If he was a child model, I would suggest looking after Thanksgiving, or between Lent and Easter, as you would have expanded children's clothing sections then. Good Luck!

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  15. Cherry Grove opened before 1967. I worked there part-time in 1961

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  16. My first 'real' job was in the gift wrapping department at Kenwood McAlpin's. I was told that my packages were the nicest they had ever seen, however, I took too much time, so they moved me to another department. I still use the manger set for Christmas that I bought with my McAlpin's discount. I worked there part time while in high school and in college. Wish department stores were the same as they were back then.

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  17. I was born in Cincinnati and grew up in Cincinnati. I miss all the department stores that are gone now. Remember the pickle chips at The Kopper Kettle? They were so good!!! I miss those pickle chips!

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  18. Prior to 1975 McAlpin's was in the Middletown Shopping Center in Middletown, OH.

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  19. Who founded the McAlpin Store?

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  20. I am trying to locate a McAlpin's Middletown employee, 1966, the store manager's daughter,
    Bev Parsley. Can anyone assist? THANKS. craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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  21. McAlpin's opened at Crestview Hills Mall in 1981 and had a Copper Kettle.

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  22. At what point was advertising for McAlpin's and Bacon's of Louisville merged? Everything about both stores, from box design,to newspaper ads, to sale schedules, was exactly the same.

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  23. At what point did Mercantile merge advertising for McAlpin's and Bacon's of Louisville? Everything about the two stores, from box design, to newspaper ads, to sale schedules, was exactly the same.

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