Read a new, illustrated
history of the "Big E"
835 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94103 (1866/1906)
The Emporium on Market Street in San Francisco
The original facade of The Emporium - the front survived the earthquake of 1906, but the building itself was reconstructed (with a new dome) behind
Interior of The Emporium's street floor, looking towards the rotunda
Fur Salon on the second floor of The Emporium
DOWNTOWN STORE DIRECTORY
BasementCafeteria • The Big E Basement
Fine Jewelry • Costume Jewelry • Watch Repair • Precious Metals • Silver • Handbags • Small Leather Goods • Fashion Gloves • Women's Accessories • Small Accessories • Blouses • Sweaters • Hosiery • Beauty Court • Dome Café • California Sportswear • Fashion Shoes • Luggage • Notions • Stationery • Calculators • Business Machines • Books • Stamps • Coins • Linens • Bedding
Men's Store Men's Accessories • Men's Furnishings • Men's Dress Shirts • Men's Neckwear • men's Sport Shirts • Men's Toiletries • Smoke Shop • Men's Shoes • Men's Hats • Men's Sportswear • Active Sportswear • Directions • Vanguard Shops • Men's Clothing
Mezzanine Restaurant • The Hofbrau • Drugs and Sundries • Bakery • Gourmet Shop • Wine and Liquor • Continental Room Beauty Salon • American Room Beauty Salon
California Dresses • Daytime Dresses • Casual Dresses • Misses' Dresses • Social Dresses • Misses' Coats • California Coats • Suits • Spectator Sportswear • Active Sports • Trend Shop • Action Shop • Intempo Sportswear • Signature Dresses • Signature Sportswear • Rose Room • Fur Salon • Bridal Salon • Millinery • Colegienne Sportswear • Colegienne Dresses • Colegienne Coats • Lingerie • Loungewear • Robes • Junior Lingerie • Shape Shop
Furniture • Sleep Shop • Broadloom • Rugs • Draperies • Custom Draperies • Curtains • Ensembles • China • Glassware • Gift Shop • Pictures • Mirrors • Lamps • Housewares • Gourmet Cookware • Decorative Housewares • Small Electric Appliances • Cutlery • Barware • Hardware • Garden Shop • Appliances • Televisions • Radios • Stereos •Records
Sporting Goods • Wheel Goods • Toys • Hobby Shop • Pet Shop • Fashion Yardage •Trim-A-Home Shop • Infants' Shop • Toddlers' Shop • Infants' Furniture • 3-6x shop • 7-14 Shop • Hi Shop • Young Peoples' Shoes • Boy's Shop • Boys 3-7 Shop
S.F. Room Auditorium
19th Avenue & Winston Dr.
258,000 s. f.
Stanford Shopping Center (1956)
236,000 s. f.
Stevens Creek (1957)
230,000 s. f.
200,000 s. f.
Northgate Shopping Center
Santa Rosa (1966)
Coddington Regional Mall
203,000 s. f.
Almaden Plaza (1968)
Mountain View (1970)
Tanforan Park Shopping Center (1972)
Up until the late 1970's, the Downtown store had an extensive basement store. In the true sense, it featured menswear, women's wear, children's, housewares, etc, all of a lower quality (and price) than the main store. It also had a cafeteria. The Big E basement was the first place I ever bought 'pre-washed' jeans (prior to that, you bought your Levi's new and washed and sandpapered them to make them soft and comfortable). When the BART subway opened in 1972, there was a direct entrance into the Emporium basement. All this was removed in the late 1980's and The Market on Market, the Emporium's answer to Macy's Cellar was installed. The store abandoned the iconic 'E' in the 1970's and, under Carter Hawley Hale's mismanagement, began a slow, painful decline, until ultimately going out of business in 1996.ReplyDelete
The big 'E' logo was what started my department store fascination nearly 25 years ago! Their cross-bay sibling Capwell's of Oakland also had direct BART subway access, which opened on Sept. 11, 1972. The San Francisco subway opened on Nov. 3, 1973. It was in 1980 when they combined the names into the hyphenated moniker, Emporium-Capwell. In the fall of that year, they opened their first post-merger store at Stoneridge in Pleansanton, followed by Sunvalley in Concord (1981), and Solano Mall in Fairfield (1983). Later in 1983, they moved their downtown Hayward store to the former Liberty House at Southland. A year later, they opened in the former Bullock's North at Vallco Fashion Park in Cupertino, and finally relocated their Fremont store to NewPark in 1987. I hope you plan an exhibit on their Sacramento-based sibling, Weinstock's very soon.ReplyDelete
When I first moved to San Francisco back in 1993. I was looking for all sorts of things to furnish my apartment(I needed almost everything). A co-worker of mine said" have you been to the Emporium"? I had not heard of this store as only having been in San Francisco about a month. I had looked in MACY'S but I did not like the what they had to offer as well as they were expensive. So I walked into the Emporium store on Market Street and was so surprised to get all that I needed for my apartment at half the price of what I could have gotten at MACY'S. To this very day I still have some of the towels and Linens and blankets that I had gotten at the now long gone Emporium. I also still have my gold and red Emporium charge card.ReplyDelete
There was also a branch in Walnut Creek ion the East Bay of San Francisco. It is now a, what else...Macy's!ReplyDelete
The Market Street store had a great Winter Wonderland every year. Ice Skatting mini show, Santa and the Roof Rides. Later the Stonestown store also had Roof Rides for the Christmas season.ReplyDelete
Yes it did wish I had some of the poster pictures of me skating shows.Delete
My first charge account in the 1960's was a metel "Charge Plate", when your credit was approved the different department stores would notch the cards to fit their machines. Mine was notched for the Emporium and Macy's.ReplyDelete
The big E had a wonderful Christmas display, roof rides and Santa visit on the roof of the Market Street store. Other less well known trivia ... they used a massive pneumatic tube system until sometime in the 70s and there were operators in the basement sending them on to their final destinations. Tunnels under the store ran out under Jesse Street to the warehouse/stockrooms/buying offices building (a construction that would never be allowed today). There was also an over-street walkway (enclosed) but by the final years the store was operating it was considered unsafe to use.ReplyDelete
I remember in the 1960's my parents driving to San Francisco from San Jose to by my "Camp Fire Girls" uniform at the BIG Emporium....It was a very impressive day go to the big city....Camping took I NOW love a big RV...ReplyDelete
I have enjoyed this blog so much. So glad I found it. The Emporium was my favorite store in 1948 through 1950 when I lived in San Francisco and worked down the street at the ADT Burglar Alarm Company and walked down there lots of times on my lunch hour to shop. Fortunately had a great boss that let me take as long as I wanted. I would like so much to see Market Street now after all those years! It is definitely on my bucket list!ReplyDelete
There was a mini Emporium in Lafayette,CA a neighbor town of Walnut Creek. I remember going with my mom there. The same metal charge plate was used. The store was in a shopping center and was really just like a normal store with a second floor. As I remember, a total of no more than 5,000 sq ft as our house was half that size an all I can compare it to.ReplyDelete
I grew up in the 70s in the Palo Alto area and the Emporium was one of my favorite stores. We used to go to the store at Stanford Shopping Center (now Bloomingdale's) all the time. A newer store was built in Mountain View at ElCamino and Highway 85, which we visited much less.ReplyDelete
In the 50's my Christmas memories always included the Emporium window displays, Santa, the roof top rides and the decorations. The dome was always too my breath away and still does now in the Bloomingdale center.ReplyDelete
I remember shopping at the Emporium on Market with my parents around 1960. On an open mezzanine above the 1st floor were a group of women sitting and mending silk stockings. Does anyone remember that? I asked my mother what the women were doing.ReplyDelete
In the mid-50s there was a stamp collector's counter on the main floor. The best of all was the Muffie Doll counter in the toy department. The roof rides at Christmas were always a highlight. One year Roy from the Mickey Mouse Club came to do a presentation in the toy store. I was invited to go with my friend Susan, but we got there too late and the show was over!!!ReplyDelete
I grew up in the late 80s/early 90s in SF and still live here. I remember when i was little wandering around this magical store while my mom shopped. I wandered up some stairs to the rooftop and found a vintage trolley/ streetcar parked there with no one around. I was nervous to go in and play around in it since i didnt know if this place was off limits. I also didnt know if i would be locked up there when the door closed behind me. I risked in and played around in it. It seems like a surreal dream now. After graduating from a university, I went back to SF and actually worked in the emporium building for a while, although, of course it is now called the westfield mall and it is so lame, nothing compared to the old days. I worked in a store there because it was the only job i could find even with a bachelors degree. I still am underemployed.ReplyDelete
Some of my favorite childhood memories, circa 1954-1958 or so.ReplyDelete
** The roof rides, of course.
** My mother giving me $1 to buy Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" record
** Going with a friend to see Roy of The Mickey Mouse Club in the toy department.
** Taking my allowance and buying packets of stamps for my stamp collection
** Being fitted for my first bra!
** The absolute best of all was the Muffie Doll counter. All those stacks of blue and pink polka-dotted boxes with the cutest outfits. It was almost impossible to pick. One Christmas my grandmother gave me the wedding dress costume that cost $5.00.
Wow, I bet I could think of many more.....
I remember the roof top rides at Christmas, in Stonestown. One of the highlights of the season, in my childhood. And going to the downtown store, we had to dress in our Sunday best, when I was very young. The Big E was our family department store of choice, where I always got my girl scout uniforms. A friendly place that I miss, in these days of Walmart and Costco.ReplyDelete
My mother and I used to take the E Streetcar from the Presidio all the way downtown to the Emporium.....one time at Christmas, I saw Santa after standing in a long line....unfortunately, Santa terrified me and the photo of the two of us is of me crying and Santa trying to put on a happy face!......another time, I had been looking forward to going to the Emporium with my mother, but it rained that day and she cancelled our adventure....I was so sad...I really treasured those adventures with my mom....ReplyDelete
O I love this blog! So glad to see others with memories of the roof rides at Christmas! That was the first time I saw a corn dog, and always associate them with Christmas, somehow!ReplyDelete
The Emporium was a wonderland at Christmas. I have a distinct memory of taking my first child there in the 1960s to see Santa. One had to go up a cramped, dark flight of stairs to reach the roof but once there, the first thing you saw was someone dressed as an elf skating on the ice rink and there was also a small ferris wheel which gave you a beautiful view of Market Street at the top. Years later, we visited the Emporium before it closed and I couldn't believe the stairway was that tight. Never noticed it back then. The Emporium was the place I spent my very first paycheck that I earned as a 15-year old working downtown during Christmas vacation from school. I was shopping for Christmas gifts. The main floor pillars were decorated with big red bows and ornaments and the place was magical.....a memory I hold to this day.ReplyDelete
It was my first job , I was 16 yrs old and ran the elevator. That was the most fun I ever had on a job. I worked during summer, week-ends and holidays.ReplyDelete
My favorite memory of a shopping day in San Francisco is dining on bay shrimp sandwichesReplyDelete
on the mezzanine at the Emporium.
One of my favorite childhood memories isiluncheon with my father on the mezzanine at the Emporium in San Francisco. I still recall the bay shrimp sandwich on white bread cut in triangles with crust removed.ReplyDelete
I skated in the downtown Emporium during Christmas in the shows directed by the Leggs of Ice Follies fame. My mother sewed costumes and worked the curtains. It was the highlight of my youth. We'd begin with a parade down Powell Street the first weekend. Fabulous fun.ReplyDelete
I learned to ice skate at the Legg rink on Ocean Ave.Delete
I did too. Then I continued when Leggs moved downtown to Eleventh Street.Delete
I have been a bear collector for many years. I have the Emporium-Weinstock Christmas bear called Jingle Bear Making Christmas Magic. It is in excellent shape and so is the rabbit which is hidden beneath the black top hat. Right now he is seated in the den for the Christmas holidays. As I am 80 years old, I am wondering if there is a place for the bear?ReplyDelete
As a kid I spent hours in the Almaden Emporium. I used to find great clothes on sale. I was only 13-14 and a budget shopper even then. They had the best mark downs and well made clothes. I also remember a Liberty House we use to go to somewhere in SJ.ReplyDelete
I met my wife at The Emporium in 1984, where we both worked. Our first "date" was in the Dome Cafe. My wife bought her wedding dress in the Bridal Salon and we used the new Bridal Registry system on the lower level, at that time called Market on Market. The basement also had a Post Office, a shoe repair, and a full service deli. This helped explain the store's popular saying: "The Big E with the big selection"ReplyDelete
Great post! Sounds like beautiful memories!Delete
I worked at the Emporium at Almaden Plaza in San Jose in 1968 after I graduated from High School. I started in the handbag Department and then the suitcase Department and then went to Notions! I ended up in the Girls High Shop! I remember their Christmas Display windows! So magical! :)ReplyDelete
During 1969-1970, I worked at the Emporium at Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo. I was the only night janitor on duty during that time frame - a job that fit my school schedule, as well as paying a union wage. Did a lot of other stuff as well, such as helping set up the exterior Christmas lights. It was a fun job, and was able to meet a lot of the sales staff. The Emporium was a great store - especially the main store in the City on Market Street. Most importantly, I met my future Wife there, who was working in sales at the same time. I was sad to see that they tore down the Hillsdale store in 2016.ReplyDelete
As a immature 13 year old in 1964, my friend & I were escorted by security in the SF Emporium down to the Security Offices in the basement. We had taken 2 outfits of several items into the dressing room & put one of each into a shopping bag-we thought we were so clever. We cried our eyes out begging them not to tell our parents. They never did. They told us we would have a permanent record in the store until we were 18. I always felt like someone was watching me when I entered the store after that.ReplyDelete
I got out of the marines, and worked security at the emporium in 1973 with Diane Gates, Charles Franklin, Jerry Mcnack, John Hicks, Jim Coleman. Sure miss those days. different world back then. And all those pretty girls, the stories I could tell. Miss these people.ReplyDelete
Does anyone remember the glass housed Pineapple machine in the basement on Market st.? I was so fascinated to watch it perform and out came a frothy cup of Pineapple juice, that I then would drink while watching the Lady's play the piano with request from people buying the sheet music. This was the late 40's. We also would never go downtown San Francisco unless we were dressed in our finest.ReplyDelete
absolutely..you would get all dressed up...now its degradedDelete
This is Jim Dickson. I was a security officer at emporium in 1973. I sure miss those times and the people I worked with. The stories I could tell. Diane Gates was my Partner. where is she today? Charley Franklin passed away heart attack in 1990's. my friend jerry Mcnack passed away. wondering if anyone remembers John Hicks? Jim Coleman? Sad! miss them all.ReplyDelete
Don’t forget there was a Capwells at Southland Mall in HaywardReplyDelete
Hi, I have a silver solder 1 pint World Brand teapot from the Emporium's basement cafeteria. It would make a great addition to any San Francisco department store or Emporium collection. Please contact me: email@example.comReplyDelete
The candy counter had the best chewy peppermints covered in powdered sugar. A trip to the Emporium was not complete without a stop at the candy counter. These unique candies were sold by weight, and we'd walk away with a small white bag. The perfect way to end a shopping trip. The company that made them was in South San Francisco, and Powell's Candy Shop sold them more recently.ReplyDelete
what ever happened to 1970's security people? Bob Orman? John Hicks, James Colman, Charlie Franklin, Diane gates? 1973. what a different world back then. What memories. Jim Dickson...security 1973ReplyDelete
I am curious why there is no mention of Keith Haring's design for Emporium-Capwell. Was this design not for the department store chain?ReplyDelete
My great Aunt worked at the store in Palo Alto CA for years she retired from their if I'm not mistaking she worked in the gift wrapping department I remember going there as a kidReplyDelete
I worked at EMPORIUM ON Market St. At BORGHESSA COSMETICS AND ALSO CHRISTIAN DIOR. VERY YOUNG LEARNED A LOT , GREAT MANAGERS VERY COMPASSIONATE AS I HAD TO RUN HOME ON MY LUNCH BREAK DUE TO MY FATHERS STROKE AND MOM S ISSUES ,SO I HAD TO DO IT ALL.ReplyDelete
MISS THAT JOB. BEST ONE EVER