Shopping Saturday: At the Heart of Texas – Foley’s

Shopping Saturday is a prompt genealogy bloggers use to share fond  memories about the various stores and vendors their families and ancestors patronized. The baby shoes I featured for Treasure Chest Thursday this week was the perfect lead in to a discussion I had with my mom about where she shopped for our clothes (particularly the baby shoes) and other dry goods in the 1950’s and 1960’s. She responded without hesitation — Foley’s!

I have not thought about Foley’s, or seen its signature blue logo above, in a very long time! If you’re a native Texan and you’re old enough to remember this store, you know very well that Foley’s was (and will always be as far as I am concerned) — At the Heart of Texas — just as its popular TV commercials and print campaigns claimed!

The Foley Brothers Dry Good Company officially opened it doors in Houston, Texas on February 12, 1900. According to Wikipedia, by 1916, Foley’s ranked third in retail volume in Houston — making it the most popular department store in the city. [1] Once Foley’s became a part of the Federated Department Stores in 1945, a new six-story flagship store opened on October 20, 1947 at 1110 Main Street, Houston, TX. According to the Houston Chronicle, this new 1947 store drew ” . . . a crowd of 200,000 and rave reviews. Newsweek call[ed] it ‘the most radical and practical store in America.’ [2]

Foley’s, 1947. Photo Credit: The Department Store Museum

By 1957, four more floors were added to the 1110 Main Street location giving shoppers ten floors of the best shopping experience they could ever have in a department store! [3]

Foley’s, 1957. Photo Credit: The Department Store Museum

The Foley’s downtown store was a HUGE success because of its “Budget Store” concept. The “Budget Store,”  often just called, “Foley’s Basement,” in the downtown store was about two city blocks long and filled with top quality goods and products that were very affordable for everyone regardless of their budgets. By the 1960’s, branch stores were being built in many of the suburbs of Houston and there were “Budget Stores” in every one of them. [4]  The Foley’s branch nearest my home was the Northwest Mall location built in 1967 (featured below).

Foley’s – Northwest Mall, 1967. Photo Credit: The Department Store Museum

The May Department Stores Company acquired Foley’s in 1988 and that is when I noticed the Foley’s that I grew up with changing. By February 1, 2006, the Foley’s organization in Houston dissolved and its operations were picked up by the Macy’s South Company out of Atlanta. By the close of 2006, all of our Foley’s stores were no more; they were all changed to Macy’s.

Macy’s Downtown Houston, 2006. Photo Credit: Nancy Sarnoff, Houston Chronicle

Foley’s has been a part of me most of my life! I say that because all of my visits to see Santa occurred in, or near, a Foley’s Department store. My first job right out of high school was working as a sales associate in their Misses’ Dept of the Northwest Mall store. Whenever I came home from college for Spring Break, summer vacation, or the holidays, a job at Foley’s was always waiting for me. Everything I learned about beauty, clothes/fashion, electronics, housewares, home furnishings, and personal style in general — I learned from my Foley’s experience. And now the downtown store which has has been a part of our lives in Houston for 65 years is officially closing its doors for good today, March 9, 2013! [5]

So what will happen to this historic building? Are there plans to save it? Sure, there are talks about preserving it, but I doubt very seriously that will happen. Am I sad about its closure? I have to be honest and say no simply because the Foley’s that I knew and loved all these years ceased to exist for me once it was acquired by the May Department Stores Company in 1988. Also whenever I hear about historic buildings like this one closing or scheduled for demolition simply reminds me of what my Bible teaches about there being “A Time for Everything” in Ecclesiastes 3: 1 — “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” [6]

Have a favorite department store that you and your family once patronized that no longer exist today? Check out The Department Store Museum, a blog that pays homage to classic North American department stores that no longer exist today, for a walk down memory lane! Feel free to share your experience with me!

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Source Citation:

1.Wikipedia. (2013, January 08). Foley’s. Wikipedia. Retrieved March 09, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foley’s

2. Houston Chronicle. (2013, January 3). Foley’s and Macy’s: A downtown Houston timeline. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved March 9, 2013, from http://www.chron.com/business/article/Foley-s-and-Macy-s-A-downtown-Houston-timeline-4166213.php

3. BAK. (2010, May). The Department Store Museum: Foley Brothers Dry Goods Co., Houston, Texas [Web log post]. Retrieved March 9, 2013, from http://departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com/2010/05/foley-brothers-dry-goods-co-houston.html

4. Anonymous 11 November, 2010 15:26 [Web log comment]. (2010, November 11). Retrieved March 09, 2013, from http://departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com/2010/05/foley-brothers-dry-goods-co-houston.html?showComment=1289507215997#c145409835822657691

5. Days dwindle down for downtown Houston Macy’s [Web log post]. (2013, March 6). Retrieved March 9, 2013, from http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=9017344

6. Ecclesiastes. (1999). In Ecclesiastes 3. The Holy Bible: King James Version. Retrieved March 09, 2013, from http://www.bartleby.com/108/21/3.html

7 thoughts on “Shopping Saturday: At the Heart of Texas – Foley’s

  1. Pingback: ACCM 2015: Christmas Cards | Claiming Kin Genealogy

    • Madell Ferguson @fergm154 thanks so much for stopping by. I have no idea what happened to the book you mentioned above. Are you referring to when Foley’s was bought out by Macy’s or when this book officially closed its door for the very last time in 2013 before the implosion? Either way, I cannot tell you what happened to it or even who you could talk to about it . . . sorry!

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  2. Zowie, I have never heard of Foley’s (in New England or in SC, naturally). This is the first time I’ve heard the term “dry goods” in a long time. Foley’s seems to have made the transition from the well-known “downtown store” (where I always shopped growing up) with a budget section (like Filene’s basement in Boston) to a Mall store, until May and then Macy’s gobbled it up. Very sorry: closing its doors today!

    In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, we shopped at department stores named Thalheimer’s and Bocock-Stroud, which were always exciting and more friendly than today’s. There were saleswomen to “wait on you” and suggest alterations for clothes. My aunt in Fairmont, NC had a wonderful private dress shop for ladies, in her house, called The Town and Country Shop. Department stores in malls, when I got older, were never the same. Every woman for herself!!

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    • Mariann, thanks so much for sharing some of your favorite department store from the past with me here. Oh yeah before I forget, when the May Company acquired Foley’s in 1988, they acquired Filene’s in Boston at the exact same time! So if you liked Filene’s then you would have totally enjoyed Foley’s. Anytime someone visited H-town, Foley’s downtown was on their list! Again, thanks!

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  3. When my sisters and I were little and visit Santa, to me, and probably to them, the “real Santa” was the one at the Downtown Foley’s.

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