» » We Were Merchants: The Sternberg Family and the Story of Goudchaux's and Maison Blanche Department Stores

Download We Were Merchants: The Sternberg Family and the Story of Goudchaux's and Maison Blanche Department Stores epub

by Hans J. Sternberg

The words "Goudchaux's/Maison Blanche" conjure up a wealth of fond memories for local shoppers. At this landmark Louisiana department store, clerks greeted you by name; children received a nickel to buy a Coke and for every report-card A; families anticipated the holiday arrival of the beloved puppet Mr. Bingle almost as much as Santa; teenagers applied for their first job; and customers enjoyed interest-free charge accounts and personal assistance selecting attire and gifts for the most significant occasions in life -- baptisms, funerals, and everything in between. While most former patrons have a favorite story to tell about Goudchaux's/Maison Blanche, not many know the personal tale behind this beloved institution. In We Were Merchants, Hans Sternberg provides a captivating account of how his parents, Erich and Lea, fled from Nazi Germany to the United States, embraced their new home, and together with their children built Goudchaux's into a Baton Rouge legend that eventually became Goudchaux's/Maison Blanche -- an independent retail force during the golden era of the department store and, by 1989, the largest family-owned department store in America.With a mercantile line extending back five generations to a small shop in eighteenth-century Germany, the Sternbergs were born to be shopkeepers. In 1936, as Nazi harassment of Jews intensified, Erich smuggled $24,000 out of Germany and settled in Baton Rouge. His wife and three children joined him a year later, and in 1939, Erich bought Goudchaux's and set about transforming it from a nondescript apparel shop into a true department store. He made buying trips to New York for quality fashions and furs, introduced imaginative sales promotions, and coached his staff in impeccable customer service, while also training his children to follow in his footsteps. Hans details the manifold challenges of operating the store -- from planning financial strategies and creating marketing campaigns to implementing desegregation and accommodating the repeal of blue laws. Through many transforming events -- Erich's death in 1965, expansion into suburban shopping malls, the purchase in the 1980s of New Orleans retail icon Maison Blanche -- the Sternbergs successfully maintained the company's core values: quality merchandise, employee loyalty, and superior customer service. At its height, Goudchaux's/Maison Blanche operated twenty-four stores in Louisiana and Florida and employed more than 8,000 people. With the economic downturn of the early 1990s, Hans made the difficult decision to sell the business, thus bringing to an end the Sternbergs' centuries-long mercantile tradition.Supplementing the fascinating narrative are the recollections of former customers and employees, a wealth of pertinent photos, and even Hans's tried-and-true guidelines for negotiating a business transaction. At once a family, business, and community story, We Were Merchants richly recalls a bygone era when department stores were near-magical wonderlands and family businesses commanded the retail landscape.

Download We Were Merchants: The Sternberg Family and the Story of Goudchaux's and Maison Blanche Department Stores epub
ISBN: 080713449X
ISBN13: 978-0807134498
Category: History
Subcategory: Americas
Author: Hans J. Sternberg
Language: English
Publisher: LSU Press; First Edition ~1st Printing edition (October 1, 2009)
Pages: 160 pages
ePUB size: 1621 kb
FB2 size: 1960 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 670
Other Formats: mobi mbr doc azw

I suppose the fact that I lived in Baton Rouge for 13 years and was well acquainted with the Sternberg family caused me to buy the book. But no regrets. It's very good. It is the tale of a Jewish family of means and standing that read the handwriting on the Nazi wall when others kept saying "this too shall pass". We all know it didn't. The Sternbergs got out while it was still relatively easy and finally settled in Louisiana. They bought a faltering department store and built it into a wonderful and friendly business, one where the bosses were always on the sales floor, ready to fix problems, give candy to crying babies and in general make shopping a great experience.

Ultimately the consolidation of the department store business weakened even Goudchaux's, and the surviving brother Hans was forced to sell.

This is a wonderful story of immigrants coming here and living the aAmerican dream.

Most important of all for our time is the description of life for Jews under Hitler and the warning signals Sternberg sends about the rise of a populist demagogue who seduces a large minority of the populace and parlays that into total dictatorship.
Ok, you've been to Macy's, Dillards, Nordstrom, heck, even to the name stores of London or New York. But you won't forget Goudchaux's if you shopped there a lot. From up north I was introduced to Goudchaux when I lived in Louisiana. Then married a local who would shop no where else. People who moved away would come to visit and make a stop at Goudchaux. They would have family still in town watch for sales. This book does a great job of explaining why the customers were so loyal. Maybe today's business leaders should read this book, along with those by Tom Peters. While it will be a hit in Louisiana, there is a lot to learn from this book in any business, anywhere. To paraphrase James Carville (I can't believe I'm giving him credit for anything) "It's about the customer, stupid!"
IF it were still open, and IF it were still run by Sternbergs, who walk the floor and know everything that goes on, I'd still be a customer. Everyone in Baton Rouge, site of their home store, has a story about Goudchaux. It was one of the largest, and most successful stores in the nation, and yet in the departments you frequented, someone knew your name and what you would be interested in see--and call if it was going on sale. It's still a legend. But again, this book is an education about Nazi Germany, the depression and decades since, and about how to be successful. Everyone should read it.
I love reading history books. This one is about a family that started a big business in retailing in Germany, and because they were Jews and were aware of the rapidly changing behavior of the Germans, they emigrated to America where they became very successful. The story is told well. I am enjoying it very much, even though there is a lot of sadness in the loss of those who stayed behind in Germany and perished.
Great history read about the past of Baton Rouge from the old Goudchaux's owners prospective. Enjoyed the narrative and many of the old photos as well. Works great sitting on the living room coffee table. Just about everyone who sees it will pick it up and glance through the book, especially if they have a knowledge of Baton Rouge. Makes a great conversation piece. I even had to buy several more for other family members who said that they would like to have a copy too.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Having grown up in Baton Rouge, LA, I also grew up with Goudchaux's, and it was wonderful to take a trip down memory lane while learning all about the history of that wonderful store and its family. There has never been a store like Goudchaux's and there never will be again. Reading this book was truly a delight..........a must read for anyone who shopped and loved the store!
A moving recount of this family's journey... Their immigration from Nazi Germany but also their remarkable work ethic, business acumen, and strong principles. A captivating story for any family and an inspiration for any business owner.
We Were Merchants is a sad end to a great store. The book is a good read...
Wonderful book. I wish I had known the Sternberg story when I shopped Goudchaux's in the '70s. It was my favorite store to shop in Baton Rouge.