Sunday, October 26, 2008

Department Store Building of the Week, Vol. 18

Poor Hudson County, N.J. -- squeezed between New York and Newark, a hard place for locally owned, independent department stores to develop. Most of them in Jersey City had given up by the 1920s, those in Bayonne and Hoboken never got any traction to last long. But there was one exception, in Union City, one of those towns no one has ever heard of that had more than 50,000 people -- the store of A. Holthausen Inc. on Bergenline Avenue. I know very little about Holthausen's; records of Union City are fragmentary. I do know that it was founded by Arend Holthausen and, after his death, was run by Valesko Hugo. Great names.

Holthausen's made it into the 1970s, when Union City went almost overnight to being Cuban and Dominican. Union City's daily newspaper, the Hudson Dispatch -- universally known as the Hudson Disgrace -- made it a little longer. Hudson County once had four daily newspapers; now it has only the down-to-its-last-20,000 subscribers Jersey Journal. But in addition to the Dispatch, the Bayonne Times and the Jersey Observer in Hoboken are but memories. Observer Highway in Hoboken does keep its memory alive, and the Jersey Journal is still located on Journal Square.

Hudson County had a problem -- its suburbs were New York's suburbs were Newark's suburbs. When people moved to the suburbs, they didn't take the Journal or Dispatch with them; in fact those papers didn't circulate in their new areas. So they picked up on the Bergen Record or the Star-Ledger or the Times. The newer residents of Hudson County were more heavily black and Hispanic. Were the Hudson County dailies too oriented toward their white readerships to adapt? Did the chain stores pull out of them because they didn't want Hudson County customers? It wasn't a lack of local news in the traditional sense, though; the Hudson County papers barely recognized the world outside the county existed. Hudson County has not been depopulated in the manner of Detroit; and in the last two decades lots of affluent people have moved into Jersey City and Hoboken and Weehawken. But it has been a daily newspaper graveyard. I'm sure it's all explainable, it's just more evidence that the problems of the newspaper business largely predate the Internet and some of its problems have nothing to do with it.


Ellie said...

Wow do I remember that store!! We were in there often when I was a kid.

anghmho said...

Holthausen's was the classiest store in Union
City. It was located on Bergenline Avenue, which was at one time the longest shopping area in New Jersey; it may still be. I remember that Holthausen's, in its heyday not only had elevator operators, but it also had fashion shows, some of which used local high school girls as models. And it was where you went if you were shopping for high-class goods. Ah, for the days of yesteryear.

Anonymous said...

I shopped in Holthausen's all the time. I grew up in North Bergen and that store was about 2 blocks from my home. Some other stores on Bergenline Ave. were Grants and Sylvettes.

Anonymous said...

I remember my Mom taking me to Holthausens' and bought the prettiest dresses there!! She shopped there often, as I remember.
I remember, as a teen, walking down there, the Avenue, almost everyday,after school, window shopping. Bergenline avenue was full of ALL kinds of stores, shoe stores, where people would actually wait on you and properly measure your feet for shoe-size!
Mens stores/womans stores/ Woolworths and Kress. Wow!! Good memories.
Then the Malls came.........

Anonymous said...

Holthausen's is a legend. Shopped there all the time in the days of my youth and beyond. Went to Union Hill High School.

Many happy memories of Bergenline Avenue shops.

Anonymous said...

Holthausen's was a great store.
Bergenline Ave. had some wonderful
stores, David Burr, Davis's Toy store, Ponticorvo"s for fruits and
vegetables, Adams Hats, Home Fair,
Woolworths, lots of good times !

Heather Shetrawski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather Shetrawski said...

I actually have an amazing mink fur trimmed Holthausen's coat for sale in my Etsy shop (size L/XL), if anyone is interested! The winters here in California just don't get cold enough for me to justify keeping it! A simply wonderful, high end piece.

Edilia Bows said...

Holthausen's was one of a kind in every way. I had the privilege of working at Holthausen's for about a year and a half, when I was a teenager. Will never forget this store, its owners and fellow employees..all wonderful people.
I was, indeed, a very lucky girl!