Sunday, July 20, 2008

Department Store Segue: Those Guys From Harrison

An earlier response to a post asked about Two Guys. I normally follow mainline department stores and not discount stores, but when Chase closed in the former Kresge-Newark store in 1967, Two Guys moved in and operated there for about a decade. I hadn't known that. So they merit a mention for having run a downtown department store.

Two Guys started as a snack bar in the RCA plant in Harrison, N.J., which is an industrial suburb just across the river from Newark. The brothers who owned the snack bar started selling damaged RCA TVs. Word spread. As Bill Newman wrote:

"In the trade the Hubschman brothers became known as 'those two bastards from Harrison.' Shortly later they were ready to run their first newspaper ad and to name the business. They decided to taunt their competitors and call their business 'The Two Bastards From Harrison.' This move failed, as no newspaper would accept their ad. The name was changed to 'Two Guys From Harrison' and the ads ran."

Maybe an urban legend, but a hell of a good one. Newman also notes: "Herb and Sid became leaders in the fight to break the Fair Trade laws, which they did and to eliminate 'Blue Laws' in many places and to set the discount business in motion." The Fair Trade laws kept discounters from selling major brands for less than the department stores could. Once you could buy a GE toaster at Two Guys for less than at Hahne's, department stores started losing business. So one can see why they were known as those two bastards.

The original Two Guys store was at the RCA plant in Harrison. The eventual main store was in Kearny, the next town north. Apparently that store is now a Marshalls location, but I have no idea if it is the same building so I did not provide a photo.

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