Hess Brothers, Allentown, Pennsylvania

Interested in Hess's?
You'll enjoy this book.

Behind Hess's 1930s Art-Moderne facade were multiple
buildings and the original hotel in which the store began in 1897

Although Hess's was well-suited to the Lehigh Valley
city of Allentown, it drove its buiness by making customers
feel as if they were shopping in a more sophisticated,
big-city store.


Hess's was famous for its Christmas displays, (including Pip
the Mouse), haute-couture fashion, and its overwhelming
flower shows that drew people from afar.



Hess Brothers (1897)
9th and Hamilton Streets
Allentown, Pennsylvania




Basement
Hess's Bargain Basement • Fashion Fabrics • Art Needlework • Sewing Machines • Books • Hess's Patio Restaurant

Main Floor
Fine Jewelry • Fashion Jewelry • Fashion Watches • Handbags • Small Leather Goods • Gloves • Belts • Neckwear • Accessories • Hosiery • Cosmetics • Fashion Shoes • Blouses • Sweaters • Misses' Budget Sportswear • Candies • Stationery • Office Equipment • Oasis Snack Bar
Store for Men Men's Furnishings • Men's Sportswear • Men's Slacks • Men's Shoes • Young Men's Sportswear • Men's Clothing • Men's Outerwear • University Shop

Second Floor
Misses' Budget Dresses • Misses' Sportswear • Misses' Dresses • Women's World • Fashion Coats • Better Sportswear • Designer Jeans • Better Dresses • Social Occasion Dresses • French Room • Bridal Salon • Fur Salon

Second Floor Annex
Hess's Marketplace • Lamps • Pictures and Mirrors • Fine Art Gallery • Portrait Studio • Beauty Salon • Trimmers

Third Floor
Bodyfashions • Sleepfashions • Loungewear
Junior World Junior Sportswear • Junior Dresses • Junior Coats
Infants' Clothing • Infants' Accessories • Infants' Furniture • Toddlers' Clothing • Girls' Accessories • Big Girls' Clothing • Little Girls' Clothing • Boys' Accessories • Boy's Clothing

Fourth Floor
Sheets • Blankets • Bedspreads • Pillows • Towels • Bath Shop • China • Glassware • Silver • Gift Gallery • Hostess Shop • Hoffritz Shop • Cookware • Bakeware • Small Appliances • Floor Care • Personal Care Appliances • Notions

Fifth Floor
Living Room Furniture • Occasional Furniture • Dining Room Furniture • Bedroom Furniture • Bedding • Easy Living Furniture • Appliances • TV Sets • Stereos • Radios • Records • Sporting Goods • Luggage • Toys

Fifth Floor Annex
Community Room • Special Events • Toyland (Christmas) • Festival of Trees & Pip the Mouse

(410,000 s.f.)





Nittanny Mall
2901 E. College Ave.
State College
1968
70,000 s.f.

Lancaster
101 North Queen St.
1971
180,000 s.f.
Palmer Park Mall
136 Palmer Park Mall
Easton
1971
122,000 s.f.


Westgate
2524 Schoenersville Rd.
Bethlehem
1973
107,000 s.f.

Hess's South
3300 Lehigh Street
1974
102,000 s.f.


Hess's North
MacArthur Rd, Whitehall
1975
102,000 s.f.


Quakertown
Richland Plaza
751 S. West End Blvd.
88,000 s.f.

Trexler Mall
Trexlertown
1976
54,000 s.f.

Doylestown
Doylestown Shopping Center
1976
56,000  s.f.

Lycoming Mall
Williamsport
1978
120,000 s.f.

Stroud Mall
Stroudsburg
1978
70,000 s.f.


Logan Valley Mall
Altoona
1978
105,000 s.f.

Frackville
Schuylkill Mall
1980
85,000 s.f.

Hess's was acquired by Crown American Realty Trust in 1979, and began to
swallow up many smaller department stores in the East and Middle south. The
store grew from 19 to 79 branches, but by 1990 was unprofitable.  This
exhibit focuses on the original, independent, Allentown-based Hess's, so well-
loved and remembered by its former customers.


Coming in due course.


49 comments:

  1. Thanks for adding Hess's.
    We used to travel from New Jersey to shop at the Hamilton Street store right up to the last Christmas Season that it was Hess's (1994), and for the 1 Christmas Season that it was Bon-Ton (1995).

    There were many great stores around the nation, but Hess's had that extra magic that will stay with us in memory foreever.

    Although many of our great downtown stores spent their final years as shells of their former selves, Hess's shined and sparkled right to the end.

    Ken

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    Replies
    1. hess also had a location in the SOUTH HILLS MALL IN POUGHKEEPSIE N.Y. IT WAS A GREAT STORE AND THE ONLY DECENT ONE BEFORE A GALLERIA OPENED WITH G.FOX, JORDAN MARSH LEHMERE JCPENNEY AND STEINBACH.

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  2. Hess's "Main" (as the Hamilton St. store was called locally) was a jewel for the City of Allentown. The Patio was a fantastic restaurant and the service at the store was always really good. I always thought the merchandise at the Hamilton St. store was much nicer than that which was carried at the smaller branch stores. However, once The Bon-Ton took over, all of that ended when the store was closed; something The B-T was known to doing to all the stores they took over.
    There was also a store at West Manchester Mall in York, PA that opened in about 1981 and closed when the rest of the chain was shuttered.

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  3. In 1958 I was on a bus to Richmond, Virginia. The bus made several stops and picked up additional passengers and at one stop a lady of about mid thirty years of age got on and asked if she could share my seat. As we talked, she asked me where I was from and I said Allentown, PA to which she replied "ohh, that's where that lovely little ole Hess Brothers is".

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  4. My Grandparents used to drive up from Bucks county to shop at Hess's. Sure the merchandise was great but my Grandfather liked it becasue it had a restraunt with a cocktail lounge!!!

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  5. For years Hess's was the anchor store, along with Sears and later Pomeroy's at the Coventry Mall in Pottstown, PA. Before it was even a 'mall' but an open air shopping plaza.

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  6. Thanks for sharing these photos. As a child in the 1970's it was a big, BIG deal when we made our annual pilgrimage from Easton to Allentown to visit Santa at "the big Hess's". The line was always long and tested Dad's patience year after year. Afterward we'd have a treat at the Patio restaurant.

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  7. Their logo with the blue green and red "hess's" was all over the white shopping bag and gift boxes in tiny lettering. Seeing the logo on this website reminds me of Christmas! Our Zollinger Harnid's at the Wyoming Valley Mall became a Hess's, and that raised my curiosity so, we discovered the flowershows at their flagship store, and traveled by car to see them as often as possible over the years. Truly a wonderful memory this website has awakenend within me, thank you dear. Yours in the Love of Christ, Mrs. Walter J. Katsellas

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  8. Dear Mrs. Katsellas!

    Thank you for your kind words and for the blessing, which is so very appreciated.

    I am always happy to hear of the positive feelings this site evokes in people, and for that alone it is worth any effort I put into it.

    I am so glad that you shared your memories with so many people in this way; God bless you too!

    Bruce

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  9. My father was a principle in an architectural woodwork and store fixture firm called "Storecrafters" and located in Houston TX. The comany was founded right after WWII by brothers Charles and Robert Cohen, and my father joined them soon after. In 1957 and 1958, Mr. Max Hess had the Hamilton street store completed remodeled, and selected Storecrafters to design and construct the project. Robert Cohen designed eadch element of the store, and my father, as head of installation for Storecrafters, spent two years on the project. My sister and mother and I spent the summers of 57 & 58 in Allentown with my dad, living in a lovely Victorian style farm house just outside of town. Each Friday, mother would dress us up and take us to have lunch with our father at the Hess' "Patio" restaurant in the basement. I still have the menu from the Patio .. lobster was $1.75! The store turned out beautifully, and was a serious accomplishment for the company and a great couple of summers for us Texas kids!

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  10. Great post. I was blogging and needed to gather more information on Hess's Patio. Your blog came right up and it was great information (and nostalgic!) I'll link to this page!

    best,
    Amber

    prettybluerose.com

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  11. After I graduated from High School I worked at Hess Brothers,as it was know as,We were only allowed to wear Black dresses no pants then eventually Navy Blue.All the buyers wore a fresh flower on there lapels.For all employees on your birthday you were treated to the patio Restaurant for a dinner and an amazing piece of the Famous Strawberry pie,UMMMMMMM,while the fashion show was going on all throughout the restaurant.Oh as a young girl of 18 how I wanted to be one of those models.

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  12. Hess's was my mother's favorite store in the 1950's. Her wedding dress, which was purchased in '54 is such an extraordinary example of '50's haute-couture. 58 years later, it still looks new, stunning in it's simple elegance...a dress that Grace Kelly would have been pleased to wear. She loves to tell how she picked it out, on her own, during her lunch hour. She payed a whopping $55.00 and the price included a free portrait! Would love to know who the designer was. The dress has only Hess's tags.

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  13. I hope you do not mind that I linked to your blog about the store from my blog -http://ziaclara.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/going-home/. I grew up going there all the time over 20 years!

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  14. I hoping someone on here will be able to help me with something. I was at an estate sale and purchased two Hess's gift boxes. One is a typical white box with the blue green and red 'Hess's' lettering. The other is a mint green colored box with 'Hess's Brothers' written on it and cartoon pictures of Indian men. You can tell they are old and valuable. I have been searching non stop for 2 weeks for a similiar box and can't find anything. I have asked several people that have been around longer than me and they have not seen it either. I would like to sell them but I am not sure how much they are worth or where to sell them. Any ideas????

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  15. Does anyone know where I can get hold of a Hess's Patio waitress uniform?
    Randahlo@yahoo.com

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  16. Does anyone recall the brand brand names of the chocolates sold in the candy department? If I recall there were two popular brands.

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  17. Bon Ton was mad stupid for closing the 9th and Hamilton location. They still has the Hess patios and the Hess tourists would have still visited that store

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  18. Used to model in the Patio back in the 80's.. great job, loved the clothes and the co workers!!!!

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  19. I remember, during the 1960's, the addition of the parking garage with the spiral ramp. The double glass doors that separated the garage from the fourth floor with the ramp leading down to the fourth floor. Being aged six during 1960 I do not remember entering the store through the street level doors, but I certainly remember going down that ramp and looking out over the fourth floor after passing through the entry doors. Thanks to all who helped conjured memories about the Patio restaurant. I had forgotten all about it. Yes, it was special.

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  20. I grew up in Allentown just blocks from the Hess family home. When.I was little I would drive by the gates on the driveway and taunt the dogs. I remember my relative who worked on the travel department, so sad when that accident happened. I was visiting her often as a child, a wonderful ear, a wonderful friend whi helped a small boy who always felt lost living in Allentown. She was my inspiration,I miss her. Patio lunch with my mom as a child, when the parking deck open wow, the gingerbread faux house on the top floor in the kids department, the candy shop on the ground floor. Those wonderful clear pops from switzerland. Memories

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  21. When i started at hess's in about 1981 there were i believe 32( might have been 24) total stores with no plan to develope more because the people in charge at that time saw the wisdom of keeping things moderately small. and when asked in my orientaton about the longevity of Hess's in the future we were told as long as we do not do what WT Grants and JJ newburry did (which was get too big too fast to be an asset) we would remain a solid and strong part of the Communities we were established in .... less than 10 years later they lost that battle through overly rapid expansion. what a shame .
    Clayton L Young
    Hess's Last in house watchmaker circa 1982

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  22. Thank you for your post and message. We all need prayers, so I appreciate it a great deal. I will reciprocate!

    Kind regards,

    Bruce

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  23. We moved to Allentown from Reading when I was in 3rd Grade and I am now 67 yrs. old. I saw the best of downtown Allentown and of Hess Brothers. We lived on the South Mountain and from our house we had a fabulous view of downtown and right in the center of our view was Hess Brothers. We would watch the sign at night as each letter flashed and then finally the whole sign was lit. We had a great view. I got to know Hess's very well. My sister and I would meet my mom downtown very often after school. We especially loved it during the Christmas Holiday season. Hamilton St. was radiant and Hess Brothers stood proud and tall.
    What a great store and with it great memories. I remember climbing 5 sets of stairs during one the the clearance sales on Monday while I was 6 months pregnant. I purchased 2 beautiful glass lamps that day plus a fabulous Oriental rug. That was years after high school, but Hess's was still going strong. It was a sad day to see it go. There will never be another store like it. The sales were great and the Patio food to die for. Those memories will stay with me till the day I die. Bless all associated with the store.

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  24. Can anyone tell me the year The Patio closed?

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  25. There was a Hess's at the Uniontown Mall in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. The space is was later occupied by Roomful Express, but is now Tele-Tech.

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  26. I was a waitress at the patio for about 2 years, we were aloud to have what ever we wanted and at the end of the night take desserts home for free! No wonder they went out of business! Oh how I wish I would have saved my uniform. My grandmother lived down the street from the main store and we used to eat at the counter grill and the patio (along with the cafe's at Lehs and Zollingers) all the time. I remember getting served and serving diner in their little stove or frig!

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  27. How come nobody's mentioning Max Hess and his son Tommy, who was seen as a young prince?

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  28. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to a very special place that was more than just a department store. It was the crown jewel of downtown Allentown. Hess's Patio Restaurant was a uniquely festive experience that one could enjoy anytime they visited the store.

    Hess's was very special because of the hard working associates that pooled their talents and offered the kind of strength in character that made the store exciting,warm,and gracious.

    It was the small things we cherished. Do you remember the scent of warm filling and gravy that permeated the air as one would walk through the basement near the Patio Restaurant.Those fabulous cream puffs,strawberry pies and warm turkey dinners always made us feel full but satisfied.

    The warm memories will always reside in our hearts.Those of us that spent any time at Hess's know how special and unique those memories are.
    Thank you and God Bless.

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  29. You're very welcome and thanks for sharing your memories. Have you seen the DVD about Hess's? It is entitled "Hess's: Hollywood and Hamilton" and is readily available - I'd recommend it to those who knew the store, and to any of who have an interest in it.

    Bruce

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  30. Prior to Hess's closing, I was fortunate to be able to purchase one of the magnificent crystal chandeliers that lines the aisles on the Second Floor near the French Room and the Fur Salon. It is not one of the huge ones that hung throughout the first floor, but rather a 20 light smaller version of the chandelier. I cannot believe the craftsmanship and quality of this piece.

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  31. It's been almost 20 years and I still miss downtown Hess's in a big way. I'm 44 now and some of my earliest childhood memories involve the simply ridiculous way they decked out the toy dept. (4th floor?) every year for X-mas - kids today have NO idea...for a kid, it was almost total sensory overload. Sigh, what memories...
    As I got a bit older, I couldn't wait to get up to the 5th floor - their electronics department was second-to-none. I know they were one of the first stores in the Valley to sell CD players back in the 80's and they really used to sell some esoteric stuff up there. And I don't think anyone has mentioned their return policy - my family once returned a fairly pricey TV that had broken after about a year but they had lost the receipt. No worries, we got a new TV, no questions asked! They even sent someone to our house to swap sets. I will never forget that. Yeah, the building on Hamilton was in pretty bad shape in the early 90's but this store had a SOUL and should have been saved. Period.
    ps. I would probably give a year off my life to get one more Vanila milkshake from the Patio - haven't had once that remotely compares since. The fact that they regularly operated the Patio restaurant AT A LOSS just to please their customers speaks volumes about what we've lost in retail-world. We'll never see the likes again...

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  32. my parents use to take me to hesses departmint store one day i was in the deparent mint store there was this lady she was in my way i tryed to run away from her but i hit my head on a cashregaster in the depsrtment store there were no abulances then so i had to be taken to the hospitial by a police care sirens and all my poor brother was crying on the escalator he thought i was gons die there was no medicial staf in the deparent mint stor at the time of this happing i was alittle girl when this happend my happy memery of this department store was when i had lunch at the patio every time i had a sandwitch soda and gerkins pickles and the pretty ladies when thed model there clothes when i first came to hesses deparent ment store there was a lectronic clown in hessas it scared me i cryed and told mom and dad i am scared and i wanto go home so some screy moments happy moments

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  33. I loved Hess's I live in Allentown all my life ,nothing ever could come close to hess's the perfume mist when you enter the store the pet store I bought my 2 cats there .great meals no matter how long the line was you were never rush the color sugar on the tables .always order hot tea so I could use the sugar lol.when you got a gift and the box was from hess's no matter what it was it was special because it came from hess's .the ladies room had a small size booth for little girls so cute it was always special at hess's miss it.

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  34. in 1958, my mom worked in cosmetics (Jean Pierre) a new line out from France/NYC..then Max came into the store one day, took one look at my mom and asked why aren't you modeling, which she eventually did right soon after and as a kid i would come into see her in the Patio and she'd be modeling an outfit, describing to the patio customers, etc..and all the while I'd be tuggin on her dress asking when was she coming home...

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  35. Part of my childhood I will never forget. Every year at Christmas time my parent's always made sure they took us to Hess's to see the toy shop and Santa Claus. Also went to the patio for supper around the Holidays every year. No store will ever compare to the memories I have of Hess's. Would not change when I grew up for the world.

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  36. Does anyone know when Hess was added to the Capital City Mall in Camp Hill, Pennsylvani?

    Wikipedia indicates 1979, but I do not see it listed above under Hess's History.

    Renee

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  37. The above list may not be absolutely complete; generally my policy with regard to this site is to indicate stores built by the owner-occupier. If they took over someone else's location, it would probably be found under the original store's name. Also, after 1980, limitations preclude me from listing the multitude of stores opened as these companies merged, changed hands, spread out - and then went out of business. When I get around to writing a history for each store, I should be able to include their ultimate disposition.

    We'll have to leave it up to someone locally to provide further information in the form of a comment.

    Bruce

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  38. My dad worked there for over 30 years he was a. VP started. As a stock boy Max Hess bought him a car my.parents went to many parties at his house Max was quite eccentric my dad used to eat lunch every day at the patio all the executives. Did they sat at what was called the rountable for free wasn't. Optional. I used to go there with my mom to eat alot clown Sundays kids meals where brought to the table in a small oven the sugar was red white blue. Crystals like shards of glass. Used to eat the sugar candy sold was Godiva Russel stovers Barton's. My dad was Marvin Karll he still around he's 81 my mom Inge passed in 2006 after Hess closed he ran appeals jewelrs with Kitty appellant till it. Closed he still works a few days a week at Beverly palm jewelers on Willam Penn highway Palmer township pa I met many
    Movie stars athletes etc over the years at Jesse's them where the days the service there was awesome always plenty of workers to help you. You don't get that service anymore anywhere the customers came first and they where always right Gerald karll

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  39. I saw a picture of Hess Bros that says it was from 1915, it was a 5 story building with a couple 3 story buildings on either side of it, it doesn't show 9th St. What happen to the 3 story buildings to the left (west) and was 9th St there?? G.Schneck Allentown

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  40. My husband and I purchased a home in Allentown that was built in the 1880's and while doing some renovating we found a prize ticket from Hess Bros. It is dated 1897, the year the store was founded, and it says "Prize Guessing Contest-For a large beautiful dressed doll". The card is not in the greatest shape but I thought it might be of interest to someone. Anyone know of anybody that might interested in adding something like this to their collection? I can be reached at evie114@hotmail.com. Thanks!

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  41. I worked for Hess's from 1983 to 1986 and also grew up about 10 miles from the Nittany Mall in State College. This was a Crown Mall but Hess's was NOT an original tenant, Penn Traffic was. Hess's didn't have a store in the Nittany Mall until it purchased Penn Traffic in 1982. I actually had my initial job interview at the Nittany Mall store in early 1983 just after it was converted from Penn Traffic. As part of our training we had to learn about the history of the store. With the exception of the Lancaster store, all of Hess's original expansion took place in the Lehigh Valley with Palmer Park, Westgate, South and North being the original branch stores.

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  42. While cleaning out a closet I found a 14 oz. container of Hess's Baby Powder. The price indicated it was 99 cents. I would hate to toss it out as it is indeed a relic....Is there a physical site in the Lehigh Valley where such collectables/exhibits are kept?

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  43. Please check your local (Allentown) historical society or museum. They often collect artifacts like these.
    - Bruce

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  44. I grew up in Hellertown (born 1942, left 1960). Going to Hess Brothers was always a big occasion, and in the Christmas season it was just amazing. In the 1950s we had frequent streetcars running from Hellertown via Bethlehem to Allentown, as well as less frequent ones that took a direct route through meadows and woods. Hess's used to have sales with selected items at incredible prices, like a TV for $2. Of course there were only a few of any such item, so people would camp out on the sidewalk the day before. A friend of mine who worked as a buyer in housewares told me that to prevent bloodshed, a manager would come out a bit before opening time and work his way down the lineup, letting each person choose the sale item that he or she wanted, one per person, until they were all gone. That way people did not have to kill themselves or others to get what they were after. I also recall that my friend hired a woman to advertise the then novel Melitta coffee pots and filters by handing out coffee to people as they came off the escalator. He hired her for a month, but the pots kept selling so she was there for years and years, long after my friend had left. She loved her job and gave my buddy a big hug whenever he came back. Wonderful store, wonderful memories.

    David

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  45. Allentown needs another classic store. Does anyone know where they serve the strawberry pie? In or around Allentown i've been craving them really bad just researching about hess's .

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  46. My hub and I were driving through the city last week to see the current additions and renovations that were made. While I am in awe as to how downtown has improved, I still miss seeing Hess's. I was born and raised in Allentown. The 1950s and 60s were the most wonderful time of all in this town. I was a sales clerk for several depts. at the downtown store in 1968-69. I loved the quality clothes and other merchandise the store offered. It was a great place to work, too. I didn't mind that I was permitted only to wear black and navy blue. They were and still are classy colors imo, and we could accessorize! I use to have lunch at the 1st floor grill. Great food. Nothing can ever compare to Hess's or probably ever will. With the huge chandeliers, marble, mirrors and other decor, it was a very special place to shop. I am so grateful that I was able to enjoy the experience of having such a great store in my town.

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  47. We have purchased a barber pole from the estate of a man who worked at Hess's as an electrician. Pole came from the barber shop, on the second floor annex. It was either bought or given to him, some time in the 60's or 70's. Pole is 6' tall, red cast base, red, white and blue middle section with a glass top. We have been trying to find more information on pole and barber shop. Does anybody know anything about Hess's barber shop or have pictures of it? Hope someone can help!

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  48. My mother-in-law and her best friend used to travel up to Hess's from Lower Bucks County at least a couple of times a year for the special "Hess's experience." Wish I had had the opportunity to tag along.

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