Mabley & Carew, Cincinnati, Ohio

A  great new book by a
devoted Cincinnati author
that covers Mabley & Carew

The 12-story 1962 Mabley & Carew store
on Fountain Square.  Previously, the store
occupied space in the Carew Tower
from 1930 to 1962, and on
Fountain Square from 1884-1930. 

"A Good Store"

Mabley & Carew (1877/1962)
Fifth and Vine Streets
Cincinnati, Ohio

CHerry 1-7400

Lower Level
Hostess Center • Gourmet Shop • Ohio State Liquor Shop  Downstairs Budget Store

Street Floor
Fine Jewelry • Costume Jewelry • Handbags • Gloves • Small Leather Goods • Fashion Accessory Shop • Scarves • Hat Bar  Umbrellas • Hosiery • Blouses • Sweaters • Thriftmode Sportswear • Cosmetics • Notions • Stationery • Candy • Men's Furnishings  Men's Sportswear

Young Men's Shop • Boys' Shop  Little Boys' Wear • Books

Second Floor
Men's Clothing • Madison Shop • Men's Shoes  Men's Hats  Thriftmode Shoes • Luggage
Our Jr. World Junior Sportswear • Junior Dresses • Junior Lingerie • Junior Coats • Junior Shoes

Third Floor
Boulevard Shop • Hamilton Shops • Town and Country Shop • Mrs. Mabley Shop • Sportswear • Coat Salon • Suit Salon • Pacesetter • Town Shop • Connoisseur Corner  Designer Shop  Bridal Salon • Fur Salon • Shoe Salon

Fourth Floor
Thriftmode Dresses • Thriftmode Coats • "Hide-Out" • Casual Corner • Women's Dresses • Women's Sportswear • Women's Shoes • Children's Shoes • Millinery • Wig Salon  Portrait Studio

Fifth Floor
Lingerie • Fashion Foundations • Sleepwear • Loungewear
Children's World Infants' Wear • Infants' Furniture • Toddlers' Wear • Girls' Wear • Little Girls' Wear • Girls' Accessories • Teen Shop  Toys

Sixth Floor
China • Silverware • Glassware • Gift Shop • Lamps • Picture Gallery • Beauty Salon • Fountain Room Restaurant

Seventh Floor
Domestics • Linens • Bath Shop • Curtains and Draperies • Carpets • Rugs • TV Center • Stereos and Radios • Records
Golden Thimble Shop Fashion Fabrics • Art Needlework • Necchi Sewing Machines

Eighth Floor
Housewares • Small Appliances • Garden Center • Hardware • Appliances • Vacuum Cleaners • Unfinished Furniture • Paint and Wallpaper • Occasional Furniture • Upholstered Furniture • Dining Room Furniture • Bed Room Furniture  Casual Furniture  Summer Furniture • Sleep Shop

Ninth Floor
Credit Office • Cash Office • Executive Offices • Advertising • Community Room • Sporting Goods • Camera Shop

Tenth Floor
Display Workrooms

Eleventh Floor
Employee Dining Room • Nurse's Office

Twelfth Floor
Supply Room • Print Shop (341,000 s.f.)

Western Hills Plaza
Glenway Avenue and Werk Road
September 15, 1955
41,000 s.f.
Swifton Center
US 25 Reading at Langdon Farm Road
(acquired Rollmann's)
November 20, 1960
(150,000 s.f.)
The Garden Room
Malt Bar
High Street and Journal Square

March 2, 1964
1101 Central Ave. at Broad St.
March 2, 1964
Beechmont Mall
7500 Beechmont Avenue
October 6, 1969
(117,000 s.f.)
Strawberry Shortcake Shop

Christopher R. Mabley, born in Cornwall in 1836 was the son of a tailor who came to Toronto, Canada with his family, who established themselves in the clothing capital there. Mabley eventually made his way to Detroit, via London, Ontario, Milwaukee, Pontiac, Michigan, and established a clothing store in the Motor City in 1870. His one-price store expanded to become one of Detroit's leading dry goods stores, Mabley & Co.  Joseph T. Carew, twelve years' Mabley's junior, was born in Peterborough, Ontario and made his way to Detroit at age 21 and proved his worth as Christopher Mabley's employee.

Christopher Mabley &
Joseph Carew (L to R)

Mabley considered opening a store in the south, and in 1877, headed to Memphis with Carew to look for a location for the new venture. However, circumstances caused a missed connection in Cincinnati, where the men were forced to stay overnight. During their stay in the Queen City, they decided to explore the city, and found a seventeen-foot wide storefront on the north side of Fountain Square (next to Lodge Alley) that seemed ideal for the venture they sought to found. 

Mabley & Carew around 1888

Mabley put Carew in charge of the C.R. Mabley Co. of Cincinnati; with Carew's success in managing the store, Mabley took him into partnership and the store was renamed Mabley & Carew, a name Carew kept in place after Mabley's death in 1885. The store, originally a men's clothing store, added a full line of clothing by 1890, and carried crockery and household goods in its basement, as it grew to occupy six whole storefronts on the square.

Mabley & Carew's building from 1891

An 1888 purchase of the building at the corner of Fountain Square led to the 1891 rebuilding of the whole store into a handsome, six-story edifice that was traditionally beautifully illuminated at night. The store was incorporated on February 10, 1893 under sole owner J. T. Carew.

Joseph T. Carew passed away on December 11, 1914, and left the store in the capable hands of his (also Peterborough-born) associate Bolton Armstrong. After celebrating its 50th anniversary in Cincinnati in 1927, Armstrong reorganized the company in 1929, after which all of its stock was held by selected employees.

The "podium" of the Carew Tower complex
housing Mabley & Carew

The big news of 1929 was that Mabley & Carew would vacate its Fountain Square premises for five floors and a basement in the new Carew Tower being built kitty-corner from the store. Once known as Cincinnati's "Mammoth Clothing House," Mabley & Carew settled into its luxurious new quarters in the landmark art-deco skyscraper, adjacent to the elegant Netherland Plaza Hotel., and across the building's arcade from the expanded quarters of the H. & S. Pogue Co.

Mabley & Carew in the Carew Tower
In 1961, Allied Stores, who owned Cincinnati's 2-store Rollman & Sons department store chain, bought Mabley & Carew and closed Rollman's. Mabley's, which by then had opened its first branch in the Western Hills Plaza, took Rollman's large full-line Swifton Center store, and embarked on a plan to completely renovate the tall Rollman building and annex into a new, full-line headquarters for Mabley & Carew. 

Mabley & Carew's new home, with a continuous nine-foot wide marquee sheltering shoppers on Fifth and Vine Streets, and a new sheathing composed of light-blue aggregate panels trimmed in white marble, opened on November 19, 1962. For the first time, Mabley & Carew shed its image as a large clothing store and became a full-line department store with a full range of merchandise and services housed in its elegant new quarters. The sixth-floor plaza restaurant was considered one of Cincinnati's finest places to enjoy lunch, or dinner on the nights the store was open late.

In spite of all of this effort, Mabley & Carew, who acquired stores in Hamilton and Middletown in 1964, and later built a modern Branch in Beechmont Mall, never rose beyond its position as the fourth of Cincinnati's department stores. By 1978, Allied was ready to exit the Cincinnati Market and sold the chain to the Elder-Beerman stores of neighboring Dayton, Ohio. Elder-Beerman operated in Cincinnati until it, too closed the downtown store in the mid-1980s and pulled out of the market. Mabley's just remained as a memory to many Cincinnati shoppers.

Personal Shopper: Norma Fay


  1. M&C also had a store in Middletown once they purchased The John Ross Store. Their former location will soon be home to Pendleton Arts Center.

  2. I have some hats, i just got,and they say mabley&carew,it has a big pendant on it with a feather and a little vail. I have one that says modern miss,this one has little beaded flowers and studs,with a feather and vail also. and one that looks so old, it has all feathers no name on it,just a tage that says union ww 802102 made in the has little flower pendants on it,and its pink. I was just wondering if anyone might know what year these hats are,or if thare is a site i can go to,to see any information on them.

  3. there was also furniture on the eight floor

  4. on the additional floors ninth had exceutive offices credit and advertising as well as a large room used for fashion shows and meetings tenth floor held display eleventh floor was Associate cafe break area and Nurses office and tweleth floor was store room for supplies bags gift boxes and print shop

  5. Thank you, John, for the detailed information about the Mabley & Carew Fountain Square store. It helps keep things accurate.

    Now if I could just find illustrations of the branches!


  6. Is there any photos of the onside of the Western Hills store? Around 1956 or so, there was a picture of me taken with my winter coat on looking at a model in front of a mirror. It was in the newspaper but I can't find it among my mom's things. My name is Carolyn Ernst. Thank you so much, Carolyn

  7. There was also a Mabley and Carew location in Middletown, OH until 1974. It closed after the city started constructing a dreadful "city centre" concept mall of the time.

    Mabley and Carew was known for their high quality goods and especially for their lavish Christmas window displays every year in Cincinnati. Mabley and Carew was comparable to Bloomingdale's.

  8. When I think of Mabley & Carew I always remember the "air door" they had at the corner of 5th & Vine. Even in the dead of winter or the height of summer's heat, there was no door on the wide opening at the main entrance during the hours the store was open. Instead one was met by a blast of warm or cool air whichever was appropriate. It came blowing up from the floor at the threshold. Later it was replaced by 2 or 3 sets of traditional doors. Another peculiar feature was the unusual pattern one had to follow to get up the many floors by escalator. On some floors one did not just get off one escalator, make a 180-degree turn and go up or down the next one. It was necessary to follow arrows on the floor from one escalator to the next because several turnings were sometimes necessary. I guess this was required because the store was created by remodelling the old Rollman's Department Store and adding on what had been the old Havelin Hotel next door. That also resulted in some of the floors being on two different levels requiring one to go up or down a few steps because the floor levels in the two buildings did not sync up. These oddities would outrage environmentalists and advocates of handicap-access today, but that was how things were 50 years ago.

  9. Your fascinating comments bring up a good point - the department store of the past was not just unique and endearing, it was idiosyncratic as well. Yet, people flocked to them, for all of their quirks. Your comments about the past vs. today and how such oddities would be received, are also spot-on. As an architect, I have often been befuddled and perplexed by a morass of regulations and requirements that seem to change with the wind. Also, in today's environment it is difficult to get the general public to ascend past a second floor to do their shopping.

    My memories of these multi-floor emporiums include people circulating throughout them, creating healthy traffic for the store and the sale of its merchandise. Dare I use the word "lazy" when considering today's consumer?

  10. My best friend and I both tried out for the Mabley & Carew teen board in 1966. I remember walking a runway in front of a team of judges. My friend was selected but I wasn't. Oh well. It was still fun.

  11. Greetings from Down Under.

    I am across your web-page as I was searching for the origins of a colourful Cricket trade card by Mabley & Carew.

    I enjoyed the tour; thank you.

  12. My family moved to Cincinnati in the summer of 1976 as my father, J Edward Murray, had been appointed the president of Mabley & Carew or as he liked to say really "Managing Director" I wasn't aware of forgot about how big the store was although my family always shopped there. Dad loved Cincinnati and wanted to stay but Allied Stores Inc decided to sell Mabley's to Elder Beerman and Dad was transferred to Pomeroy's in Levittown, PA and I stayed until 1981 graduating from Xavier University after spending some of my senior year working for newly elected Councilman Arn Bortz.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


    P Edward Murray

  13. Thanks, Edward, for the kind memories for this site.

    Mabley & Carew is a store I wish I knew more of. I only visited it in the early 1980s, when it was clear that the Elder-Beerman experiment wasn't going to work. I have relatives from Cincinnati and they have fond memories of the store.

    I appreciate your memoir, and your father must have been a fine businessman.

    Best wishes!


  14. I grew up north of Cincinnati, and it was always a big occasion when we chose to go downtown and shop! My mother purchased a beautiful pastel blue "mother of the bride" dress at Mabley & Carew in 1973. I still have the dress - thanks for the memories and making me smile :)

  15. Thank you Bruce, actually I have relatives there as well and I wish you and your family the best:)

    Additionally I have left a note for Pomeroys and I will look and see if you have a listing for Mullers in Lake Charles:)

  16. I have an old leather jewelry box with the store imprint as well ad "swank" printed on the inside. It looks to be handmade and maybe held cuff links or a necklace at bracelet. I would like more information about it if anyone has any. Would like to know what was in it as well as how old it actually is. My email is please enter box in the subject line

  17. you did not mention the sub and sub sub basments of the downtonw builidng, the sub basement was the marking room where all the new merchandise was checked in and distributed with in the store or to the branchs. The sub sub basement was the engineer carpenter and painters work shop as well as the fur storage and one time the counting room there where actually tubs that the money would come down to the room then change was made and sent back by the tubs.

  18. Mabley's in Swifton Center was a favourite as a kid, my grandma used to take me to the soda fountain :)

  19. My father was the CEO and it is very cool to see this

    1. Don't remember Dad ever talking about your Dad, Chris, I'm sure he must have been quite a bit earlier than Dad. Best wishes to you and your family.

  20. Chris, maybe you could respond to the author above at I know She was specifically looking for memories of Mabley & Carew to incorporate into the book.

  21. Would the museum be interested in clothing that came from Mabley and Carew in the 30's?

  22. I have a beautiful black coat with Mabley and Carew label made by Brook with logo of Scottie dog. It appears to be wool/silk blend with sheared lamb collar. It is slightly fitted and has eight gores, 3 buttons, one of which is missing. Would the museum be interested in a donation of this coat?

  23. Thank you very kindly for your offer. Unfortunately, I don't have the facilities to care for such a piece. I believe it is valuable - Please check with local museums to see if any of them have a vintage fashion collection, and might be interested. When I wrote the book about Jacobson's, the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson Michigan had a huge collection of fashion stored in their vaults and on exhibit. Perhaps there is a museum near you that would value and protect the coat? Thanks again, good luck, and Happy Thanksgiving!

  24. Mabley & Carew was such a large, majestic store to me as a kid--of course, the times I went, I was between 4 - 6 y.o.! That's where we would go to have a yearly formal "kid portrait" taken of me. Back when they hand-tinted the photos! (I could tell, because the stripes on my dress were a different color in the picture than they were in real life!) Great memories. I miss proper department stores...

  25. I grew up in Monroe and it was a special occasion to go to Mabley & Carew. I remember going there as a 4 yr old to have my picture taken professionally. They still hand-tinted photos then, especially evident when we got them back and the stripes on my dress had been tinted a different color than what they actually were! I also loved the candies, of course (my reward for the sitting?), especially the maple creams. I wish we had such elegant stores these days!

  26. I'm Bob Gibson, I worked at the downtown Pogue's from 1972-73 in the carpeting and rugs dept. It was a very nice and good place to work. If anyone knows Donna Schmidt, I would like to say HI! She was a very nice person to work with.

  27. I am the great great granddaughter of Joseph T Carew's sister Madeline Carew. I have been researching the family as I'm writing a semi-fictional biography of Madeline's life. Thank you for posting all these wonderful stories and details of her brother's wonderful store. It is my understanding that many family members were employed there over the years. Keep the memories flowing and I'll check back again! Regards, D. M Rutherford (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada)

  28. As a teenager I worked at M& C 5th and Vine in 62-63 and then at Swifton for another year or so. As a kid I reemeember the building as Rollmans. The escalator had wooden treads that clickety clacked when it worked. Seemed to be out of order frequently. Fond memories.

  29. Hi love this site. I was born and rsised in Cincinnati. After my fathers death my mother gave me a 1958 Little Blue Book 20th Anniversary Edition from Mabley & Carew The Store for Men (Varsity-Town Clothes). I gave it to my hubby and want to know is there any value in it?

  30. I grew up in Cincinnati and attended Western Hills High School. I was part of the Teen Fashion Council for MC from 1967 to 1969. All the department stores had them. We would try out by modeling on a run way and if selected would model teen cloths and represent the store at events. It was fun and very 60s. The store was good to us as I remember. I was a skinny teenager and the experience was a confidence builder for me so I have good memories.

  31. Katherine Abboushi15 February, 2019 16:24

    I have an item from the Mabley and Carew Company that looks to be from the late 1800s or early 1900s. Not sure what it is. Is there anyone to whom I might send a pic?

  32. I remember the restaurant downtown as the Fountain Room rather than Plaza restaurant, but perhaps the name changed. The only thing I remember going to the store was for the portrait studio and to eat in that restaurant.

  33. I worked the Swifton branch of Mabley's. The people I worked with were like family. Our customers were the best. I worked as a Department manager in mens and boys departments. I'm still in retail and some of my customers are still around and their kids. If Mableys were still in business I would probably still be working for the....a classy store that was good to their employees.


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