Women entering one of many programs held in G. Fox & Co.'s Centinel Hill Hall.
Unknown photographer, ca. 1940.
During G. Fox & Co.'s heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, shopping was often an all-day event, with women dressed in their Sunday best, including hats and white gloves. Department stores were by definition service organizations with most of their services designed either to attract people to the store or extend their stays. Restaurants, tea rooms, and lunch counters became commonplace in department stores across the country by the 1930s as owners enticed shoppers to linger. Free entertainment and educational programs, such as concerts, lectures, contests, demonstrations, and fashion shows, were also regularly scheduled events in department stores across the country, including the G. Fox & Co. store.
Wedding dress worn by Barbara Doty Kane of Thomaston in 1941. Purchased for $29.97 in G. Fox & Co.'s bridal salon.
G. Fox & Co. offered shoppers a number of specialty services, many complimentary. Assisting in the selection of a wedding gown, choosing stationery, and taking photographs for wedding announcements were some of the services offered free of charge by the bridal salon. A team of personal shoppers was on hand to choose items for individuals who were too far away or too busy to come to the store themselves. The personal shoppers also offered assistance to customers with disabilities, and interpreters were available to help non-English speaking shoppers.
Vitamin bottle with FOXCO logo
from 1965, one of many products
sold in G. Fox & Co.'s pharmacy.
Other services that catered to customers' needs included a post office, travel bureau, prescription department, beauty salon, and separate repair departments for watches and jewelry, shoes, and radios. Shoppers could find a wide variety of merchandise and services at G. Fox & Co. and were encouraged to make requests if they couldn't find what they wanted. Overall, though, buyers had a good sense of what customers wanted because they were required to spend time each week on the sales floor interacting with customers; they purchased merchandise according to what they learned.
The Fox fleet: G. Fox & Co. delivery trucks and service cars.
Unknown photographer, ca. 1955.
Home delivery exemplified G. Fox & Co.'s emphasis on customer service. Deliveries began shortly after the store opened in 1847, with wheelbarrows transporting goods to people's doorsteps. Wheelbarrows were the primary means of delivery until 1907, when the store began using one-horse wagons. G. Fox & Co. made free deliveries to anywhere in the state; no order was too small. The adage that customers could have a spool of thread delivered to their doors, and if not satisfied send it back, was true. Ira Neimark, a general merchandise manager for G. Fox & Co. in the early 1960s, recalled,
The policy was if a customer wanted to return a spool of thread, the great G. Fox fleet would pick up the thread.
Packages delivered by helicopter as part of G. Fox & Co.'s year-long centennial celebration.
Unknown photographer, 1947.
CHS accession number.
In 1947, G. Fox & Co.'s centennial year opened with three helicopters delivering packages to homes in sixty-six different towns throughout the state. Delivered items included nylon stockings, vitamin tablets, and a belt for a Girl Scout uniform. By 1964, the company operated a fleet of 165 trucks, making free deliveries throughout the state, decades after many department stores nationwide had contracted out their delivery service to companies such as the United Parcel Service.
Postcard of the Connecticut Room.
The Collotype Co., ca. 1957.
For many shoppers, lunch at the second-floor Connecticut Room, which opened in 1939, was an integral part of the shopping experience. Twelve murals depicting scenes from Connecticut's past lined the restaurant's walls. Every day at noon, models showed off the latest fashions and accessories as customers enjoyed date nut bread sandwiches or fruit salad with strawberry dressing before heading back out into the main store for more shopping. This tea room became a gathering place for clubwomen as well as a special treat for many families.
Connecticut Room Menus,
from 1947 and 1965.
CHS 99795, ephemera.
Along with the Connecticut Room, G. Fox & Co. operated a less formal luncheonette for customers as well as an employee cafeteria that served at-cost meals to all staff members. In the mid-1950s, the G. Fox & Co. kitchens served over 40,000 people each week. Auerfarm in nearby Bloomfield, owned by Mrs. Auerbach, supplied fresh eggs, milk, and produce for use in all three eating establishments, with additional eggs and milk available at the store for purchase by customers and employees alike.
Cover of the 1957 G. Fox & Co. Christmas catalog, showing the decorated G. Fox marquee.
The holiday season was the busiest time for any department store, and G. Fox & Co. was no exception. Every November and December, lavish holiday decorations adorned each floor. Outside, the G. Fox marquee featured a Christmas village with historic Connecticut buildings built to scale by John Oldham Studios in Wethersfield. The window displays were equally extravagant, and for several years featured exhibitions of Christmas paintings on loan from the Wadsworth Atheneum. Nativity by 15th century Italian artist Bernardino Fungai and Virgin and Child by Jean Tassel, a 17th century French artist, were among the artwork featured during the Christmas of 1962.
Winter Wonderland, Old G. Fox Building, Hartford, designed by Richard Welling, 1995, and G. Fox & Co. Christmas wrapping paper, ca. 1970.
CHS 2003.27.71, 2007.24.61.
Two thousand temporary employees were hired to handle the increased volume in all departments, including a seasonal Christmas shop that sold lights, artificial trees, and ornaments. The toy department, which took up the entire eleventh floor during the holiday season, received special attention. In the 1960s, the children's book department relocated to Centinel Hill Hall and was transformed into Storyland, including an exhibit of rare children's books as well as life-sized fairytale replicas such as Cinderella's coach. And, of course, Santa Claus was always on hand to greet every interested child, which in the 1950s could mean over 700 children a day!
Beatrice Fox Auerbach at Christmas with her grandchildren, George Koopman, Susan and Linda Schiro
(in red dresses), and a family friend.
Unknown photographer, ca. 1955.
The Fox family was Jewish and quite active in the Jewish community, but their religious beliefs did not stop them from joining in Christmas festivities. Even prior to her tenure as store president, Beatrice Fox Auerbach annually sent out Christmas cards to friends, relatives, members of the community, and store employees. Mrs. Auerbach also decorated her house for Christmas and celebrated the holidays with her grandchildren.