Bailey’s Department Store

I have always been fascinated by the lore – the myth and legend – of the fabulous shopping that once graced the street level space along Euclid Avenue. The names alone – Higbee’s, Halle’s, May, Bond, Richman, Taylor & Sons, Sterling-Linder – conjure the thought of quality and sophisticated style. And all made their home in Cleveland. One department store in Cleveland, that was quite famous during the day, unfortunately does not inspire the same sentiment but clearly it should. It was a majestic building – almost a castle. Welcome to Bailey’s Department Stores.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Bailey Department Stores (officially incorporated as Bailey Company) opened originally as a small goods store on the corner of Ontario and Prospect in 1881. It had grown to 11 employees by 1899 and expanded its retail selections to include home furnishings and clothing. The company focused on customer service and a ever widening selection of goods and by 1903 – Bailey Company built a seven story structure (again on the corner of Ontario and Prospect) and in 1910 added a 10-story addition.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

I find the above photo fascinating as it shows the Bailey Department Store and the May Company buildings (both on Ontario) before the construction of the Terminal Tower complex and the Republic Steel Building. You can see the Midland Bank Building in the upper left portion of the photo. This building has since been torn down and is now the BP Building. The photo was taken from the banks of the Cuyahoga River. In my mind it shows a new, glistening city literally rising from its industrial base. A striking photo.

Bailey was one of the first department stores to invest in additional brach stores. In 1929, Bailey Department Stores opened an east side store at 10007 Euclid Avenue and in 1930 opened a store in Lakewood. The Lakewood Bailey store was located on Warren Rd and Detroit Avenue – and was a welcomed addition to the growing Lakewood downtown. (In fact, this building still exists and is under going a significant renovation. It is great to see old buildings being given new life.)

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

I love old school retail. I can almost feel myself walking through these aisles picking up a new shirt and tie. Who wouldn’t love to shop at this?

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Expansion continued for Bailey’s Department Stores with the opening of the City of Euclid store in 1951 and the Mayfield Heights store in 1960. Around this time the chain was sold to Century Food Market Company (I not making this up) and – surprise – the sales of the stores started to stumble. The first Bailey’s store was closed in 1961. The Lakewood store closed in 1965 (although it was part of the Nevilles Department Store chain for a period of time). And by 1968 the entire chain met its demise.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

The downtown store, in particular, was a dynamic building and rested regally as mentioned on the corners of Ontario and Prospect. Unfortunately, the structure was torn down and made into a parking garage (what is it with Cleveland and parking garages). The retail level of the new garage for a time was a service station for cars but was eventually built out to be the Fat Fish Blue restaurant. But when Cleveland was king – Bailey’s was part of the royal family.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

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About Tech Czar
Former "Tech Czar" for the City of Cleveland, fascinated by the civic space, history (Cleveland & Military), entrepreneurship, social media, food and travel. My first book on Cleveland history will be published by History Press (www.historypress.net) this fall.

2 Responses to Bailey’s Department Store

  1. Rich says:

    Bailey’s was a low end store and before the sale to Century (which owned discount stores), it was rumored to be sold to Federal’s, a low end Detroit-based chain that had opened stores in the Cleveland area and also had stores in Columbus and Toledo. Bailey’s competed with discount stores to a greater degree than the other old line department stores. May Co. bought their downtown store, tore it down in 1964 and built the parking garage which also had a May Co. tire and automotive store on the first floor. Bailey’s took over the former Bing Furniture building at 514 Prospect in what once had been a furniture selling area. Prospect’s reputation as a low end retail street was already cemented and the move did not help.their prospects. The Euclid Ave branch was in a declining retail district near Euclid & 105th, while the Eastgate store never took hold and eventually became a long running Zayre.

    Bailey’s decline came at a time when downtown store sales were stagnant or declining. Wm Taylor Sons closed in 1961. the store was similar in appeal to Higbee’s, but smaller. It was owned by May Co., which had begun buying into the store years earlier, which provided capital for improvements. Sterling Linder closed in 1967 and Bonwit Teller was converted to an outlet store shortly afterward.

  2. Pingback: At 98, Evel Barcus schools me on life, style, and eyebrows: Fashion Flash … – cleveland.com | Clothing Perfect Mall

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