Department store
Industry Retail
Fate Acquired by Macy's, Bloomingdale's or locations liquidated
Successor Macy's (2001-present)
Bloomingdale's (2001-present)
Founded 1867 (1867) (as Stern Brothers Department Store)
Defunct 2001 (2001)
Headquarters Paramus, New Jersey
Products Apparel, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, gifts and housewares.
Parent Allied Stores (1951-1992)
Federated Department Stores, Inc. (1992-closure)
The 1974-1985 Logo
For the R.H. Stearns department store in Boston, Massachusetts, see R. H. Stearns

Stern's (originally Stern Brothers) was a regional department store chain serving the U.S. states of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The chain was in business for more than 130 years.

In 2001, Stern's parent company Federated Department Stores opted to retire the Stern's brand. Most of the stores were immediately converted to Stern's corporate sibling Macy's, with others liquidated and reopened as Bloomingdale's.


Stern Brothers was founded in 1867 by Isaac, Louis and Benjamin Stern, sons of German Jewish immigrants. In that year, they began selling dry goods in Buffalo, New York. From these humble beginnings, the Stern Brothers became an important merchandising family in New York City.

The 1985-1997 logo

In 1868, they moved to New York City and opened a one-room store at 367 Sixth Avenue. In 1879, the store was again relocated to larger quarters at 110 West 23rd Street. Outgrowing the store at 110 West 23rd Street, Stern Brothers erected a new structure at the same location which became the new flagship store in 1878. It was noted for its cast-iron facade at 32 to 36 West 23rd Street and 23 to 35 West 22nd Street.

The building was designed by Henry Fernbach. It was enlarged according to a design by W.M. Schinckel in 1892. The enormous, six-story building was executed in the Renaissance Revival style. W.M. Schinckel's typically 19th century addition tripled the dimensions of the original structure on the eastern portion of the site. The tall central section of this addition animates the long and delicately detailed facade. The company's monogram is still located above the central arch. (This structure is still in use today. The first floor houses a Home Depot, while the upper floors are showrooms.). Many members of the Stern family worked in this store, which carried both luxury goods and merchandise for the working classes. It was an elegant store noted for its fashionable clothes. Ladies from all over the city came to Stern Brothers for their Paris fashions. This enterprise was distinguished by its elegant door men in top hats and the generous and friendly service of the Sterns themselves.

Stern Brothers was a family business. The family for decades ran the store and family members filled the many positions in the store. However, Robert (1888-1954), the son of founder Issac Stern, changed his last name to Stearns and founded the investment bank Bear Stearns in 1923.

It was not uncommon for customers to be greeted by the brothers themselves. The family was joined by Arthur D. Brandeis in 1914. His daughter had married Irving C. Stern, one of the directors of Stern Brothers. Irving was the son of founder Louis Stern. Brandeis was president of the J.H. Brandeis Company of Omaha, Nebraska, the biggest department store west of Chicago.

In 1913, Stern Brothers moved farther uptown and built a new flagship store near Fifth Avenue and West 42nd Street across from Bryant Park. The new store had nine floors with the buying offices located in the basement. Stern's catered to the Carriage Trade and had a separate entrance for customers like the Goulds and Astors. Since the store was near the Theater District, many up and coming stars worked in the store. The busy hours of the store were between 11am to 2pm, when local workers from the area were on their lunch break.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, sales began to decline as most white New Yorkers moved to the suburbs. Stern's closed its flagship in New York in 1969 and moved their corporate headquarters to their store in Paramus, New Jersey's Bergen Mall, which became the flagship. By then, Stern's had established a fairly significant retail base in northern New Jersey with stores in various areas including a multi-leveled store in Paterson, New Jersey's downtown that the company bought from the Quackenbush family in the 1950s. The purchase included a second Quackenbush store in the Preakness section of Wayne, New Jersey; in the same year that Stern's moved its base to New Jersey it opened a second location in Wayne that served as the fourth anchor for the newly constructed Willowbrook Mall. Stern's kept both stores in operation, as they were far enough away from each other as to not overlap. Stern's opened a new full line store in the Woodbridge Center Mall in 1971.


Stern Brothers label in a women's jaguar cap (c. 1975)


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