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The Hecht Company was founded in 1857 by Samuel Hecht, Jr. The Hecht family was Jewish and came from the little village of Langenschwarz (now part of Burghaun), Kreis Hünfeld, Hesse, Germany where Samuel was born on December 10, 1830. His father Meyer (aka Meier or Maier) Hecht was a cattle dealer or driver who was drowned in Langenschwarz on June 12, 1835. Meyer's parents were Anschel (aka Anshil or Asher) Hecht who was a fur dealer and Güta (aka Giet) née Goldschmidt who was born in Bellersheim, Kreis Hungen, Hesse, Germany.
Samuel's brother Simeon arrived in America on the ship Agnes on September 2, 1844 listed as Sam Hecht, age 21. Meyer's widow Hannah or Hanne Miriam (née Bachrach) was probably born in Hesse, Germany in 1789 or 1790. She left Germany with Samuel and his brother Reuben and immigrated to the United States; they arrived in Baltimore, Maryland on December 15, 1847 on the ship Schiller.
Samuel's brothers Jacob, Moses and Raphael (aka Vogel) and sister Adelheid (aka Ettel or Edel) arrived in Baltimore on the ship Albert on July 31, 1845 which departed from Bremen, Germany. There may have been another brother Ansel (aka Asher Ralph) who immigrated to Baltimore but he has not been found on any passenger lists. Asher Ralph appears in Baltimore city directories between 1844–1858; Ansel appears in New York City directories from 1858.
Samuel Hecht became an itinerant peddler selling his goods in and around Baltimore and on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. After a decade of itinerant peddling, he settled down and started what would become the Hecht stores. On Jan 5, 1854 Samuel married Babette Wolfsheimer in Baltimore. He died in Baltimore on February 7, 1907.
In 1857 Samuel Hecht opened a used furniture store on Aliceanna Street (near South Broadway) in Baltimore, Maryland.
By 1870 this venture had moved to a more auspicious location at 412 South Broadway where the name 'HECHT' can still be seen, carved in foot-high letters into the granite lintel over the doorway. Clothing was added to the lineup in 1879 under the name of Hecht's Reliable. Shortly thereafter a carpet and matting establishment was opened in Baltimore at 310 West Lexington Street.
Over the front of the new store on Lexington Street was a sign reading 'Samuel Hecht, Jr. & Sons,' reflecting the development of the firm as a family enterprise. Four of Samuel's sons eventually joined him in business. They were, in order of age: Emanuel (Manny), Albert S., Alexander (Alex), and Moses S. Hecht.
Emanuel Hecht joined his father in business in 1880. In 1886 he and Albert were listed as partners with their father. Alex and Moses came into the firm later and contributed to its success. Samuel Hecht died on February 7, 1907 in Baltimore. His sons, and later his grandsons, carried on the business.
The growth of the firm continued in Baltimore with the opening of the Hecht Brothers store on Baltimore and Pine streets in 1885, the Hub store in Baltimore in 1897, and Hecht Brothers at Howard and Franklin streets in 1926. Hecht stores were also established in New York City and Easton, Maryland. There was also a branch in Annapolis, Maryland. However, the most important move was into Washington, D.C.
The Hechts opened a store in Washington on March 20, 1896, which moved to a grand glass and marble store at the corner of 7th and F Streets Northwest in November 1925. Alexander Hecht directed the Washington part of the business for the family.
Hecht's was the first store in Washington to offer national brands. It also boasted the first parking garage and first elevator. Its relatively open policies made it popular among African-Americans as well as the white populace.
A tour of Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms paintings, intended to rally support for the Allied cause in World War II and the purchase of war bonds, premiered at the store in 1943.
In July 1951, a mixed race group began to picket outside the store, protesting racial segregation in the store's cafeteria. The offending policy was changed in January of the following year.
Hecht's moved its flagship store to a new building in downtown Washington in 1985. The former Hecht Company main building, now across from the Verizon Center, was extensively renovated and reopened in 2003 as Terrell Place, honoring Mary Church Terrell's role in desegregating that and other public accommodations in Washington.
Hecht's operated the last local department store in downtown Washington, in a structure at the corner of 12th and G Streets NW built in 1985 and renovated in 2003. Now a Macy's location as of September 2006, the building has a direct entrance to the Metro Center station of the Washington Metro.
Into the suburbs
After World War II, Hecht Company began to build new stores in the suburbs around Washington and Baltimore. Outside the center of Baltimore, Hecht's opened a store in Edmondson Village in 1955, followed by another in Northwood in 1956.
In 1947 they opened a large three-story department store in a cornfield in Silver Spring, Maryland, just north of Washington, D.C. The wisdom of this move was initially questioned; however, within a few years, more room was needed, and a fourth story was added to the building. That store was later converted in 1992, to become City Place Mall. The second suburban store opened on November 2, 1951, at Parkington in Arlington, Virginia. It cost $6.5 million to construct the 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) store and it was the largest suburban department store on the east coast at that time. On November 2, 1958, Maryland Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin ceremonally opened its third suburban D.C. Hecht Company store at Prince George's Plaza, in Hyattsville, Maryland. Gov. J. Millard Tawes did the honors on August 29, 1960, when he opened the fourth suburban D.C. store; the 168,000-square-foot (15,600 m2) store at Marlow Heights Shopping Center.
The Hecht chain was acquired by the May Company in 1959. At this time, the historic 1924 Bernheim-Leader store on the corner of Howard and Lexington Streets in Baltimore was renamed Hecht's, becoming its flagship store in the Baltimore area. It closed in 1988, one of the last department stores to remain in the downtown district. In 1998, it was declared a city landmark, and has since been renovated into apartments owned by Southern Management.
Many other stores acquired later were also rebranded as Hecht's. Hecht's acquired Miller & Rhoads, based in Richmond, Virginia, by cherry-picking the best locations when this venerable chain dissolved in 1990. Thalhimer's, based in Richmond, Virginia, was acquired from Carter Hawley Hale Stores in 1990 and consolidated under Hecht's name in 1992. Hecht's took over ten Hess's stores, based in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1994. Three of those re-opened as Hecht's and the others were operated by corporate siblings Kaufmann's and Filene's. Hecht's acquired Wanamaker's, based in Philadelphia, and Woodward & Lothrop, based in Washington, D.C., taking over 17 stores acquired in 1995 in joint acquisition with JCPenney. Fourteen stores were consolidated the same year. Thirteen of Strawbridge and Clothier's stores, based in the Philadelphia area, were acquired in 1996. Their management consolidated with Hecht's the same year, but the Strawbridge name was retained and expanded to all the Philadelphia locations.
In the Nashville area, Hecht's took over select former Castner Knott stores, which had been purchased from East Tennessee-based Proffitt's in 2001. Proffitt's previously acquired them as a result of the Mercantile Stores/Dillard's merger in 1998, and briefly rebranded them as Proffitt's locations. wikipedia