The courier. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1894-1903, April 12, 1902, Image 1

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Marvelous Evolution of the Department Store as Exemplified
by a Lincoln Institution, With Something
of the Personnel of W. D. Fits Gerald, the Man Behind it All
The men who do things are the men
worth having: in a community. He
who can make two blades of grass
grow where but one had before shown
itself has been the model citizen since
the world began. But even this useful
gentleman is being far outclassed in
these high pressure days. This Is an
age of surprises, of tremendous, rapid
development, but In no other activity
of the world has this been so markedly
shown as" in mercantile enterprises.
Ten years ago the only department
store doing business in America was
to be found in the small country town,
where it was known as the general
Store. Today no -city worthy of the
name but boasts of at least one. Very
few of these enterprises burst ,full--pojjoplied-Jntn'helnlBv"
They are, in al
most every instance, a product of de
velopment. The Idea had its inception
in Chicago fifteen years ago, and has
rapidly spread. Even conservative
New York is now invaded and the
largest department store in the world
is being built there.
Lincoln now has four of these estab
lishments, all of them the outgrowth
of small beginnings. Perhaps none of
them, however, so thoroughly repre
sents the marvelous development of
the small store with one line of goods
into the large one with dozens of de
partments as does the FitzGerald Dry
Goods company, whose head is W. D.
FitzGerald, and which occupies an en
tire building at 1023-27 O street.
Eleven years ago, In 1890, "V. D. Fitz
Gerald and J. F. McCourtney, two
young men who had had a number of
years of experience in administrative
capacities, started a dry goods store
on South Twelfth street, in what is
now known as the Walsh block. They
began with a capital of $3,000 in a room
20x80 feet. A few months later they
moved to 1036 O street, where they re
mained four years. The business was
a success from the start and after en
larging the store three times It became
necessary to find larger quarters.
These were secured in a single store
room at 1023 O street. Two years later
the storeroom next east was taken in
and two years ago the entire building
was occupied. From a $3,000 stock in
1890 the store now carries one of il25,
000. In 1895, when the outlook for bus
iness in Nebraska was not very en
couraging Messrs. FitzGerald and Mc
Courtney started a store at Peoria, 111.,
with the latter In charge. The develop
ment of that institution has also been
phenomenal, and although seven years
ago the . capital was but $20,000,, the
store now does almost as much busi
ness as the. Lincoln establishment. The
combined business of the two for last
year was over $700,000.
"The development of the department
store," said Mr. FitzGerald, in discuss
ing the matter with a Courier repre
sentative the other day, "has been
marvelous, but Inevitable. It was not
a product of the enterprise of man,
but a concession to the public de
mand. We live In an age when every
convenience and facility for the rapid
and easy transaction of business is in
sisted upon by the customer. If a wo
man, for Instance, desires to purchase
a cloak or a suit. she will also want to
get a hat to match. In the old days
she would have had to visit two differ
ent establishments. Now she can find
both in one. A shopper is usually In
quest of more than one article. If she
can And them all under one roof she
will patronize that- establishment. It
is convenient, it saves time, worry and
annoyance. Especially is this true
with out-of-town' patrons. They do not
come except to purchase a nice biliof
goods. We secure their "trade by'giv-
more clerks in proportion to the
amount of business done than the
small one and the wage value of their
labor is steadily rising.
"The advantage to the public lies not
alone In convenience, but In prices.
The big store, with Its large capital
and Immense trade, all under one roof,
can undersell the single line store be
cause it buys in greater quantities and
therefore more cheaply and Us ex
penses are proportionately less. When
we began business in Lincoln it was
distinctly a city of comparatively small
stores. There were eleven dry goods
establishments here. One by one these
went out of existence, and the stocks
of eight of them were absorbed by us. o? Jthelr trade went with them,
and ve have been able to develop our
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Ing them the opportunity to get what
they want and all that they want right
"The department store is gradually
but surely driving the single line store
out of existence. In twenty-five years
nine-tenths of the retail business of
the cities will be done by them. This
is evolution. It may seem, at first
thought, to be a hardship upon the
small dealer, but it Isn't. The really
capable man or woman, the one who,
under present conditions, could make
a success of a small store, can com
mand, as a department manager, more
salary than could be made in. an indi
vidual enterprise. They are spared the
investment, worry and wearisome la
bor that are inevitable with personal
enterprise. They are sent twice a year
at the firm's expense to the great mar
kets. The large store, too, employs
business entirely out of our profits.
Not a dollar of outside capital is In
terested and our development has been
natural and not forced."
Mr. FitzGerald has-been in the dry
goods business ever since -boyhood. At
the age of twelve years he ente'rd the
employ of Lord & Taylor In- New Tork
city. This was in 1869. He lived in
New York until he was' twenty-one
years of age, and then- went south,
where he became thebuyer for the big
retail house of Meankin Bros., of Mem
phis. From there he went to- St. Louis
as. a buyer for Scruggs, Vandervoort &
Barney. In 1890 he came to Lincoln.
All of thfr thirty-one years of his
"business career he is but forty-three
years old have been spent in the re
tail trade. Being a man of patient per
tinacity, he early mastered all of the
details of bis business and it Is his
grasp of them In his enlarged career
that has brought success to the house.
The management of a business ao
complex ns that of a department str-e
calls for business sagacity of a high
order. The man who succeeds is the
one who has that intelligence, applica
tion and knowledge of the trade and
trade conditions that enable him to
formulate working plans capable of In
finite extension. System is the secret
of success in these days of great com
mercial enterprises. It Is Impossible
for one man to familiarize himself
with every petty detail of management
or to hope to do so. 'But if he possess
es a. discriminative Judgment in the se
lection of his aides, his department
managers, and devotes his attention to
the general management and superin
tendsnee of his business, 'success is
pretty certain to come "to him.
Mr. FitzGerald, In his own person,
exemplifies the truth of this theory; He
Is a gentleman of quiet and unassum
ing manners, but only a brief talk with
him Is sufficient to Impress one with
the thoroughness of his business qual
ifications, the breadth of his business
wisdom. This is the day of the Im
personal In business affairs. Time once
was when every patron of a store knew
every attache, from proprietor down to
delivery boy. In these days of great
establishments this is impossible. It
is not the personnel of proprietor or
clerk that influences trade, but the
quality of goods as compared with the
prices asked, the treatment accorded
to customers and the facilities offered
for convenient trading. To Instance:
It has always been the policy of the
FitzGerald company to make every
customer a satisfied one. If by any
mischance or fault of the manufactur
er the goods, even after having been
made up, prove faulty or cause dis
satisfaction a cheerful and ready ac
quiescence in whatever the customer
suggests is right Is given. That this
policy pays has been amply demon
strated in dozens of cases.
It doubtless will be interesting to
know that it is not so much quality but
style or fashion that governs nowa
days. Of course, quality is a desidera
tum, but not the main one. It is the
duty of each department manager to
keep himself or herself Informed as to
what will be worn or what is likely to
be popular In the coming season. To
keep up to date they make semi-annual
visits to the great centres, Chica
go, New York and St. Louis. Experi
ence is the sole guide to buying, and if
it so happens that the approach of the
close of the season finds the store with
goods on hand, they are sacrificed, dis
posed of at any price. It is no longer
possible to sell out-of-date goods. The
expansion of rural free mail delivery
and the widening circulation of news
papers and fashion journals enables ev
ery woman In the state to keep
abreast with the times, and no last
season's stuff could be given to her.
And yet, marvelous as has been the
expansion of the department store In
the past, it Is yet in its infancy. It
would be a rash prophet nowadays who
would assert positively what the future
will bring forth. We only know, how
ever, that the development of the past
has brought forward as heads of these
institutions men like Mr. FitzGerald.
whose public spirit and readiness to
aid In community undertakings have
done much in the upbuilding of the