Monday, September 14, 2009

E.C Denton Stores



My late grandmother was a notorious packrat, but I’m glad she saved this envelope from 1930, as it ties two sides of my family together.

The envelope is from the E.C. Denton Stores, owned by my paternal great-grandfather, and is addressed to my maternal great-grandmother, Mary Vail Collier. Prior to establishing the Tailored Woman in New York, my great-grandfather’s brother, Eugene K. Denton, worked for the Denton stores in Cincinnati.

The envelope, which presumably contained a bill that through some unfathomable logic wasn't saved, was forwarded to Orlando, Florida care of Mrs. John D. Vail, my great-great-grandmother. As for the other writing, which reads "Steele & Haley, back of Trinity Church," I think this refers to the venerable Haley & Steele art gallery in Boston. My great-grandmother presumably reached for the nearest piece of paper to jot down a note.

At any rate, though it's at times a burden to sift through the piles and piles of random paper accumulated by my ancestors, it's great fun to find a little gem such as this.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Welcome to the Tailored Woman

A native of Nashville, Eugene K. Denton moved to New York to found the Tailored Woman women’s specialty store in 1919. The original location was on Fifth Avenue on part of the site that later became Rockefeller Center. In 1939 the store moved to its final location on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, in the building now owned by Bergdorf Goodman. Denton helped establish that intersection as a retail mecca, made iconic by Tiffany & Co., which moved to the southeast corner in 1940. The Tailored Woman closed its doors in 1969. Upon his death in 1988, Denton was christened “the Dean of Retail Trade on Fifth Avenue” in a New York Times obituary.

Denton was also an accomplished breeder of Aberdeen Angus cattle. My father remembers watching the Arthur Godfrey show one night, and there came “Uncle Gene” parading a prizewinning steer on set. While I never knew my great-granduncle, that anecdote seems perfectly to capture his personality, along with a hint of lost glamour that has compelled me to research the store and share my findings online.