Fashion Renaissance – DBusiness Magazine


Point in Time – The Himelhoch family opened their first store in 1876 before establishing a presence on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit in 1907 (shown). Spanning multiple locations, the business finally closed in 1979, but today lives as an online fashion house featuring multiple designers. // Courtesy of Carol Himelhoch

HIthe melhoch department store, which started out as a Caro Cart, moved to downtown Detroit, expanded to multiple locations and eventually became a luxury online retailer, has embodied the evolution of retail since its inception in 1876 .

Carol Himelhoch, her husband, Steve Ball, and her brother, Charles (Chip) S. Himelhoch Jr., envisioned Himelhoch’s last iteration in November 2018. Ball is the company’s accountant and Chip Himelhoch is an advisor. The online retailer is based in Detroit and offers up-and-coming designer clothing from around the world, just like Himelhoch’s did when it operated out of its brick and mortar store located in the same block as Hudson’s department store. in downtown Detroit. .

“At first it seemed like a crazy idea, but the more we thought about it we thought we (could reimagine) the department store for that time, juxtaposing that on the traditions of Himelhoch, and where we came from, and being true to it. to our identity, ”says Himelhoch. “This is what made us want to focus on emerging designers.

Himelhoch, the chairman of the company, is the fourth generation leader of the company. She assumes that her father, Charles Himelhoch, started running the store in the late 1940s and continued in that role after being promoted to CEO in the 1950s; He held both positions until the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1979.

Fast forward 40 years and launch of the online store with a selection of specialty coffees. He has since added clothing for women and men; accessories; clothing for children and babies; products for the skin, hair and personal care; perfumes; household items; and additional food and drink.

The brand’s main draw is its clothing, as it did when it first moved to Detroit in 1907. Himelhoch began researching the designers pictured in today’s store by working with Design Core Detroit, a department of the Detroit College for Creative Studies that advocates for design. -the bustling businesses of the city. The organization put her in touch with a list of clothing designers in the area, and Himelhoch reached out to them to see if they would be suitable for the company.

“Our collection is very unique and filled mostly with merchandise from emerging designers,” she says. “They have this new perspective. We love supporting small businesses and their creativity, and we want to be able to help them get the recognition they deserve.

Himelhoch says growing up working in the store has helped her develop an eye for beautiful styles that will sell. The contractor must also ensure that potential designers are able to scale to meet demand.

While most designers have products in stock, some offer bespoke products. One of those owners is Lavanya Coodly, a New York-based designer who hand-embroiders and bead evening dresses that sell for up to $ 6,500.

Most of the vendors, however, are based in the Detroit subway, including Deviate, a designer from Detroit who sells accessories and casual wear for men and women. To keep the fashion they offer fresh, Himelhoch works with a range of global design companies, including MJ Room in Casablanca, Morocco, which tans its own leather to make shoes, bags and clothing, and Pretty You. London in Great Britain, which offers nightwear. and slippers. Himelhoch says many of the designers the company works with are offering sustainable products and trying to reduce their carbon footprint.

Now that Himelhoch’s is growing, some designers have started to approach the company, she adds.

Himelhoch obtained a doctorate. in Organizational Behavior and University Management of Michigan and teaches management courses at Siena Heights University in Adrian. She plans to retire from teaching at the end of the next school year to focus more on the store.

“When the store (of bricks and mortar) closed in 1979, I think I closed part of myself and my own identity because I grew up working in the company,” says she. “It’s a new era, and I think I’m really true to my heritage and carrying on the tradition of Himelhoch in the online world – and I was truly amazed at how energetic I am. I really feel like it’s me. I have the impression of having returned to the identity that I had closed when the store closed. I took it like a fish in water; I feel like this is my calling and I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.

Wolf Himelhoch, Carol Himelhoch’s great-grandfather, immigrated to Michigan from Latvia and started the business on a cart in Caro in 1876 with his four sons: Herman, Zella, Moses and Israel. Carol Himelhoch says she can only guess that they were selling fabric and other materials to make clothes.

The family then opened a storefront in Caro, which burned down in the early 1900s. They rebuilt it shortly before moving to Detroit. With physical stores came a shift towards finished clothing. Himelhoch mainly offered clothing, cosmetics and accessories for women; he also made a smaller selection for men; kids clothing; a bridal department; and household items. There was also a toy aisle for a short time.

Carol Himelhoch stands in front of the company's former brick-and-mortar location just south of the David Whitney Building, which has since been converted into a residential and commercial development.  // Courtesy of In Good Co. Detroit
Carol Himelhoch stands in front of the company’s former brick-and-mortar location just south of the David Whitney Building, which has since been converted into a residential and commercial development. // Courtesy of In Good Co. Detroit

In 1923 the store outgrown its original location and relocated a few ofblocks north into the Washington Arcade Building at 1545 Woodward Ave., immediately south of the David Whitney Building, where its main store remained until the business closed.

Charles Himelhoch, son of Israel Himelhoch, introduced a strategy in which workers would place products from different departments on the same shelf, showing shoppers how they could match items. This created a boutique atmosphere in the department store, explains Carol Himelhoch.

She adds that salespeople have received training in all departments, allowing them to help customers in a more holistic way. Previously, salespeople and women only knew about offerings from their own very specific departments, such as women’s pants or men’s shirts.

Himelhoch’s was also one of the first stores to offer a junior section for teenage shoppers – a trend the store started with baby boomers, and continues today in most department stores.

The company grew and opened additional sites in the suburbs, including Ann Arbor, and had more than 600 employees at its peak, Himelhoch says. However, she says her father believed the additional stores eventually overwhelmed the business and contributed to its demise, along with a lesser focus on little-known designers and products that other department stores didn’t offer.

Charles Himelhoch died in December 2020 at the age of 101. Himelhoch says that after the last store closed, his father worked as a property manager for A. Alfred Taubman, of The Taubman Co. in Bloomfield Hills, started a consulting business, and taught retail management at Wayne State University and other colleges in the area. He also enjoyed running, swimming and playing tennis.

“I care about my dad in this regard: I think life is always a growing process, and it’s just fun to be energized and growing,” says Carol Himelhoch. “I see no reason to slow down.”

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