Tuesday, August 24, 2021

H. Stanley Korshak, One of Chicago's First Luxury Women's Apparel Merchants.

Hyman Stanley Korshak (1884-1963), a leading arbiter of American female fashions, opened his first shop, the "Blackstone Shop" at 628-630 South Michigan Avenue on April 6, 1910, in the newly built Blackstone Hotel [1]. The Blackstone Shop made some clothing items in their own 'workroom,' as stated in the advertisement below.
A June 1920 Blackstone Shop Sale Ad. — In 1920, a $175 garment would cost $2,400 today. Makes me wonder what the regular price for these sale items was.

Early on, Stanley Korshak lived at the opulent Shoreland Apartment Hotel in Hyde Park [2].

The shop, which catered exclusively to the carriage trade, was moved to north 912 North Michigan Avenue at Walton Street in 1929. The move was credited with being one of the significant events in making upper Michigan Avenue one of the world's most fashionable shopping districts and popularizing the nickname, "The Magnificant Mile," [3] in Chicago's Gold Coast Neighborhood. 

Mr. Korshak pioneered in making top fashions available to the ready-made trade. He persuaded Paris fashion makers to make garments in basic sizes. He brought the ready-to-wear clothes back to his shop for immediate sale. 
Stanley Korshak specialized in selling one-of-a-kind and haute couture designer merchandise. The store operated as a collection of leased-space boutiques (as many antique/collectible malls do). 
Looking South on Michigan Avenue from Oak Street. In mid-picture, the ten-story building on the northwest corner at Walton Street, from closest to farthest, were the businesses of Blum's Vogue, 920 N. Michigan; Stanley Korshak, 912 N. Michigan; and Jacques French Restaurant, 900 N. Michigan Avenue.

A niece of Stanley Korshak commented that he lived at the Drake Hotel (across the street from his store at 140 East Walton Place) and just walked to his shop. He often ate lunch at Jaques French Restaurant next door.

Stanley Korshak, president and founder of the woman's specialty shop bearing his name at 912 North Michigan Avenue, died on Friday, August 16, 1963, in Deauville, France at 79 years old. Associates said that Mr. Korshak, who was vacationing after attending the fashion shows in Paris, died in his sleep at about 3 a.m. Chicago time. For 55 years, Mr. Korshak traveled to Europe to attend fashion showings twice a year. Stanley was a bachelor and had no offspring. Stanley Korshak II, Mr. Korshak's nephew, who has been associated with the company for 25 years, took over operations of the firm. 

Stanley Korshak II opened a store in the Northbrook Court Mall in Northbrook, Illinois. The rumor was that the Korshak store wasn't upscale enough for the premier shopping mall to make it. They also had problems collecting customer accounts receivable from the two stores.

In 1985, the controlling interest of R.V. Limited, the Chicago-based specialty retailing holding company, has been acquired by an investment group led by a well-known name in the Chicago retailing community—Lawrence S. Gore. R.V. owns 13 specialty stores, including Stanley Korshak, with stores in Chicago and Northbrook and Polo/Ralph Lauren. It recently acquired Brittany Ltd., a Chicago retailer offering traditional men`s and women`s wear. Gore resigned from his post as vice president and general manager of Neiman Marcus on Michigan Avenue to take on his new duties as president and chief executive officer of R.V. Limited. Gore said, ''Korshak has a great name and has great customer service, but it could be better,'' saying he would initially concentrate on repositioning the store as a ''fashion leader.''

Korshak's suffered financial problems for the better part of the 1980s. Dallas heiress and developer Caroline Hunt purchased the rights to the name.

The Michigan Avenue store closed in July 1990. No date was available for the Northbrook Court Mall store closing.

NOTE: I emailed Martha Leonard, Senior Vice President (mleonard@stanleykorshak.com), three times and left phone messages for Ms. Leonard at 214-871-3600 (transferred to her office) to verify some data about Stanley Korshak. Nobody from the Dallas, Texas, store responded to my inquiries. It's a shame that today's Stanley Korshak store doesn't care enough about their own history to return an email reply!

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: My Mom shopped at Marshall Field's 28 Shop, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, I. Magnin & Co., and Korshak's Michigan Avenue stores. She apparently liked nice clothes but was a bargin-hunter and usually bought things that were on sale. Some stores, like the 28 Shop, would call her a day before they put something she lie on sale. That.. is customer service! She lived at 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive at Oak Street, Catty-corner from the Drake Hotel, and across the street from Oak Street Beach.

[1] Hyman Stanley Korshak’s Blackstone Shop was in the newly built Blackstone Hotel, which opened in 1908 at 624-636 South Michigan Avenue. Tenants in the building in the 1920s included Augustus Eugene Bournique’s dancing schools and two select women’s clothiers, H. Stanley Korshak’s Blackstone Shop and Blum’s Vogue.

[2] The Shoreland Apartment Hotel in Hyde Park, at 5454 South Shore Drive in Chicago (opened in 1926). Amelia Earhart was honored in the building’s Crystal Ballroom in 1928. Al Capone infamously took up residence for a while. In the 1950s, Jimmy Hoffa kept a room in the hotel and often held raucous union meetings there, and it’s rumored, one of his underlings strangled a hotel worker in the lobby for having the audacity to ask Hoffa to pay his bill. . Elvis Presley also spent several nights at the Shoreland. Designated a Chicago Landmark on September 8, 2010.

[3] The Magnificent Mile Association, formerly the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association (GNMAA) and originally the North Central Business District Association, was founded in 1912 to plan and promote the development and beautification of upper Michigan Avenue.

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