Christmas and G. Fox & Co.
Posted on December 24, 2013
By: Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com
When I was growing up, G.Fox & Co. in downtown Hartford, Connecticut played a big part in Christmas for my family. In America’s golden era of thriving downtown department stores, G. Fox & Co, a.k.a. “Fox’s”, was known as “Connecticut’s Department Store.”
Christmas shopping at “Fox’s” would get underway for us the day after Thanksgiving. It continued each weekend until the arrival of the holiday. My father worked in the city so the family rode into Hartford with him. We spent the day shopping then met him after he got off work. Often we had dinner downtown.
“Fox’s” was a magical destination at this time of year. My mother made sure we were dressed-up for these excursions. That meant a lovely dress on top of ski pants and boots for me until we got inside the store. I then changed my ski pants and boots into patent leather shoes and matching tights. The coats, hats and mittens went into a G. Fox shopping bag that Mom carried throughout the day.
Each of the eleven floors had a special purpose. Toys and Santa Claus were on the eleventh floor. I remember waiting two hours or more in lines that seemed to go on endlessly to visit Santa Claus on the 11th floor at “Fox’s.”
The Connecticut Room, a dining room, and the luncheonette were on the second floor. The latter was always so busy that the routine was to stand behind customers who appeared to be near finishing their meal so you could get their seats when they got up. Periodically fashion shows were held up on the 11th floor or in the Connecticut Room. My sister DeeDee who modeled for G. Fox before I was born, recalls having taken part in some of those fashion shows. On the fifth floor there was a huge sitting lounge outside the enormous bathroom – this was the place to take a mid-day rest. When we were grown it became the meeting spot if we split up to do separate shopping.
Every floor was decorated to perfection. It was the main floor however, that made an indelible impression on me. Huge, gorgeous pieces of garland were everywhere and festively wrapped around the thick columns that helped define the architecture of the store. Hovering above the main floor was a mezzanine also festively adorned. Specialty shops such as the ski shop, book nook, even a smoke shop could be found on the mezzanine.
Shoppers and clerks were “dressed to the nines.” Occasionally, the owner Beatrice Fox Auerbach -“Mrs. Auerbach”- strolled the store. My mother held Mrs Auerbach in extremely high regard, not only as a successful businesswoman but for her well-known integrity.
G.Fox storefront windows on Main Street were legendary. Each year we waited with great anticipation to see what fabulously beautiful and creative displays they would hold. Christmas really didn’t feel like Christmas until we saw the Fox’s windows. Dark blue G. Fox & Co. delivery trucks were a welcome, popular holiday sight. A cause for glee!
“Christmas and G. Fox” were so intricately entwined for me that I remember being homesick for the decorations there one year that I spent doing post-baccalaureate study outside of New England. Just the year before while attending the University of Connecticut, I fulfilled a childhood fantasy and worked a Christmas season at “Fox’s.” I still remember that season vividly – stepping onto the escalators in my lavender corduroy dress slacks and matching lavender angora sweater as I made my way to the department to which I had been assigned – usually on the third floor – wearing of course, my G.Fox badge.
“Fox’s” seemed timeless. It was the kind of place one hoped would always be there. For many faithful customers, myself included, the closing of “Fox’s” was emotional. First sold to the May Company, it was later converted to Filenes then sold to Macys.
All these years later, “Fox’s” remains unsurpassed in the place it holds in the hearts and memories of Connecticut shoppers. Lectures have been put on by the Connecticut Historical Society about the old G. Fox. I attended one where each person was asked to bring along a purchase made at G.Fox. and share a memory about the item.
Although G.Fox is no more, the building that once housed this grand matriarch of downtown Hartford remains. It is now the Capital Community College. Thus it is still possible to visit the city during the Christmas season, gaze longingly at the windows and reminisce about the bygone days of “Christmas and G. Fox & Co.”
(Revision Nov. 19, 2017)