When most people think about Cleveland’s downtown department stores, they think about Higbee’s or the May Company. There were, however, many other significant stores that contributed to the iconic image of downtown Cleveland, especially the many stores along Euclid Avenue. Among those stores was Rosenblum’s, a popular clothing store that was a shopping staple in Cleveland for close to a century.
Max Rosenblum was born in Austria-Hungary on December 5, 1877, and at the age of six he and his family immigrated to the United States, arriving in Cleveland not long after. Rosenblum attended grammar school in Cleveland, but left school after the sixth grade. As a child, at 3:30 every morning he would grab as many Plain Dealers as he could, bringing them down to Union Station and selling them before serving regular customers and then going to school. After leaving school, Max Rosenblum continued to sell papers and shined shoes at Superior Avenue and West 3rd Street (then known as Seneca Street). At 17, Rosenblum was given a job at a clothing concern where he worked in every department and went on to work at other businesses as well. In 1910, at the age of 32, he decided to go into business for himself, and open up his own clothing store on Public Square with the motto “New ideas, new methods, new policies.”
Rosenblum’s first store was located at 2014 Ontario Street on the second floor of a building that predated the Terminal Tower and the Higbee building where JACK Casino now operates. Rosenblum poured all that he had into opening the store. In order to put up the sign for his new business, he even had to borrow a month of rent from an uncle. Rosenblum was an early adopter of ready-to-wear clothing, much like what is seen in today's clothing stores. Rosenblum’s sold clothes for men, women, and children, and in addition to the ready-to-wear clothing, Rosenblum’s also made tailored suits to order for both men and women. Rosenblum also believed in easy credit. Newspaper ads for Rosenblum’s carried the motto as advertised was “It’s easy to pay the Rosenblum way.” In 1910 just one dollar per week paid over a period of forty weeks would buy any article of clothing at the store. Rosenblum’s also offered Eagle or Merchants stamps with all sales. These stamps, which were redeemable for cash or merchandise, were introduced by the May Company in 1903.
With Rosenblum’s business thriving, in 1920 Max Rosenblum moved the store just down the street to 321 Euclid Avenue. The new Rosenblum’s was located on the second floor of the building, later above Mills Restaurant, with private elevator service to bring customers up to the store. Once a customer stepped off the elevator, they were greeted by a large, eleven thousand square-foot store filled with clothes for men, women, boys, and girls of all ages and sizes. By 1922 the Rosenblum’s department store employed over one hundred employees and had a reputation as one of Cleveland’s oldest and most reliable business institutions. Rosenblum’s was open from 8:00 to 5:30 most days and on Saturdays closed at 6:00. Advertisements, however, stressed that shopping in the morning had greater benefits than other times of the day. Salespeople were fuller of vigor and, with fewer customers in the store, they were able to provide better one-on-one service. Fewer customers in the store also meant there were no crowds to contend with, making shopping less stressful and more comfortable.
Rosenblum’s department store prided itself on many things: high-quality products, wide array of styles in all sizes, stellar customer service, low prices, and easy pay-as-you-go credit that allowed customers to pay the price of an item over a period of forty weeks. Payments could be made weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly without paying interest or carrying charges. While customers might not get the product right away, this style of charge account allowed for greater flexibility for the shopper to make purchases. While this form of payment, which is similar to layaway, has fallen out of favor for most retailers today, one hundred years ago it was a popular and convenient way to purchase products.
What sort of products could you expect to find at Rosenblum’s? Much like any clothing retailer, Rosenblum’s, had a wide array of varying products for all ages and in all sizes. In the 1920s Rosenblum’s primarily sold women’s dresses, suits and fur coats, and for men they sold suits, dress shirts, slacks, and overcoats. Rosenblum’s also offered free tailoring service on all clothing, and for both men’s and women’s clothing Rosenblum's offered tailor made clothing as well. Rosenblum’s also had an extensive children’s section, and every year, much like now, they would advertise for back-to-school shopping. Everything they sold came in a variety of styles and fabrics. Women’s fur coats were a popular product at Rosenblum’s and were made from materials such as raccoon, muskrat, marmot, mink and more, while dresses were made from various types of silk and twill.
Rosenblum’s downtown store was a success, but after World War II shopping gradually began moving from downtown to the suburbs. Although it was relatively late in embracing suburban expansion, Rosenblum’s eventually opened stores in Cleveland's growing southern suburbs. Rosenblum’s second store opened in December of 1967 in the Parmatown Mall in Parma, and a third location was opened in October of 1980 in the Southgate Shopping Center in Maple Heights. These new branches sold kitchen wares and household appliances in addition to clothing. Sadly, at the end of May 1981, less than 8 months after their most recent suburban expansion, the downtown Rosenblum’s closed its doors for the last time. Rosenblum’s Parmatown store continued successful operations into the latter half of the 1990s. Rosenblum’s final remaining location at Southgate closed in 2006.