On this Black Friday, when tens of thousands of people will cram into Macy's in Herald Square, it's easy to forget that Gimbels was also a big draw for many of those shoppers, as it held court just down the street for the better part of the 20th century. Of course, Gimbels was never quite as sophisticated, and was always something of the underdog. Its final Black Friday in Herald Square came in 1985, and it would be gone by the next fall.
Still, references to their legendary rivalry still come up. There's the old saying "Would Macy's tell Gimbels?" And thank goodness for annual showings of "Miracle on 34th Street," which makes reference to the old retail battle and helps keep Gimbels' legacy alive.
Now, Gimbels hasn't entirely gone away. Its ghosts haunt the Manhattan Mall, which is Gimbels former home. But up in the sky, on West 31st Street near Sixth Avenue, a huge painted sign for Gimbels still lords over its former neighborhood. The sign is atop the department store's former warehouse building. Alas, its "G" is partially missing, but that doesn't undercut the beauty of this scrappy survivor.
Macy's has two generations of similar signs atop its vast emporium, but they are easily visible only from neighboring high-rises.
In that one respect, Gimbels manages to top Macy's, some 22 years after Gimbels vanished.
-- Rolando Pujol