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Parisian was a U.S. chain of moderate to upscale department stores headquartered in Birminghammarker, Alabamamarker.

Founded in Birmingham, Alabamamarker, Parisian had undergone a series of restructurings and mergers during its 130-year history, becoming a regional chain throughout much of the southeastern United States by the 1980s . Belk bought the department store chain from Saks Incorporated in a $285 million deal on September 30, 2006. In addition to closing a handful of the stores, Belk immediately resold five of the store locations in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio to Bon-Ton Stores although Bon-Ton did not acquire the corporation side of Parisian and are not allowed to open any new stores or convert other stores to the Parisian nameplate.

An official grand re-opening of the Parisian stores rebranded as Belk took place on September 12, 2007.



The original Parisian store was founded in 1877 in Birmingham, Alabama by sisters Bertha and Estella Sommers under the name Parisian Dry Goods & Millinery Company. The Sommers sisters moved the store three times and sold it in 1911 to Louis Gelders and G. W. Beringer, who renamed it The Parisian Company. Lauren Bloch, the store's general manager, bought it in 1918 and renamed in Bloch's Parisian.

Carl Hess, a German immigrant, and William Holiner bought the store in the early 1920s and moved it to a larger building in Birmingham in 1928. The Great Depression pushed the company into receivership and near demise in 1932, though it emerged and grew in the 1940s and 1950s.

Emil Hess (son of Carl Hess) and Lenny Salit (son-in-law of William Holiner) developed a credit program in the 1950s, and the store was one of the first in the country to offer free gift wrapping, free shipping and a liberal return policy.

Parisian opened a second store in 1963, a suburban store that was an immediate hit. The company opened the third store in nearby Vestavia in 1965 and the fourth in Eastwood Mall in 1969.

In the 1970s, Parisian added stores in Huntsville, Montgomery and Florence, Alabama.

In the 1980s, Parisian anchored major mall developments, including Bel Air Mall in Mobile (1984) and Madison Square Mall in Huntsville (1984).

Growth of Parisian in the 1980s and 1990s

Parisian's owners took the company public in 1983, raising $22.5 million for expansion. A second offering in 1986 raised an additional $18 million. Parisian expanded into Dothan, Pensacola, Chattanooga and Atlanta.

Hooker Company, an Australian investor, bought Parisian in 1988 for $250 million and pledged $125 for an aggressive store expansion. Hooker filed for bankruptcy during the late 1980s economic downturn. Donald Hess, who had taken over operations from father Emil Hess, bought Parisian back and — heavy with debt — sold a 45 percent interest to Lehman Brothers in 1990, which injected $35 million into the company.

Parisian opened nine new stores 1992 and opened five more stores in 1993, stretching its footprint into Detroit and Nashville.

Point of interest

During Parisian's biggest growth period, Jon Coffelt while living in Birmingham, Alabamamarker, was commissioned by store designer, Jim Mitchell to paint over 100 works for the Parisian Department Store chain beginning in 1988. These pieces were dispersed throughout the chain with a considerable number going to its Birmingham, Decatur and Chattanooga Stores. This helped launch Coffelt's career as a visual artist. Coffelt currently lives and works in New York Citymarker. Incidentally in 2001 through Mary Dinaburg Gallery in NYC, Coffelt's work was included in some of the newly acquired Saks Fifth Avenue stores once under the Parisian store family.

Acquisition by Proffitt's in 1996

In 1996, Proffitt's Inc. bought 38-store Parisian for $200 million and assumed Parisian's $250 million debt. Proffitt's, which had acquired Younkers and McRae's two years before, also acquired G.R. Herberger's in 1996. In 1997, Proffitt's included five brands: 19 Proffitt's stores, mostly in Tennessee; 29 McRae's stores in Alabama and Mississippi; 48 Younkers stores, mostly in Iowa and Wisconsin; 40 Parisian stores; and 39 Herberger's stores, concentrated in the Midwest.

Proffitt's continued to make acquisitions, buying the Carson Pirie Scott chain of 52 stores in the Midwest in 1997 and Brody's in North Carolina in 1998. Proffitt's bought Saks Fifth Avenue for $2.1 billion in 1998, which included 100 Saks stores and 40 discount Off 5th outlet stores, and changed its own name from Proffitt's, Inc. to Saks Incorporated.

At its height, Saks Incorporated operated more than 250 medium to high-end department stores under its Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises group, the Parisian division, the Northern Department Store Group (Younkers, Herberger's, Carson Pirie Scott, Bergner's, Boston Store), and its Southern Department Store Group (Proffitt's and McRae's) — plus more than 50 Club Libby Lu specialty shops.

Sale of Parisian to Belk in 2006 and conversion

Belk, Inc., a privately held department store chain based in Charlotte, purchased the Proffitt's and McRae's stores from Saks on March 8, 2006, and immediately converted them to the Belk nameplate. On August 2, 2006, Belk announced the $285 million purchase of Parisian — 38 Parisian department stores, a administrative/headquarters facility in Birmingham, Alabama, and a distribution center in Steele, Alabamamarker — from Saks.

On February 2, 2007, the company further announced plans to change its share of Parisian stores over to the Belk nameplate by September 12, 2007. With the Parisian transaction complete, Belk operates 315 stores in 19 states.

During March 2007, elements of Parisian's operations such as its website were incorporated into those of Belk. Parisian's Steele distribution center closed by the end of the same month, eliminating 84 jobs. Another phase of transition involved conversion of private brands such as Parisian Signature and Parisian Bébe, beginning in June and continuing throughout the summer.

Signage and marketing for the Belk-owned store locations displayed the Belk name by September 1, 2007.

Sale of five Parisian store locations to Bon-Ton in 2006

On October 25, 2006 Belk announced the $22 million sale of four Parisian stores and rights for the construction of a fifth store to The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. The store locations included:

The sale closed on October 31, 2006.


  1. Parisian: Information and Much More from
  2. Proffitt's, Inc.: Information and Much More from
  3. Investor Relations | Saks Incorporated
  4. Parisian in Downtown Indianapolis to Undergo Changes - Newsroom - Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick
  5. - Mall Directory

Further reading

  1. , Merchandising " Saks Incorporated Annual Report (Parisian)". SEC Filing, April 10, 2006.
  2. " "The Look" Parisian Fall 2006 Catalog". Parisian., September 2006.

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