Michael Lisicky has a fascination with long-gone urban department stores, the lost giants of retailing’s gilded age whose tea rooms, book departments and prime downtown locations gave way to suburban shopping malls, big-box retailers and online shopping.
Lisicky, who grew up in Cherry Hill, N.J. outside Philadelphia, has penned books on Philadelphia’s Wanamaker’s, Baltimore’s Hutzler’s and New York’s Gimbels among other defunct retailers.
With his seventh and latest book, “Shop Pomeroy’s First” (History Press, paperback, $19.99), the Baltimore-based department store expert turns his attention to a beloved southcentral Pennsylvania department store chain that helped turn Bon-Ton Stores into the national retailer it is today.
Pomeroy’s roster of stores included locations in Camp Hill, Harrisburg and Lebanon at the time Bon-Ton Stores bought the chain from Allied Stores in 1987.
Pomeroy’s Harrisburg location boasted a large book department and a restaurant on the mezzanine level that offered local favorites like cinammon sticks and cheese omelets with grape jelly.
Bon-Ton’s purchase of Pomeroy’s, led by Bon-Ton’s Tim Grumbacher, not only increased the retailer’s presence in Pennsylvania but also launched a series of acquisitions that took Bon-Ton from a regional chain to a national retailer.
“Bon-Ton never could have learned how to expand without its acquisition of Pomeroy’s,” Lisicky said in a phone interview.
Lisicky, whose day job is playing oboe in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, interviewed Grumbacher for the book. He also snagged another retail veteran — Boscov’s Chairman and CEO Albert Boscov — to pen the book’s foreward.
Bon-Ton gave Lisicky access to the archives at the company’s Springettsbury Township headquarters. There, Lisicky found items relating to Pomeroy’s, including the painting of a Pomeroy’s store that graces the cover of Lisicky’s book.