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Marshall Field's Lives On At Macy's, 10 Years After The Big Name Change

By David Matthews | September 8, 2016 5:45am | Updated on September 8, 2016 12:03pm
 In September 2006, the famed Marshall Field's department store chain, including the flagship store on State Street, became Macy's.
Marshall Field's Lives On At Macy's
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THE LOOP — A decade after its name was changed to Macy's, Marshall Field's still can be found on State Street. 

Thursday marks 10 years since the iconic nine-story department store at State and Randolph streets was last known as Marshall Field's — a name change that still stings many nostalgic Chicagoans. 

But tucked near the store's august Walnut Room, the Field's name still exists on shirts, bags and other merchandise sold by Macy's.

And online, too.

It seems the company that jettisoned the Marshall Field's name knows it's still got a popular brand name to sell.

"Step back in time and remember the beauty of Marshall Field’s with this iconic T-shirt," one listing reads. "Entering the flagship store in Chicago was cathedral-like with the largest Tiffany glass mosaic in the world, stretching the length of the massive rotunda, a breathtaking design that only hinted at what one might find inside: a Frango candy kitchen, the Trend House, and a complete model home of endless wonders and floors to explore. Remember then?"

Field's, named after its founder, was a pioneer in American retail.  It was the first to employ women in its stores, the first with a bridal registry, the first with money-back guarantees and the first with in-store dining. 

Marshall Field was an apprentice of Chicago developer/merchant Potter Palmer before opening his eponymous State Street store in 1893. Visitors to Chicago's World Columbian Exposition that year nicknamed the retailer "The Big Store." 

Many of Field's Old World charms, including its big clocks, vaulted Tiffany ceiling and the Walnut Room — as well as green tins full of Frango mints once made in the store — remain.

Pedestrians pass Marshall Field's in the 1930s. [Macy's]

But Field's was sold to Macy's in 2005 when the New York chain went on a department store-buying spree. Sept. 8, 2006, was the last day the store was known as Marshall Field's.

"Macy’s entrance to Chicago varied — many Chicagoans who grew up with Field’s expressed their disappointment, while others who weren’t raised in Chicago welcomed the change," Macy's spokeswoman Andrea Schwartz wrote in an email. 

The disappointed Chicagoans included the group Fields Fans Chicago, which has been protesting the name change ever since.

Fields Fans Chicago has called for Chicagoans to boycott Macy's, and even picketed the company's shareholders' meetings. The group also appeared at the Chicago Pride Parade this summer. In December, organizers again handed out leaflets, buttons and stickers outside the store asking that the name be changed back. The group says it has passed out more than 300,000 leaflets since 2006.

And the group plans to protest outside the store this weekend, too.

"You can go into other stores and buy stuff, but when you think about it what is Chicago's best known brand?" asks Jim McKay, the group's leader. "There is a lot of nostalgia but also the idea of experiences coming back ... Marshall Field's creates an experience that transcends shopping."

McKay said his group polled 2,000 Chicago shoppers over four years, and found four out of five of them preferred the Marshall Field's name to Macy's. 

A California judge ruled in February that Macy's still owned the Marshall Field's name outright — allowing it to sell Field's branded T-shirts unabated. 

"We do our best to meet the needs and desires of our customers and understand the importance as well as honor the history that we have inherited," Schwartz said.

More changes may be on the way. Macy's said last month it was closing 100 stores and wants to redevelop its flagships, including the State Street store.

Schwartz said there were no changes to announce Wednesday.

Whatever happens, shoppers at the store Wednesday still clung to Field's. 

"There was no place like Marshall Field's, no place like it," one said. 

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