Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Capacity Crowd Shares Memories of G. Fox

From Hula Hoops to High Fashion: G. Fox in the 1950s.

Last night over 100 attendees from towns around the state and as far away as Providence came to the Farmington Library to hear Elizabeth Abbe, Director of Public Outreach at the Connecticut Historical Society, share memories, anecdotes, and memorabilia from G. Fox, the department store that anchored downtown Hartford for decades.

The crowd consisted of former G. Fox employees, children and grandchildren of employees, and former avid shoppers, many of whom remember taking the uptown bus to arrive at the eleven-story store that had something for everyone.

Ms. Abbe not only took attendees floor-by-floor through the store but also shared insight into the venerable owner of G. Fox, Mrs. Beatrice Fox Auerbach and the Fox family.  In the 1950s, G. Fox was the largest single department store in the country and a true pride of place in the Hartford area.  Thanks to Mrs. Auerbach and her staunch support of her employees, those who worked at G. Fox received a benefits package unlike any in the other businesses throughout the state. These benefits included health insurance, vacation and sick time, scholarships for employees' children, and loans to employees. Her policy that "the customer is always right" helped build legions of loyal shoppers who would come to Fox's to purchase any range of items, from clothing and dishes to valuable rugs and wedding dresses.  She held all her employees to her own personal standards, which only furthered the loyalty from those who worked and shopped there.

The program concluded with audience members sharing their own personal experiences with the store and with Mrs. Auerbach herself, including one woman who worked in the wedding dress department and one woman who, as a child, attended an employee party with her grandfather at Mrs. Auerbach's home.  Both commented on Mrs. Auerbach's stern attention to detail but also her generosity and genuine care for the people in her employ. 

Attendees also had the opportunity to view items shared by the Connecticut Historical Society as well as personal items brought by the attendees themselves. 

The Historical Society has a treasure trove of G. Fox memorabilia in its collection, and interested visitors can ask to peruse these items.  Please view the Connecticut Historical Society web site for information on hours and admission policies.

In many ways, Beatrice Fox Aeuerbach was a woman and business owner ahead of her time. For more information on Mrs. Auerbach, G. Fox, and both their impact on the Hartford area, you can find the book, A Woman in Business: The Life of Beatrice Fox Auerbach, available in the library's collection.

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