Chain's traditional symbol must be toned down on store it takes over in Lake Forest
Sandra Jones and Lisa Black
CHICAGO -- Lake Forest, Ill. , the old money community that spurned a Costco store because it was afraid it might hurt its character, is mandating that Macy's dim its trademark bright red star when it takes over the historic Marshall Field's store in this North Shore suburb next month.
At the urging of its preservationists, the city-appointed Lake Forest Historic Preservation Commission approved last week a toned-down version of Macy's traditional logo on the outside of the 90-year-old Field's building anchoring the Market Square shopping court in the East Lake Forest historic district.
No tomato red star here. And no electric-powered letters that glow in the night. Oh, and the Field's signature green awnings must stay.
While Macy's owner Federated Department Stores Inc. has found few problems in other markets when it began mothballing longtime regional department store names to brand Macy's nationwide, the Chicago area isn't taking to change quite as quietly.
Field's fans have denounced the name change on Web sites while Federated has to keep the Field's nameplates and the famous clocks on the historic flagship State Street store, among other restrictions.
At the Lake Forest store the retailer is allowed to install a discreet bronze Macy's sign with raised polished letters on a dark background above the transom window at the store's entrance. The sign is less than a foot tall and about five feet long, not much bigger than the two existing, and prominent, "Marshall Field & Company" bronze plaques that must remain on the columns flanking the entryway.
The decision ends months of discussions over how to handle signage at the historic store as Federated converts the roughly 400 regional department stores around the nation, including Marshall Field's, on Sept. 9.
"It's a lot more subdued and in keeping with Market Square," said Virginia Munson, a member of the Lake Forest Historic Preservation Commission.
The broad-shouldered building with two-story Tuscan columns was designed by noted Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in 1916, housing the First National Bank, two utility companies and the YWCA.
Shaw was among the famous arts-and-craft style architects of the turn of the century, the widely influential English movement that attempted to re-establish the skills of craftsmanship threatened by mass production and industrialization. He designed many North Shore mansions, and Market Square is considered his masterpiece.
Field's took over the building at 682 Bank Lane in 1931, establishing the retailer's first branch store outside of its flagship on State Street in Chicago. Similar stores in suburban Evanston and Oak Park were built shortly after the Lake Forest store opened, but closed years ago. The Lake Forest store, with 61,000 square feet, remains the smallest outpost in Field's 61-store chain."We are working closely with the Lake Forest Preservation [Commission] to obtain the permits necessary to rebrand the exterior of our store to Macy's in Lake Forest," said Jennifer McNamara, a spokeswoman for Macy's North in Minneapolis. "Our plan is to replace the Marshall Field's sign on the store's exterior with a brass Macy's sign that is unique to our Lake Forest store."
The new Macy's sign is three-quarters smaller than the scripted Marshall Field's moniker that has adorned the store for decades. Macy's is required to keep the store's awnings dark green instead of Macy's black. And it must limit the inscription of the Macy's name to only two of the four awnings.
As for the famous red star, Macy's is permitted to use the star (as long as it's not red) on the bronze plaque, but not the awnings. Macy's typically puts its star before its name and uses a small star in lieu of an apostrophe. It must rely on a traditional apostrophe on the awnings, the city ordered.
The compromise placated the preservationists, who originally opposed any star.
"The sign has been so reduced in size that I think it needs a star," said Guy Berg, another commissioner.
Federated, with headquarters in New York and Cincinnati, hired Columbia, S.C.-based Image Resource Group Inc. to produce the Lake Forest signs, and many of the signs going up on stores nationwide. Most of the stores slated for conversion already have the lower case black Macy's letters, complete with its red star logo, on the buildings' exteriors, hidden under banners that read Marshall Field's until the Sept. 9 unveiling.
"Historically the city has taken the philosophy with respect to signage that it should provide direction rather than advertising purposes," said Peter Coutant, senior planner for Lake Forest. "This was really an opportunity to look at that sign and determine what was appropriate for the historic integrity of that building."
The leafy suburb put up a fight last year when Costco Wholesale Corp., the upscale warehouse club from Washington, attempted to build a store on the West Side of town.
Sign or no sign, some residents remain unhappy about the Macy's takeover.
Sally Spoehr, 75, a former Lake Bluff resident who moved to St. Augustine, Fla., said she stops at Marshall Field's in Lake Forest every year during her annual visit.
"When you came here the salesladies became your best friends," said Spoehr, who worked at the nearby library 20 years. "This store definitely has a lot of meaning."
"I would much rather I never saw Macy's," said Leslie Schwarzbach, 51, a Chicago native who has lived in Lake Forest nine years. She worked in a Marshall Field's stockroom at age 16, and carried her first credit card with Field's, she said.
"They sent me a Macy's card," Schwarzbach sniffed. "I don't think I'll be using it."