Before Ch. 11 Bankruptcy and Ch. 7 Bankruptcy
Bonwit Teller was a luxury department store founded by Paul Bonwit (1895) and Edmund Teller (1898). Bonwit focused only on women’s fashions. Other stores at the time were diversified. Bonwit Teller was noted within the trade for the quality of its merchandise and the above-average salaries paid to both buys and executives.
The flagship store was located at the corner of 5th Avenue and 56th Street. Over time, the 15-foot-tall limestone front relief panels depicted nearly nude women dancing at the top of the 5th Avenue façade. This became a “Bonwit Teller Signature”.
Although the company’s ownership changed hands many times, it flourished during the years 1946 – 1979. There were numerous Bonwit Teller locations throughout the country. Although Bonwit Teller grew at a much smaller pace than its rival, Sax Fifth Avenue, Bonwit did retain a role in the development of fashion and design most notably helping to launch the career of Calvin Klein.
Bonwit Teller made several appearances in film and television over the years.
They appeared in the opening scene of the 1961 Film – Breakfast at Tiffany’s . As Audrey Hepburn drives up 5th Avenue, the Bonwit Teller store next to Tiffany’s is clearly visible with a flag in front of it. The Bonwit Teller figured most prominently in the 1978 film Oliver’s Story staring Ryan O’Neill and Candice Bergen. In Oliver’s Story, a sequel to Love Story, Candice Bergen plays the role of Marcy Bonwit, the heiress to the Bonwit Teller fortune.
Allied Stores Corporation acquired the company with the exception of its flagship 5th Avenue store in 1979. Shortly thereafter, the company’s flagship store was sold to Donald Trump.
Bonwit Teller Store is Demolished
Mr. Trump demolished the flagship Manhattan location in 1980. Trump built the first Trump Tower. Bonwit opened a new location around the corner.
Before demolition began, Trump promised the limestone reliefs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET). However, the jackhammers proved to be too much for the limestone artifact to survive. Additionally, there were huge art deco nickel grillwork that was to be preserved but these could not be found. Trump’s spokesperson, John Baron, stated “We don’t know what happened to the Art Deco nickel grillwork”. John Baron also stated that he obtained three independent appraisals of the façade which he claimed found them without artistic merit.
It was later discovered that “John Baron” was actually Trump masquerading as his own spokesperson.
Apparently moving the flagship store and stiff competition led to Bonwit Teller filing bankruptcy in 1989 (Chapter 11). The Ch. 11 Bankruptcy was converted to a liquidation (Ch. 7 Bankruptcy).
After the store bankruptcy, another company purchased the rights to the name in the Ch. 7 bankruptcy, There were plans to create a new flagship store in Manhattan. That never happened.
After Store Bankruptcy – Attempts were made to Open New Bonwit Teller Boutique
Since the year 2000, there have been several attempts to open “Bonwit Teller” boutiques in metropolitan areas in the United States. To date, it does not appear to be in the cards.
Store Bankruptcy – Nostalgic Stores
I find it interesting to learn about nostalgic iconic stores. However, I am sad to learn about store bankruptcies.
As with my clients, I am most interested in their successes for the future.
I will continue to provide other blogs regarding famous stores that filed for bankruptcy.