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Friday, November 25, 2011

The End Of Filene’s Basement

Women grab dresses in a 2008 "Running of the Brides" sale at Filene's Basement. (AP)

Women grab dresses at a "Running of the Brides" sale at Filene's Basement in New York. (AP)

This Black Friday will be the last for bargain hunters to shop at the discount retailer Filene’s Basement.

The chain recently declared bankruptcy and will soon shutter 21 locations.

But for many people, the Basement has been gone since 2007 when its original flagship store in Boston’s Downtown Crossing closed.

That store first opened in 1909, beneath Filene’s Department store, as a place to sell off extra stock.

Filene’s Basement became famous for the brawls it would incite over bargains, especially during the one-day “Running of the Bride” sales.

“I remember these chaotic scenes with these women participating in these scrums,” one shopper recalled in the 2010 documentary “Voices from the Basement,” by Michael Bavaro.

The documentary was the brainchild of Sue Edbril, a Boston psychologist whose grandmother worked at the original Filene’s Basement for 40 years.

Guest:

  • Sue Edbril, a Boston psychologist whose grandmother worked at Filene’s Basement for 40 years

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  • Yoma

    Yeah, my grandmother worked for Filene’s for at least 40 years. I remember the basement was at the Washington Street stop on the subway. You could see women stripping down to try on clothes from the huge windows. All these winos would gather round to see the show. LOL.

  • Toninorton1

    No program I have heard so far mentions the main attraction of the original Filene’s Basement —the ability to get clothes from top New York Stores that at the time did not have branches in Boston, and did not WANT to sink to offering discount clothing in their own stores. There were special days when everyone would crowd the entrance – in early February for Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Nieman Marcus… I got a $350 Oscar de la Renta  evening dress for $35, another for $25… Although there was a Boston store for Brooks Brothers, men would become quite undignified and storm the barricades at its sales.

    Norma Nathan — Mrs. Nathan to me, the mother of a very well-known radio announcer at the time — was in the boy’s department. She could be counted on to tell me if anything good had come in …

    Did anyone mention the way people cheated to be able to charge – by buying something upstairs, returning it for credit, then using the credit in the basement???

    Not only the flagship store, but Downtown Crossing, was given a death blow when “Filene’s Basement” tried spreading its wings too far afield.

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