Texas Ingenuity History


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Neiman-Marcus Brings Fashion to Dallas

The creation of the Neiman-Marcus store was a big mistake. At least that's the story spun by Stanley Marcus when he introduced himself to new employees. As he told it, his father Herbert and his aunt Carrie Neiman, and her husband Al, had a good thing going in Atlanta, Georgia.

Earlier in his career, Herbert Marcus had worked for Sanger Brothers and Carrie had worked for A. Harris, the top two retailers in Dallas. But in 1906, as idealistic young people are likely to do, they decided to strike out on their own. They moved to Atlanta and started their own business. What they did, and they did it well, was to help small merchants stage flamboyant sales and attract new customers. In fact, their business was so successful that they were soon presented with two buy-out offers. One suitor offered the franchise for the entire state of Kansas for an up-and-coming soft drink called Coca-Cola. The other offer was for $25,000 in hard cash. Stanley doesn't know why they passed up on the franchise offer, but they did. Instead, these three young entrepreneurs were itching to do retail more than manufacturing fizzy drinks. With cash in hand, they made plans to open a Neiman-Marcus specialty store.

Why they moved back to Dallas, no one is sure. But that's where the first Neiman-Marcus store opened on September 10, 1907. Of course, the original store was much smaller than the downtown store today, but the philosophy and commitment to service seen at the opening set the stage for one of the most innovative and successful stores in the world. The Dallas Morning News reported the opening of the store as a “New and Exclusive Shopping Place for Fashionable Women, devoted to the selling of Ready-to-Wear Apparel." Ads for the store proclaimed "We have ... garments that stand alone as to character and fit . . . We will be known as a store of Quality and Superior Value" and "We shall be hypercritical in our selections."

continues in book . . .

In 1928, after a series of clashes, Uncle Al opted out of the family business for $250,000. At about the same time, he divorced Carrie. With Al gone, Stanley had to assume a critical role in the company.

Stanley Marcus

Stanley Marcus: Voted “Most Popular Boy” photograph

from a 1921 Dallas Forest Avenue High School Annual

Mr. Stanley stepped up to the challenge. With his father as mentor, he absorbed the business's customer-centric philosophy and added his own ideas to the mix. Continues in book. . .

Mr. Stanley also added a bridal show and, in a bold move, began advertising in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar magazines right next to the fashionable New York stores. The fashion big-wigs back east took notice. Dallas, the city in the middle of nowhere, suddenly appeared on the fashion map. Continues in book...


Neiman Marcus Store 1920s

Neiman Marcus building from a postcard circa 1920.


In 1936, the Texas Centennial Celebration took place at the State Fairgrounds in Dallas . . . story continues in book . . .

Texas Tidbit: Stanley Marcus collected rare books. In 2003, Stanley's widow, Linda Marcus, donated her husband's private library to the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University. The Marcus book collection consists of approximately 8,000 books, including his collection of 1,100 miniature books, and is housed in the Stanley Marcus Reading Room. 

The story continues in the book Texas Ingenuity... For complete information on this and other Texas stories...