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Houston’s Most Famous Homegrown Retail Name Donates Its Archives to UHHistorical records, photographs of Foley's department store to be housed at M.D. Anderson Library
Veteran broadcast journalist and University of Houston alum Ray Miller – an author and Houston historian – once said of the city’s most famous homegrown retail name, “Foley’s wasn’t just a business, it was a way of doing business. It had character.”
Pat and James Foley opened their Foley’s Brothers Dry Goods Co. near Buffalo Bayou in 1900. Twenty-two years later it was Houston's biggest department store, remaining an integral part of the Houston community throughout its life. With the merger in 2005 of Federated and May department stores that resulted in the renaming of all 69 Foley’s stores to Macy's, Foley's could easily have faded from memory.
That won't happen since Macy's recently donated Foley's historical records to the Houston History Archives at the UH College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Center for Public History and the Special Collections Department of the M.D. Anderson Library.
Ed Smith, regional vice president of public relations, special events and community affairs for Macy's South, escorted the records and photographs to the University of Houston, which will be the new home to those archives.
Among the donated records is information about:
- The early ledgers with minutes of Foley's first stockholders' meeting in 1911
- Photographs detailing the construction and amenities of the1947 store
- Preserved images of the segregated fountain and protests at the Main Street entrance during the 1960s
Foley's was more than a department store to Houston. Operating under the slogan, “Tops in Texas,” Foley’s was a community partner, offering employment, entertainment, fashion and philanthropy. During the Bank Holiday of 1933, Foley's replaced patrons' personal checks with Foley's checks that were accepted around the city. Foley's offered support during World War II with bond drives and an overseas canteen.
After the war, Foley's became the "store of tomorrow" with a new building designed by Kenneth Franzheim at 1110 Main St. In 1950, Foley's sponsored Santa's ride from Union Station to Foley's, and the following year it became the Foleys' Thanksgiving Day parade, which continued annually for 44 years. In 1970, women marched on The Men's Grill at Foley's to commemorate 50 years of the 19th Amendment, which resulted in the name being changed to "The Grill.” Foley's also was a significant philanthropic presence in Houston, recognized in 1996 as the single largest corporate contributor to Sheltering Arms.
The University of Houston and Foley’s have had a long-standing partnership for many years, as Foley’s recruited students from the Bauer College of Business for merchandising and finance training programs. In the early 1970s, the Human Development and Consumer Science Department started placing interns at Foley’s, producing a long list of graduates who became executives. Members of the Foley’s management team also served on the Consumer Science and Merchandising Advisory Board.
For retail, architectural and consumer historians, these donated records will provide valuable documentation of post-World War II business revitalization. Foley's records will be open to public access in the M.D. Anderson Libraries’ Special Collections Department after the documents and photos are properly processed and preserved. For information, contact Houston History Archives at 713-743-9991.