Famous New York department store Barneys files for bankruptcy
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Famous New York department store Barneys files for bankruptcy

Chapter in Manhattan's Jewish history appears to come to a close as the chain store nears its end

Barneys flagship New York store (Wikipedia/Jim.henderson)
Barneys flagship New York store (Wikipedia/Jim.henderson)

A chapter of New York’s Jewish history appeared to draw to a close this week, as the famous Barneys department store chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

It was founded 96 years ago, in 1923, by Barney Pressman, one of seven children who grew up in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, who sold his wife’s engagement ring to buy a small clothing store on Seventh Avenue.

He built the brand through savvy marketing and retired in 1975, when his son Fred took it “from a salty discount house that sold roast beef sandwiches in its pub to a purveyor of Italian designers with a cafe serving Perrier and light salads”.

Barney Pressman died in 1991, by which point Barneys was chalking up $200 million in sales annually, but five years later, in 1996, the firm filed for bankruptcy after a dispute with its Japanese lenders.

This week the chain said it had secured short-term financing to stay afloat, in order to close stores in Chicago, Las Vegas and Seattle, plus five smaller concept stores and seven Barneys Warehouse locations.

It blamed trading conditions as well as a steep rent rise at its flagship Madison Avenue store, from $16 million to $30 million. The company has now put itself up for sale.

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