Factoids & Finds From Our Favorite Mall Stores

Ah, the mall: It's where we discovered our love for window-shopping, our weakness for sugar-coated pretzels, and our unparalleled parking skills. We've all spent more time hanging in one than we're willing to admit — whether it was loitering outside of the movie theaters as teens or scrambling to find all the gifts we needed before the holidays. But, how much do we really know about our favorite haunts?
We've already explored the names behind some of our favorite stores. But, there are a bunch of factoids about the great American mall yet to be unearthed. Did you know that there was never an Ann Taylor IRL? Or, that Macy's began as a purveyor of dry goods? Or how about that many of your go-to stops at the mall first opened shop at South Street Seaport in Manhattan?
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Brush up on your big-store history. And, check out some of the covetable merchandise in stock at some of our mall favorites while you're at it. Be a more informed shopper — or, at least, kill it at trivia night.
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J.Crew

Founded: 1947 as Popular Merchandise, Inc., 1983 as J.Crew
Founders: Mitchell Cinader and Saul Charles (Popular Merchandise, Inc.), Arthur Cinader (J.Crew)
Where it all started: First store opened in New York City
What you might not know: J.Crew got its physical start at South Street in lower Manhattan. But, before it went brick-and-mortar in 1989, the retailer sold its merchandise through catalog. And, even before it sent out its first issue in 1983, the company that would later become J.Crew was called Popular Merchandise, Inc., which was founded in 1947 as a door-to-door, low-priced women's apparel business.

Given its unusual trajectory, it should come as no surprise that, as we uncovered earlier, there was never a man named J.Crew. One customer service representative weighed in on where the name comes from on Jezebel, solidifying J.Crew's roots in all things preppy.
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A coat that pops.
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Clear eyes, great price, can't lose.
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Start the year on the right (colorful) foot.
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Gap

Founded: 1969
Founders: Doris and Don Fisher
Where it all started: San Francisco, California
What you might not know: If you've ever purchased anything from the Gap, you probably know the year it was founded (since it's printed right on the tag). Back in 1969, Doris and Don Fisher found themselves in California with an all-too-familiar dilemma: They couldn't find jeans that fit them right. But, because denim was extremely popular at the time, they turned their fashion problem into a business solution, by creating a chain of boutiques dedicated solely to selling quality jeans. While unsuccessful at first, the Fishers slashed the prices of their pants, which quickly drew a fan base still loyal today.

And, where did "the Gap" come from? The Fishers named their denim store after the "generation gap" — a hot topic at the time that still resonates today.
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You've got to love a store where you can buy a leather mini skirt for Friday night and boyfriend jeans for Saturday morning.
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Walk on the wild side.
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Gap may specialize in denim, but the brand also offers spacious leather totes perfect for the office.
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Ann Taylor

Founded: 1954
Founders: Richard Liebeskind
Where it all started: New Haven, Connecticut
What you might not know: Let's get this out of the way now: Ann Taylor did not found an eponymous clothing store in 1954. It was Richard Liebeskind, who borrowed the name from a popular dress design of the time — the "Ann Taylor" — to open shop 60 years ago. Ever since, it's become a go-to for sensible, feminine clothing.

And, while we may credit a few successful job interviews on their business-casual inventory, some of its employees have gotten their big break while on the clock. Most famously, Julia Roberts was discovered while working for Ann Taylor, according to the company's website.
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It's only getting colder, so bundle up in style.
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All it takes is one sparkly cuff to kick your accessories game up a notch.
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These boots were made for strutting.
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Abercrombie & Fitch

Founded: 1898
Founder: David T. Abercrombie
Where it all started: New York City
What you might not know: Abercrombie & Fitch may forever live in your memory as an integral part of your teenage years, but the brand traces its history back to 1898. Before the turn of the century, David T. Abercrombie opened shop on South Street in Manhattan, where he sold camping, fishing, and hunting gear.

A lawyer named Ezra Fitch started frequenting the shop, and he eventually became so involved in the company he was named co-founder in 1904, when the store changed its name to Abercrombie & Fitch. In 1910, A&F expanded its inventory greatly — and historically — to supply for both men and women. Aside from your teenage self, the onetime outdoor-goods store counted among its customers U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, as well as author Ernest Hemingway.
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Crop tops aren't just for summer festivals: This fitted, floral number feels more grown up, and can be dressed up with your favorite maxi-skirt or high-waisted trousers.
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Headphones are technically an accessory — and, this iridescent pair will complement any ensemble.
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Silvery kicks to add a spring to your step.
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American Eagle Outfitters

Founded: 1977
Founders: Jerry and Mark Silverman
Where it all started: Novi, Michigan
What you might not know: You may not be surprised to learn that American Eagle Outfitters was founded as an outdoors shop. Our go-to for cozy flannels, no-fuss denim, and practical wear first opened shop in a Novi, Michigan mall in 1977 as a "destination for the great outdoors," according to the company's website. While still a great source for puffy vests and other cold-weather apparel, AEO pleases both nature-lovers and city-dwellers alike with its all-American goods at reasonable prices.
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Out with the old, in with the new: Swap your regular denim jacket for a more relaxed bomber.
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Whether or not you're venturing into the great outdoors, this Woolrich backpack will serve you well on all your adventures.
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At American Eagle, you can freshen up your plaid game and round out the grunge-inspired look with some classic Docs.
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Macy's

Founded: 1858
Founder: Rowland Hussey Macy
Where it all started: New York City
What you might not know: It's hard to separate Macy's from Herald Square. But, before it moved in to its current home base on 34th Street — where it holds the title of World’s Largest Store with its 1-million square foot floor plan — the department store had humble beginnings slightly more downtown. Rowland Hussey Macy opened a dry goods store on the corner of 14th street and 6th avenue in Manhattan in 1858, expanding to department store status in a little less than two decades. By 1902, it moved into its home on 34th Street, and by 1924, it earned the title of world's largest store.

Every year, Macy's manages to do the impossible — shut down midtown Manhattan for a couple of hours on a holiday — and have New Yorkers be kind of okay with it. What is now a two and a half-mile parade down the middle of the city had humble beginnings: In 1924, Macy's immigrant employees organized the first-ever Christmas Parade to celebrate their new American history. While the Thanksgiving spectacle now features such celebrities as Spider-Man and SpongeBob SquarePants, the original procession included animals from the Central Park Zoo.
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Make this year the sparkliest yet.
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Florals aren't just for spring: Coach's darker hues make the print work year-round.
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Add some edge to your 2015 wardrobe with some thick-soled, monk-strap shoes.
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Nordstrom

Founded: 1901
Founders: John W. Nordstrom and Carl Wallin
Where it all started: Seattle, Washington
What you might not know: There's something about Seattle air that fosters an entrepreneurial spirit. Before Starbucks started draining our wallets and fueling our caffeine addiction, John W. Nordstrom and Carl Wallin opened a shoe store out in Washington state called Wallin & Nordstrom in 1901. And, following great success, it kept growing, and growing, and growing — until shoes were but one department of a multi-level store.
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It's never too early to pick out the perfect spring dress — and this streamlined rag & bone silhouette is a no-brainer.
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The perfect way to mix a little punk with a pop of color.
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Nordstrom traces its roots back to footwear — so, their shoe offerings are on point. Pick up eye-catching designer duds, like these colorful Stella McCartney platforms.
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Zara

Founded: 1975
Founder: Amancio Ortega Gaona
Where it all started: La Coruña, Spain
What you might not know: What's in a name? For fast-fashion retailer Zara, it's a local snafu in the Galician city of La Coruña, where Amancio Ortega Gaona first opened shop. When it first started out in 1975, Zara was Zorba, named "after the 1964 film Zorba the Greek", Jesus Echevarría, managing director of Inditex, told the New York Times back in 2012. "But apparently there was a bar that was called the same, Zorba, like two blocks away," he continued.

Because two Zorbas would be one Zorba too many in the small Spanish town, the retailer decided to make the change. But, "They had already made the molds for the letters in the sign," Echevarría explained, "so they just rearranged them to see what they could find. They found Zara."
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This faux-leather topper will add some edge to your winter looks.
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Vintage vibes, without having to dig through your favorite thrift store.
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You don’t need a disco ball to add sparkle to the dance floor.
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H&M

Founded: 1947
Founder: Erling Persson
Where it all started: Västerås, Sweden
What you might not know: Our love for H&M stems far beyond affordable basics and designer collaborations. It encompasses all the brands owned by its namesake umbrella group, which include COS, Monki, Weekday, Cheap Monday, and & Other Stories. Truly, our appreciation knows no bounds. What started as Hennes, a womenswear store founded in Sweden, grew within its home country before expanding to the Scandinavian market. By 1968, it acquired "a hunting and fishing equipment store" called Mauritz Widforss, which allowed it to offer mens clothing and change its name to Hennes & Mauritz. Thus, the H&M we know and love today was born.

H&M finally made its way stateside in 2000. The new millennium also saw tremendous growth in the H&M group. COS launched in 2007; Weekday, Monki, and Cheap Monday were acquired the following year; and & Other Stories started up in 2013 (and we've been obsessed ever since).
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Now these are party pants.
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Pick up your basics, and grab some elegant lingerie while you’re at it.
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Forever 21

Founded: 1984
Founders: Do Won and Jin Sook Chang
Where it all started: Los Angeles
What you might not know: The story of Forever 21 is one of incredibly fast growth and rampant success — and a few controversies along the way. Married founders Do Won and Jin Sook Chang came to California from South Korea in 1981 in pursuit of the American dream. Their first store, Fashion 21, opened in L.A. in 1984. Initially, it served a predominantly Korean-American clientele. But, as it grew past the Highland Park beginnings, it changed its name to Forever 21 — and it hasn't stopped expanding ever since.

It's currently "the 5th largest specialty retailer in the United States," according to its website — although you can still shop at the original storefront, which has retained its original name.
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Seeing spots.
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The most stylish solution to bed head.
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Mirror, mirror.
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