Miracle Mile Historical Photo Collection

Orbach’s Department Store, 1978

Located at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard and built in 1962 for the U.S. branch of Japanese department chain store, Seibu, from 1964-1986 it housed Ohrbach’s department store. Many years later, Robert E. Petersen, founder of Hot Rod and Motor Trend magazines purchased the building, and along with his wife, Margie, founded the $40 million dollar Petersen Automotive Museum in 1994. The historic building was designed by Welton Becket and Associates. Photograph dated 1978. (Marlene Laskey Collection; Los Angeles Public Library)

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16 Responses to Orbach’s Department Store, 1978

  1. Rick Olson says:

    I worked here as the Corporate Training Director 1972-1974 when there were four Ohrbachs stores in the Los Angeles area. They were the first and only “off price” stores in the market. This was prior to the advent of the Marshalls, TJ Maxx and others who eventually dominated the market. Ohrbach’s Buyers would be seen at night by manufacturers when they went to New York on buying trips–after the buyers from other stores had completed their business. Ohrbach’s Buyers bought only the finest designer label clothing but were forced to cut out the tags because the manufacturer’s regular r customers (May Company, Broadway, Bullocks, etc.) did not want customrs to compare the prices to at Ohrbach’s to the identical items which they were selling at full markup. These strange Ohrbach’s people sold at deeply discounted prices. Their buying strategy, however, appealed to manufacturers because they would buy end lots, out of season merchandise and cancelled orders albeit at rock bottom prices–far less than the major retailers had paid for the identical merchandise. Customers had to guess at what they were buying, but the prices were so reasonable that they were accepted the risk. Located on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, the main store drew huge numbers of people from the Hollywood entertainment industry–big names of the time. I frequently saw Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, Joey Heatherton, and many others shopping in the store–of course with the obligatory large sunglasses and big, floppy hat. The biggest name and the biggest problem was Joan Crawford. who was extremely high maintenance and always left the store in a complete disarray after every visit. Every purchase was “stuffed” into a brown paper bag and stapled shut with the receipt stapled to the bag (for security reasons). I once assisted Deborah Kerr in the purchase of a full-length mink coat which we stuffed in the largest bag we could find and she happily carried it out in that deplorable condition for a several hundred dollar purchase–because she paid about half he price she would have in Beverly Hills or anywhere else in the area. No label of any kind, but I always felt that she knew exactly what she was purchasing. She was always very gracious and appreciative of the service we extended to her and was one of our favorite customers. Not so with many of the other celebrities: On two occasions we had to escort Natalie Wood out of the store because she was physically fighting with other women over such items as 10 cent nylon bikini panties. I once heard a local newscaster describe an out-of-control peace demonstration as “…as much mayhem as a chiffon sale at Ohrbach;s.” The place was truly a circus at all times as well as a great deal of fun. However, training young cashiers (often from the nearby racially-troubled neighborhoods) to deal with the matrix of people who frequented the place was a huge undertaking. Some responded well, but many did not as they were intimidated by the celebrity of the customers and often reacted in a hostile manner to the demands made upon them for “special service”. But, in retrospect, if I had the opportunity to repeat the experience, I would jump at the chance.

    • Andrea Daniel says:

      Thanks for your post. I was just reminiscing about stores of the past. My mom and I used to shop for bargains and then go to lunch at Van de Kamp’s. I recall seeing Merle Oberon there looking at negligees.

    • David Tong says:

      Rick, that was quite a post. Thank you!

      I work in the Petersen Automotive Museum now, the follow up tenant to the building you gave so much Blood, Tears, Toil, and Sweat to. Of all the darn things, when I clicked on your name, I found Big Town Hero sub sandwich Oregon chain, and I lived in Albany and visited your (?) place on 2nd Street.

      The building has changed a lot and of course you’re aware of the changes. Wholly different from the department store you were involved in. I remember going into the one in Panorama City with my late mother many decades ago now, probably 1960s to early 1970s.

      Small darn world.

  2. zachery jenkins says:

    I love the store and the good prices

  3. Jukka ( John) Kauppinen says:

    Firstly,hi to Rick Olson..I remember him when I worked on and off at the Wilshire store early 1970s to late ’70s. I was part time ,meaning evenings and weekends due to attending City College. Great place to work ,started off in men’s departments and then promoted to Better Shoes. Fantastic place for a “active” young man,topped of with Hollywood stars to serve.The Gabor sisters were a regular,(lovely folks,) Lucille Ball, Elke Sommer,Mrs. Robert Stack,a fave, Suzanne Pleshette,Mrs. Jack Lord (Mr.Lord asked for “my autograph” because I helped his wife extra well..hah hah!).. I started there at the Prudential Ohrbach’s in 1966,short time after my family and I imigrated from Australia to SoCal Jan 1966. One of the young people who also worked there during school was the daughter of Ricardo Montalban,lovely young lady with a great family..youngsters from all walks of life..only in America. I also got “conned” into taking part in a Mod Fashion display that went to the other Ohrbach’s stores ..I was a runway male model for a spell…scared out of my wits but did pull it off,with help of Jill ” pidgin toes” Zimmerman and Sandie Gaviola who were tremendous support to shaking young Aussie bloke. ..thanks to Mrs.Rooney(head of personnel) and the young ladies of the Fashion department for the experience. As Mr. Olson mentioned,the Sale days were a riot…in all ways one can think of..the “mob” of ladies prior to opening the doors ,unbelievable rush and mayham..fights among the bins of clothing etc…
    l was in the Army late 60s and early seventies came back to California and Ohrbach’s. Have 99 % good to excellent memories of working there, lovely co- workers ( Heddy,Rose,Carmen and John Daniels of Better shoes,Renee Klein,Mike Reisig,Mali Henigman,Sandie Luz,Diana Ho,Stephanie Aranas,Kris and Ruthie,etc etc )and times spent at both buildings on Wilshire.Also thanks to the greatest city in the world..L.A….
    30 years worth of growing up and living there..I loved it.

  4. Mary says:

    I loved shopping there in the 60s was very sad when they close down they had a large selection and very good prices.

  5. Lee W. says:

    I often shopped at Ohrbach’s as I lived nearby on Curson and worked in the Lee Tower at 5455 Wilshire Blvd. One time I bought a checked bathrobe. After I got home I realized the left side was brown and the right side was black. I remember meeting an employee at one of the neighborhood bars (probably Bel Paese). He told me if you bought something at Ohrbachs’ for $9.99 it was quality but if you bought something for $10 it was junk. It was a fun place to shop and was not aware that so many movie stars shopped there. (I was never good at recognizing famous people.)

  6. Deborah cranwell says:

    I remember being a child model there when my grandmother Rose Stoffer used to work there. Fond memories!

  7. sheila says:

    To me Ohrbachs was was the store east of May Co next to the Prudential building, on the other side of the Tar Pits. In the 50’s they were open on Thursday evenings. My mother and I would shop then and go to Van de Kamps for dinner. In high school, I worked there on Thursday evenings and Saturday. They paid $1 an hour. The Miracle Mile was one of the classiest places to shop.

    • Lee W. says:

      I loved living in the Miracle Mile neighborhood. Back in the mid sixties I had an apartment on Curson and then moved to the most charming apartment on Cloverdale. I worked in the Lee Tower so I was able to walk to work.

    • Shay Fletcher says:

      No orbach’s was directly across the street south of May Company East of May Company was the May Company budget store

  8. Paul Horn says:

    My father was a buyer for the men’s department at the “Prudential Orbachs” in the late 50’s/early 60’s (does anyone know that exact address?), and he helped open the now long gone store in Panorama City. Used to meet him for lunch at Van De Camps next door. Sweet memories. I remember asking him once who the Orbachs were and he mentioned that their son wasn’t really interested in pursuing the business (the late Jerry Orbach, of course!)

  9. john henkel says:

    I dated daughter Barbara Orbach and spent many days with her an other daughter susan in there home of sunset blvd by jack and bonita wrathers house.great memories

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