item 4 - Lester Gribets interview, 1986 November 19

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Lester Gribets interview, 1986 November 19


  • 1986 November 19 (Creation)

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MPEG file: 43.7 MiB; 31 minutes, 50 seconds; Original Media Format: Cassette.

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Lester Gribetz joined Bloomingdale's in 1953 on the executive training program and spent most of his career in the company's home furnishings department. Gribetz became Senior Vice President of Home in 1977, General Merchandise Manager of Home and Cosmetics in 1979 and Executive Vice President and General Merchandise Manager of Home, Cosmetics and Restaurants in 1980. In 1989, he was named Vice Chairman with added responsibilities for special merchandising projects including private-label marketing and the men's division. Gribetz left Bloomingdale's in 2004 to work for Macy's, which was owned by the same parent company as Bloomingdale's. At the time of this interview, Gribetz had worked under Marvin S. Traub for his entire Bloomingdale's career thus far.

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Biographical history

Estelle Ellis was born on November 12, 1919 in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Hunter College in 1940, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a minor in Journalism, Ellis began a career in publishing. Ellis was crucial in the founding of Seventeen magazine in 1943, assisting Helen Valentine with design and advertising for the magazine. In 1958, Ellis founded Business Image, Incorporated, a creative marketing firm that stressed the importance of market and product positioning. Her company worked primarily with Condé Nast publications but other businesses, such as Yves Saint-Laurent Fragrances, Evan-Picone, AT&T, and Scoville, hired Business Image as well.

Beginning in the mid-1960s, Ellis began working with the Fashion Institute of Technology, creating programs and fundraising campaigns to help with financial support. During the 1990s, Ellis focused on writing, co-authoring At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live With and Care for Their Libraries (1995), At Home with Art: How Art Lovers Live With and Care for Their Treasures (1999), and The Booklover's Repair Kit: First Aid for Home Libraries (2000). Estelle Ellis passed away on July 12, 2012.

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This conversation covers very little of Lester Gribetz' life and career at Bloomingdale's. There is a brief intro in which Gribetz lays out his professional trajectory from trainee under Martin S. Traub to his role in merchandising. Like most of Traub's employees at Bloomingdale's, Gribetz praises Traub as a boss and as a person. He describes him as exciting, challenging, enlightened, and demanding. Gribetz attributes Traub's high standards to keeping workers excited and motivated. Traub is described as charitable in a number of the Bloomingdale's interviews but Gribetz shares a specific story of Traub organizing a massive fundraising effort for AIDS research after one of his buyers passed away from the disease. In describing the retail environment, Gribetz explains that a retail career is demanding and varied, and the hard work has discouraged many where others have thrived. Prompted several times to define Bloomingdale's milestones, Gribetz first discusses the team before Martin S. Traub's era and then the transitions and departmental changes that marked a real turning point with Traub. Bloomingdale's food business is discussed as a distinction among other retailers as well as the elaborate country promotions which were at their peak success at the time of this interview. The Bloomingdale's customer is described as being educated, affluent, adventuresome, and inventive. While Gribetz describes these qualities as being somewhat inherent in New Yorkers, he goes on to say that these ideas are present in customers in all regions and that Bloomingdale's still appeals to the mass market because it grants these qualities upon the customer.

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There is a lot of unrelated and sort of messy audio at the beginning of this file, the conversation really begins 25 seconds into the recording. This is also a fairly "fuzzy" recording with a lot of air noise as well as actual background city noise. There are a number of points where the transcript does not include all of the audio but the listener is likely able to determine what is being said, especially between 7:50 and 9:20.At 23:12 the audio sort of cuts out and Ellis and Gribetz say goodbye but then the recording picks up again with almost another ten minutes of interview. Finally, at 31:11 the transcribe starts to read "Well I know Elizabeth (?)... interior design course," I believe he is actually saying "Well I know A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE interior design course.


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          Archivist's note

          This was originally part of a larger recording that includes the Terry Schaefer interview.

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