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The Bon-Ton

The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. is a regional department store company based in York, Pennsylvania, chiefly operating 269 department stores in 23 states throughout the northern United States. Stores carrying its namesake nameplate serve the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions of the United States, extending to upstate New York and throughout Pennsylvania. Other chains operated by Bon-Ton include Bergner's, Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's, Parisian, and Younkers. Additionally, eight furniture stores (with a ninth under construction) are operated by the corporation in select markets.



The Bon-Ton was started in 1898, when Max Grumbacher and his father, Samuel, opened S. Grumbacher & Son, a one-room millinery and dry goods store on Market Street in York, Pennsylvania. From the beginning, according to company material, the Grumbachers operated their business "with a close attention to detail and a conviction that business success would come to those who offered customers quality merchandise at a fair price with careful attention to their individual needs and wants."

As automobiles replaced horses and the country became more industrialized, through World War I and the Roaring Twenties, the Grumbachers continued to meet their customers' needs. The store grew bigger and, in 1929, the company was incorporated as S. Grumbacher & Son, Inc. In 1931, Max's son, Max Samuel (M.S.), joined the company. When Max the elder died in 1933, his widow, Daisy, and their two sons, M.S. and Richard, continued the business, forming a partnership in 1936. Following World War II, the family decided to expand operations. In 1946 a second Bon-Ton was opened, in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Two years later, the company moved outside Pennsylvania, acquiring Eyerly's in Hagerstown, Maryland, and in 1957 purchasing McMeen's in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. These early moves set Bon-Ton's policy of growing into adjacent areas by opening new stores and acquiring existing businesses.

Early Expansion

During the next three decades, The Bon-Ton Stores continued to expand. In 1961, M.S.'s son, M. Thomas "Tim," entered the business, representing the fourth generation of Grumbachers. During the 1960s, the company opened new Eyerly's and Bon-Ton stores in several Pennsylvania communities and one in West Virginia. They also started a discount chain, Mailman's, and, in 1969, retired the McMeen's name. During the 1970s, as the popularity of shopping centers began to grow, Bon-Ton opened 11 new stores in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The 1980s formed a period of rapid consolidation in the retail department store industry as major chains bought their competitors. The Bon-Ton Stores began the decade by opening more stores, establishing a new division, Maxwell's, and acquiring Fowler's department store in New York. When Tim Grumbacher was made CEO in 1985, the company operated 18 stores in four states. Two years later the company made a major move, buying the 11-store Pomeroy's chain from Allied Department Stores. That purchase made it possible for the company to move into seven new markets in Pennsylvania.

In July 1994, The Bon-Ton purchased the 127-year old Adam, Meldrum, and Anderson Department Stores AM&A's based in Buffalo, NY for $42.6 million. Around the same time, The Bon-Ton also purchased Chappell's of Syracuse, New York and Hess's of Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Bon-Ton initially retained and operated Hess's flagship location up until 1996, when it closed after over 100 years of continued operation. The site was eventually demolished.

Seven years later, The Bon-Ton would expand its reach into Ohio and the lower Midwest with the acquisition of the Elder-Beerman store chain. Following an attempt to convert to a privately-held company, Elder-Beerman was offered more cash for its outstanding stock as part of the buyout. The chain currently continues as a separate nameplate.

2006 Acquisitions

Bergner's, Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Herberger's, and Younkers officially joined the corporation on March 6, 2006, following a completed acquisition of Saks Incorporated's Northern Department Store Group (NDSG). The 142 stores, operating under those five names, retain their nameplates under the new ownership.

Each chain serves a primary geographic market, though some states have a presence from more than one of the chains. Bergner's serves northern and central Illinois. The Chicagoland region is the primary market area for Carson Pirie Scott. Boston Store serves Milwaukee and other cities throughout Wisconsin. Herberger's is a dominant nameplate in Minnesota and the Great Plains region. Younkers stores operate throughout Iowa and the upper Midwest.

The buying, private brand product development and marketing functions for the group were consolidated into the NDSG's Corporate offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Finance, legal and IT functions for all locations were consolidated into the Bon-Ton's corporate offices in York, Pennsylvania.

In October 2006, Bon-Ton purchased four existing Parisian stores from Belk, as well as rights for construction on a fifth store. These stores include:




The Indiana store was converted to a Carson Pirie Scott location in February 2007, while the Ohio store was converted to a women's Elder-Beerman store in its mall. The three Michigan locations (all in the Detroit metropolitan area), however, have all retained the Parisian name.


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