I Knew Hinshaw’s, and Hinshaw’s Knew Me

There are places that stick in the memory.  We live in and around them when we’re young; sometimes, slipping into dreams, we brush past them again.  Low-pile maroon carpeting, beige pillars, two elevators that connect three floors.  More:  a restaurant on a roof?

Did these places really exist?  I wonder, now.

Our local department store, Hinshaw’s Arcadia, was strangled out by the new shopping mall when I was in my 20’s.  I didn’t mourn the loss at the time.  I forgot, in my rush toward everything I thought I wanted, all I was losing there.

Hinshaw’s was a full-lifecycle place.  It had two restaurants, a beauty parlor, a bridal salon, a maternity department, a toy department, and gift-wrap stations downstairs, where people handled grown-up stuff involving other people behind windows.

During the holidays, Hinshaw’s offered a place to engrave jewelry and gifts for free.  Every clothing department did free alterations.  The women’s and kids’ departments held fashion shows (in which my younger brothers once participated, wearing the raddest plaid three-piece suits).  The Santa Claus and Easter Bunny who held court at Hinshaw’s every year were predictably terrifying.

Hinshaw’s and my family were tight.  Our relationship started with my Depression-era grandmother, although how this happened is unclear:  the woman rarely bought a thing.  But each day, Grandma brought order to our lives by taking my sisters and me from my parents’ first apartment on Huntington Drive to Hinshaw’s.  She liked the place.

The staff at Hinshaw’s got to know Grandma, my mom and dad, and all six of us kids.  We grew up in that store:  one of us even worked there for a while.  (The same one won Hinshaw’s Easter Count-the-Jellybeans contest when she was a kid, which enraged me.  It’s not like she was a genius at math.)

One of us had her hair done for Prom at Hinshaw’s beauty parlor.  Another got First Aid from the counter staff in the store’s ice cream parlor when he fell backward in one of its chairs.  Still another, the Hinshaw’s lottery winner of the Sutton family, won an entire infant wardrobe in a store contest when Mom was eight months pregnant.  (To this day, the words “infant layette” still sound to me like “shopping spree”.)

That same kid, the youngest, would take her first steps in the store:  upstairs in Women’s Sportswear, running from rounder to rounder in her little yellow dress, as we older siblings cheered.

There were plenty of other department stores we knew in my childhood.  Grandma and her sister, Auntie Mag, had a thing for store restaurants.  There was a nice one at Robinson’s in Pasadena; the one in I.Magnin was even nicer.  Grandma and her sister liked to eat and talk and talk, and then fight to the death over the check.  They loved checks!  Grandma and Auntie Mag’s shared passion for checks made me sure that I too would love them when I grew up.  This has never happened.

Still, Hinshaw’s was the store that knew us.  Hinshaw’s is the one I can still see when I close my eyes.

I never thought to take any photos of it.  Why would I?  Wasn’t it always going to be there:  the place I’d visit from time to time for a few hours, when I remembered where I’d seen an item I would need?

Now I wish someone had.  Now I know something about the man behind the store:  a man who worked from boyhood, first a janitor in his school, later on a farm in Idaho.  A Quaker who still served his country in WWI, working with Russian prisoners as a conscientious objector.  A man of principle:  he would not even use the word “swear”.

On the modern grid of American retail, split between Federated and Westfield, where would an Ezra Hinshaw now fit?  Let’s say you get just that lucky:  find another person who’s worked for every dime he’s ever made.  He might even be a veteran.  Where does someone with this kind of integrity begin, if he wants to start a business here?

And where does a family go now, to linger for a few hours, maybe not buy anything, but perhaps park the stroller and get a bite to eat?  Let’s say the person pushing the stroller doesn’t also want to wrangle three plastic trays at a food court.  What’s the answer?

No Loitering, say the signs.

We are not welcome to linger now.  But I remember a time when we were.  And I am not alone.

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27 responses to “I Knew Hinshaw’s, and Hinshaw’s Knew Me

  1. I found this site by accident (of course). I remember going “downtown to Hinshaws” in middle school (1st Ave Jr High) I lived off Baldwin Blvd and near Las Tunas. We use to go downstairs and have french fries and pepsi. The poor waitresses, I wonder if we ever left a tip. Unfortunately my most profound memory is, I got caught lifting a fashionable ring of the time. I knew my mother would never purchase me one and I just had to have it. The store detective told me he never wanted to see me in there again or he would call my parents. Every time I had to go with my mother to Hinshaws to pick up something, I would keep a low profile. It was such an awful experience but taught me a BIG lesson. I’m 66 yrs old and I never ever took something again. Even when in the produce dept I do not even taste a grape. I loved growing up in Arcadia we moved to Chicago suburbs when I was in High School. I often shut my eyes and drift back to those wonderful years.

  2. Xlnt posts as was Hinshaws. We lived straight west of Hinshaws on TC Blvd. in early 60′ till about 1973 and been in and purchased many things in the store. I miss it and the old Nash’s that was close by.

  3. I learned about this article in quite a round about manner. My cousin, who lives in Canada near Niagara Falls, sent it to me because it brought back memories for her of a summertime trip to visit us in about 1960. I grew up near the corner of Duarte and Muscatel in San Gabriel about a block away from Emperor elementary in the 50’s and early 60’s. We were in the Temple City school district, My mother shopped at Hinshaws and Pennys on Baldwin with regularity. What a great story and trip down Memory Lane from the Blog comments. “You never know what you have until you don’t have it anymore”. Thank you very much…..all of you.

  4. Martha Robertson

    there was a restaurant towards the back of the store and that’s where I got to see Sheriff John. He signed my record of “Put Another Candle on My Birthday Cake.”

  5. I also grew up in Hinshaw’s. It was only a couple of blocks from our house and, among other things, it was where you got Cub Scout/Boy Scout uniforms, pocket knives, and merit badge books. It was where you told Santa Claus what you wanted for Christmas and got back-to-school clothes. Not only was gift wrap downstairs, but that was where you went when Mom used her charge account. In the days before BankAmeriCard (now Visa) the office kept all the customer’s Charge-a-Plates and upon presentation of identification, or if they knew you, would pull yours out, place it in the lever-operated machine, and imprint the 3-copy slip. But as for restaurants? I think that must have been after Hinshaw’s added the second story and parking garage and escalators and elevators and began to absorb the other stores down Baldwin Ave. I remember the ice cream parlor in the basement of Barron’s Drug Store, which is where I bought my copy of the Beatle’s White Album. And there was the JC Penney store with men’s wear on the mezzanine floor and Nash’s Department Store on the far end of the block, across from the Shopping Bag grocery store.

  6. Jackie Scozzafava Brion

    Great article. I was raised in Temple City and Arcadia. Hinshaw’s was our go to store. I Remer walking in the back doors and through the men’s department. Sometimes they would have a piano in the center of the store and the music would play throughout the first floor. My sister and I were just talking about Christmas at the store. They would have a section just for kids where they could buy inexpensive gifts for their parents. I also took cymballet and was in some of the fashion shows. I still have an 8×10 glossy of Mr. Robert’s. Hinshaw’s and Barron’s was my hang out in high school. After high school I worked for Hinshaw’s in the children’s department. Then after college I once again worked there for Mrs Moody in the office. It was so sad to see it close.

  7. What a wonderful story…I came upon it while looking for things I remembered.
    I moved to SC 30yrs ago but we came thru Calif and stopped by vanity fair looking for Rosemarie and she wasn’t there but people in there recognized me and it had been at least 10yrs. What a testament to loyal employees and customers and I can’t remember get name but she was an older lady that worked in the dept store. I don’t think she was over tfoot tall but she was tough and would keep an eye on everyone

  8. I also have fond memories of Hinshaw’s. Our store was the one in Whittier. Both my grandmother’s loved the store and we went often. My grandma’s loved the Cable Car Coffee shop. We would walk the red carpet aisle and imagine owning all the beautiful crystal and porcelains. That was my favorite thing. I always had the beef dip. I took Cymballet also and Hinshaw’s always put on a fashion show with the girls in Camp Fire modelling. This is where we went to see Santa. I remember the day my Grandmother bought her first Royal Dalton, after years of dreaming about it. Great memories!

  9. When I was ten years old, I got my ears pierced at Hinshaws! I remember the Beauty Salon, the Bridal Dept. and even the juniors, when I was old enough to be in it! Such a great memory!

  10. I grew up in Arcadia, and remember Baldwin Avenue with a warm heart sprinkled with sadness and loss. Although my mom gave me a charge account at the store, it was my friends that were important, and still are.
    I dated Barbara Hinshaw back in the day (1969) when we were in Junior HIgh School. She was a ninth grader, I was an eighth grader; my first older woman.
    Romance progressed exponentially,and there was much passion till the day her parents brought us to the movies where they sat in the back and we sat on the side near the front.
    OH geez, “Wait until Dark” was playing and so were we, up until the scene when Alan Arkin snuck up behind Audrey Hepburn. “LOOKOUT!!!” I screamed, loud enough for the whole theater to hear, Barbara didn’t actually break up with me then and there, but things were never quite the same. She went to high school I stayed another year at Foothills.

    RIP darling, who knows how our story would have ended if not for that scene in The Movie. I know that Barbara didn’t own the store, I think it was her uncle, but I do miss her.

  11. Laurie Shimmin Zimmer

    Thank you for the great article! I grew up in West Arcadia and remember Hinshaws fondly. My mom perused the “Hub Shopper” and we bought so many things at Hinshaws. I actually purchased my wedding gown in the bridal department. Yes, Hinshaws was a full service store to meet the needs over a person’s life span. Does anyone remember the small capsules they placed in the large cake on their anniversary? My sister won a baby photo contest at Hinshaws. I treasure my Santa photos. Thanks again for the memories.

  12. Here’s the Facebook Group dedicated to Hinshaw’s:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/111523822076/

  13. Do you remember the name of the beauty salon inside Hinshaw’s? My Whittier Group is wondering. Can’t find it anywhere online and my brain can’t quite eek it out at this time.

  14. Wow! Thank you so much for posting this lovely story about a landmark in my memory. I grew up in this store as well. Hinshaw’s had the best dress and shoe department. We purchased my gym clothes here for both Dana and Arcadia High. My first bra was purchased here! I took Cymballet modeling classes as well. I loved this store. Hinshaw’s brings such a warm feeling. Thank you for the wonderful memories you brought to me today reading this.

  15. Great article…I grew up in Temple City. My brother sister and I modeled for Hinshaws. I got my brownie uniform there, allmy clothes for school and every birthday my grandmother would take me to Hinshaws for a shopping day. Hinshaws was the last of the small town feeling left in Arcadia and Temple City. I miss that feeling of neighborhood.

  16. What a great find, this blog post, learning of people’s memories of my uncle’s wonderful store. I grew up in the SF Bay Area. In those pre-freeway days, folks didn’t drive up and down the coast to visit relatives as much as they do today, so I never even saw my uncle’s store, but my dad, physician H. Corwin Hinshaw, was always proud of his older brother’s success in the business world. Thank you for your reminiscences.
    Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

  17. What a beautiful tribute your blog post is to my great uncle Ezra Hinshaw. My mother, Barbara Viola Hinshaw, was the daughter of Dr. H.C. Hinshaw, and Ezra was his brother. I worked at City of Hope for 8 years and I remember that you could still see the vestiges of the old Hinshaw’s sign on the Arcadia building that had at that point become a Burlington Coat Factory. I almost snagged some Hinshaw’s coat hangers on eBay, but to this day haven’t yet been able to purchase any memorabilia from the store. What I wouldn’t give for that painting of my great uncle that was mentioned in a previous comment! Thank you for loving Hinshaw’s. I grew up in the SF Bay Area, and moved to LA 24 years ago, but sadly never got to actually visit the store.

    • I found this article after googling Hinshaws when a pearl necklace in a Hinshaws box was found at my mother in laws. It is just a necklace box, but in good condition with the logo exactly as the sign in the photo.
      Reminds me of a store in Salt Lake City from my childhood, Auerbachs. Interesting story.

  18. Your post brings back so many memories of a time I wish still existed. Hinshaws was where my mom shopped for just about everything. When it came time for new school clothes at the end of summer, Hinshaws was the place to get them. Mom bought my Brownie and Girl Scout uniforms and supplies there, it was where I got my first bra, and most of my shoes. And of course every respectable girl took Cymballet! When the Santa Anita Mall went in, it never occurred to me that it would take business away from West Arcadia. I guess I just assumed it would be there forever… makes me sad that there are no more neighborhood department stores like Hinshaws and Nash’s. Thanks so much for reminding those of us who grew up and lived in Arcadia of that special place.

  19. God bless Google, and God bless YOU! What a wonderful reminiscence you wrote, which truly struck a chord with me. And if it wasn’t for a crazy reason that I decided to Google the word “Hinshaw” today, I would never have found your exceptionally well written posting. The people writing the comments ahead of me have also brought back a bunch of warm and fuzzy memories. I too grew up in 1950’s and 1960’s (and the first half of the 1970’s) Arcadia, California. Up to her passing in the early ’60’s my Grandmother lived in town too. Now and then I am fortunate enought to experience many fond memories of Hinshaw’s department store, as well as the great shops all along that stretch of Baldwin Avenue. Sitting at the corner of Baldwin Avenue and Duarte Road, Hinshaws was the relatively upscale store one went to for something special. For my underwear my frugal Mom would often go to the J.C. Penny at the other end of that stretch of Baldwin. And when I got older I enjoyed buying things myself at Grants Five and Dime, where I recall buying a parakeet, and at the terrific Barron’s Drug Emporium mid-block, in whose record department I got my first albums, by The Beatles. Hinshaw’s was a special treat and when I was a few years older, I would save my money to be able to buy my parents Christmas gifts from there. Walking thorugh the Hinshaw’s doors one quickly absorbed the cozy and friendly but refined atmosphere. Had I known then what I know now, I am sure that I would have tried to bottle the essence of that special type of shopping district in that special suburban town in a special time in America, the good parts of which just didn’t last long enough in my opinion. Arcadia is still a very beautiful city and a good place to live for those who can afford it, but to see it now one would never imagine what life was like in the era you and I recall, when stores like Hinshaw’s reflected a slower and perhaps kinder pace of life. In my opinion everyhting started to take a trun which wasn’t a turn for the better, when that mall was built on a slice of the Santa Anita Race Track parking lot at Baldwin Avenue and Huntington Drive. Thta mall turned out to be a disappointment to most of the Arcadians I knew then, and appartently a death knell for retailers like Hinshaw’s.

    Fast forward … Half a century later, wouldn’t you know it that fate would have it be that my significant other grew up with some of the same fond recollections of the Hinshaw’s department store in Whittier! Neither one of us had ever been to the other store location, but they sound very similar. And the good memories were so strong that when the building that had housed the Whittier Hinshaw’s was to be torn down, a salvage sale of its contents was held and my significant other snagged a huge walll-sized mirror of exceptional quality which remained in storage … until today. We dusted it off and just installed it in a dressing room being redone in our Newport Beach, California home, and it looks great. The store had been built with the very finest materials. And with a little bit of Hinshaw’s history having been born again in 2013 Orange County, THAT is why I decided to take a break at my computer and to Google the name Hinshaw, through which I found your delightful words. Sort of makes one think there really IS a circle of life! Thank you!

  20. I grew up going to the Arcadia HInshaw’s. They had a dept. for the scout uniforms. We thought it was the “fancy” store as Nash’s was at the other end of the block and less upscale. I also wish I had taken photos of the front windows with the mannequins dressed for the season. Inside was just as beautiful, the spacious ladies shoe dept, the elegant escalator leading you upstairs. I have the Santa photo though! When I was a teenager I bought fabric in the basement. Later, I worked for Hinshaw’s selling giftware. We were treated as one of the family, with company meetings to cheer us on before big sales events (and those were true sales). I also remember they hosted company luncheons a couple of times a year in the upstairs auditorium, when Cymballet wasn’t in session. Many customers told us they got frustrated with the mall up the street – they couldn’t find anything, or anyone to help them. Then they’d drive down Baldwin Ave. to see if Hinshaw’s might have something different for a wedding or hostess gift. Yup! They were delighted and even more so when we took the item downstairs to the gift wrap dept. so they could continue to shop.

  21. Laurie Fodor Harness

    Talk about bringing back memories! Both sets of my grandparents lived in Whittier and we shooped at Hinshaws all the time. For us, the only images chronicling our relationship with Hinshaws are the Santa photos that still grace the pages of our family photo albums. My brother actually posted several of them on his Facebook page. I too remember just about everything you mentioned. The thing I remember most was seing models in the windows…especially the one to the left of the enterance in the underground parking structure. I also remember the store was always decorated impeccably. I really wish someone had photos to share as the store really was quite lovely. Thank you for the trip down memory lane!

  22. I practically grew up in the Whittier store. What a joy to find your blog entry this morning! Among many things, I remember the huge (or they were to a very young me) painting of Ezra Hinshaw on the wall. Thanks for taking me back.

  23. This sounds somuch like devoted Marshall Fields’ shoppers in Chicago. It’s so sad what’s become of independent department stores.

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