History: 48 Years Ago, Kalamazoo Said Goodbye To Federal’s
It was just a minor historical footnote, but it caught my eye. Forty-eight years ago this week, on August 16th, 1972, Federal's Department Store chain, a chain mainly in Michigan, filed for bankruptcy. Most of the chain's stores were in the metro Detroit area, but the first two to close, announced in December, 1972, were in Kalamazoo and Lansing.
Federal's had a relatively long history in Kalamazoo and Portage. One store was in Southland Shopping Center on South Westnedge. Another Federal's location was as one of the original tenants at Kalamazoo's first indoor mall, West Main Mall.
Federal's began in 1929, the year of the Great Depression, surviving that economic disaster, and continued for 50 years. Along the way it merged with an Ohio department store chain, Kobacker's. It purchased jewelry retailer Shifrin-Willens in the late 1960's. After the bankruptcy filing, Federal's hung on through the 1970's. It was purchased by investor Steven West, but finally closed up shop in 1980.
The West portion is amazing, in and of itself. West, a master self-promoter, bought failed chain Robert Hall in 1977 and three days later, Federal's. A legal battle with Federal's board of directors led to West locking himself in his office before a judge ruled against him. West, though did finally triumph in that legal battle but lost the war, as Federal's liquidated in 1980.
As we read about one retail chain after another going out of business, this serves as a reminder that stores going out of business is not a new phenomenon.