End of an Era: Levinthal's Closes

Despite the fact that I grew up on the west coast, my childhood summers were spent mostly in Philadelphia (if you’ve been reading this here blog for a while, you know this). My mom, sister and I would pile in my grandparents’ apartment and spend three or four weeks eating out, going to the Jersey shore and doing our back-to-school shopping (financed by grandparental generosity).

One of the stores I always looked forward to visiting on these shopping treks was Levinthal’s. Located just a block from the apartment, we simply called it the handbag store. I rarely left Philly without some new item from them (and throughout the rest of the year, my grandmother regularly patronized their designer counter).

In the eight years I’ve lived in Philly, I’ve stopped in at least once a month and nearly every purse, wallet or suitcase I’ve acquired over that time was from Levinthal’s. The shopping experience there was an old-fashioned one. There were always two blue-smocked women who would help you as you shopped. When you made your selection, they’d write out a bill of sale on a carbon-paper pad in pencil and walk you up to the cash register, where one of the male owners would ring up your purchase. I imagine that the experience of shopping there was unchanged from the time the store opened in the mid-forties.

Two weeks ago, I walked by and caught sight of their going-out-of-business signs. I went in to peruse the heavily discounted merchandise and have one final wander around this beloved store. I didn’t buy anything, but before I left, I stopped briefly to offer condolences to one of the owners. I tried to express how much the store had meant to me, without monopolizing his time or sounding like a crazy person.

I’ve been trying to acquire fewer things, so there’s less need in my life for a dedicated bag store. However, I will always be sad that Levinthal’s isn’t in the world any longer.

16 thoughts on “End of an Era: Levinthal's Closes

  1. Sarah

    Oh, bummer. Levinthal’s was an occasional part of my lunchtime wanderings when I first started working in Center City. I never bought anything there, but I loved browsing.

    Reply
  2. Lauren

    I’m sorry a store you love is going, but I have to admit that I love looking at store fixtures when they go on sale! You can find some very unique items then.

    Reply
  3. Barry Levinthal

    Thanks for the kind words.We will miss all of our great customers like you, who appreciated us. I think I remember that you bought a red tote. Is that right?

    Reply
  4. Jay Levinthal

    During the last 2 weeks so many of our customers took the time to share with us their Levinthal experiences, just like you did. How much they will miss us and thanking us for being a special place to shop. We take with us many fond memories. Thanks for sharing yours.

    Reply
  5. Marisa

    Barry and Jay, thank you both so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I really and truly loved your store and am so sad to see it gone.

    Barry, I didn’t buy a red tote this time around. In recent years, my weakness has been the Tano bags. Such great colors!

    Reply
  6. Karen

    I will also miss Levinthal’s. Over the years, I purchased many bags, wallets and umbrellas there. My mother frequently shopped at the store when it was located in the 700 block of Chestnut Street. My sister and I are second-generation customers. Mom passed on 5 years ago, but we continued
    to shop there re-living the mother-daughter shopping trips that usually included a visit to Levinthal’s.

    Reply
    1. Gwen

      I brought three black shopping carts on wheels from your store. I love them!!!! I would like to find something of this kind to give to other senior citizens like me. Where can I order or find these shopping carts on wheels. I’ve searched the web, but can’t find any that are lot these.

      Who was the manufacturer?

      I think it was in New Jersey.

      Miss you greatly!!

      Reply
  7. Elizabeth

    Say it isn’t so! I just discovered the closing of Levinthal’s — my go-to place for many years, including their 700 block of Chestnut Street location. I’ve purchased countless bags and briefcases over the years, as well as umbrellas, wallets and luggage too. The selection was amazing, and their style of business was truly from a kindler, gentler era. This is such a sad turn of events… I send my thanks –and best wishes– to the whole staff. You’ll be missed!

    Reply
  8. Nick

    Look, I’m a guy; and I loved Levinthals! All of my luggage, wallets, suit-bags, briefcases, umbrellas, etc, came from Levinthals. I’d have bought a car from them if they sold ’em. I heard that there was another store; is that one gone also?

    Reply
  9. Saireina

    I was so sorry to hear that Levinthal’s had closed. I loved that store. I every handbag that I bought from that store and still love them. My handbags are beautiful. By the way, I still have a $60.00 credit for that store. Do you have any handbags left?

    Reply
  10. Eileen Stephens

    Hi Barry
    I was so suprised by this news. Your life has now entered a new direction. May you find joy and peace so that your smile will find a permanate spot on your face. It has been my pleasure to have known you these past 20+ years doing business together.
    take care
    eileen

    Reply

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