Fourth in our series to appear on the first Friday of each month: Boston Firsts Fridays. #BostonFirsts
First Realty Management Corp. was founded in Boston over 50 years ago. We are proud to call this wonderful city our home, and call focus to some of the events & innovations that happened FIRST in Boston.
BF#04 Filene’s Basement
There were many sad staffers at First Realty Management’s Boston Office on the day that Filene’s Basement was finally shuttered. Everyone in Boston shopped there at some point…
William Filene was already a successful businessman in 1909 when he and son Edward opened Filene’s Basement, the country’s first off-price store. His upstairs apparel store had been prospering since 1881, but when the father and son hit upon the idea of opening an outlet store in the basement to clear out inventory, they carved the family name into history.
At least part of the Basement’s success surely was due to the serendipitous opening of the Washington Street Tunnel subway station in December of 1908. An entrance into Filene’s Basement was constructed directly into the tunnel, and the train delivered Christmas shoppers quite literally on Filene’s doorstep.
Complemented by an automatic mark-down system designed by Edward, the Basement became a landmark stop for tourists and natives, flourishing for almost a century before closing the flagship store in 2007. Before shuttering the doors, Filene’s Basement had revolutionized retail shopping, played host to dozens of Bridal Gown Races, and indirectly caused hundreds of spontaneous tug-of-war contests for a coveted bargain.
Fun fact: The Downtown Crossing location that housed both Filene’s and the Basement was completely gutted in a troubled redevelopment effort that is still underway six years later. So unsightly is the area that the location was convincingly used as an urban wasteland in the 2009 film “Surrogates”.