Pizitz Department Stores – started by a man who arrived in America without a dollar in his pocket

Do you remember Pizitz Department Stores in Alabama? The Pizitz chain was founded as a family business of its flagship building in downtown Birmingham. It was sold to McRae’s in December 1986, and all former Pizitz stores became McRae’s.


Immigrants to the United States

Born in Poland, the ancestors of Pizitz immigrants were in the tanning business in Poland. He immigrated to America in 1889 without a dollar in his pocket and walked around the streets for three days until he was befriended by a woman from his hometown in Poland, named Mrs. Frank, who wanted to help him. She was from Augusta, Georgia where she owned a supply of peddlers’ goods. Louis worked for her as a peddler for two and a half years. His nephew Max Pizitz, having completed a military tour in the army of the Russian czar joined him in Georgia where he also became a peddler.

Pizitz Department Store delivery truck, 1938, Photographer O. V. Hunt (Birmingham Public Library)

Louis managed to save $750 and opened up a small store in Swainsboro, Georgia which was a success. Louis’ wife encouraged him to open a store in a larger city. On March 15, 1899, Louis opened his Birmingham store at 2026 1st Avenue but did little business. Three weeks later, his nephew Max apparently joined him and they opened a new store.

Louis Pizitz, by artist N.R. Brewer Jefferson County Historical Society

Moved to Birmingham

On March 15, 1899, Louis opened his Birmingham store at 2026 1st Avenue, but according to his biography, he did little business at this location. A Tuscaloosa news article (History of Tuscaloosa published in The Tuscaloosa News July 31, 1949) states that his nephew Max joined his uncle in Birmingham and invested his savings in the store. Advertisement reports that a new permanent store was opened on April 5, 1899, at 2nd Avenue and 19th Street where it remained for the next 87 years. After Louis death in 1959, his son Isadore inherited his business.

Tuscaloosa Store

Nephew, Max Pizitz, returned to Poland in 1903 to visit his family. After a year, Max returned to American and later brought his family from Poland to America.

In 1913, Max Pizitz went to Tuscaloosa and purchased an interest in Saks and Company. After putting the store back on its feet, Max Pizitz became its sole owner in 1916. He remodeled it and installed new equipment and developed it into the large department stores Pizitz Department Store. Later, Max Pizitz took his two sons, Sam and Isadore, into the store. When the elder Mr. Pizitz died in 1948, the sons became co-owners of the store in Tuscaloosa.

At its peak, there were 13 Pizitz stores in operation. Many of the former Pizitz locations are now closed, but the Pizitz family (via Pizitz Management Group) still owns the buildings of most of its former stores.

SOURCES

  • History of Tuscaloosa published in The Tuscaloosa News July 31, 1949, written by an older resident, Ben A. Green, in 1931 who was the managing editor of The Tuscaloosa News
  • Wikipedia

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

67 Responses to Pizitz Department Stores – started by a man who arrived in America without a dollar in his pocket

  1. I remember! And I remember that distinctive green Pizitz’s used for their shopping bags.

  2. I loved shopping at Pizitz when it was at University Mall in Tuscaloosa before I moved to Maryland

  3. I worked there at Western Hills Mall in Midfield Al. It had previously been Lovemans.

  4. My grandmother would take me to the one in Roebuck to buy my Easter shoes and then I got to pick out some candies at the treat counter. I always chose pastels. Yum!

  5. back when ppl did not get fired for sneezing because it pissed someone off.

  6. He and his son let us come to watch the birds in their beautiful yard. They were members of the National Audubon Society…. so gracious to us as 4 small children.

  7. Both of my maternal grandparents worked for Pizitz in Birmingham & later in Huntsville. I went to high school with Sherry Pizitz. So yeah, I remember them well!

  8. I did my retail training at the downtown Pizitz , first I worked in the main office and then as an asst. buyer and then trasferred to the Montgomery store as a supervisor.

  9. I worked at Pizitz! One of my very first jobs.

  10. Susie Nichols Petratos

  11. Ann HouseAnn House says:

    I loved shopping there. It was one of my first credit cards.

  12. The brownies from their bake shop…

  13. Worked for the Brookwood Village location while in college. Really miss shopping at Pizitz!!

  14. Lynne Blaikie Freeman

  15. Thank gene. Loved being a buyer at Pizitz

  16. Thought you might find interesting

  17. I remember the one in Birmingham. We lived in Helena, and would ride the train to Birmingham to shop for school clothes. Mother liked Pizitz and Loveman’s. Sweet memories!

  18. Linda MannLinda Mann says:

    We knew the Pizitz family pretty well. One sold us New York life insurance and one owned a billiard room in old Parkway City when Colonial Buffet was there, way back in the day.

  19. Linda MannLinda Mann says:

    Also one of the Pizitz wives worked in the cosmetic department at Belk up til five years ago about it.

  20. Linda MannLinda Mann says:

    My husband was invited for dinner at their house one Easter I think.

  21. Valerie says:

    I still miss the rum slice they used to sell in the bakery.

  22. remember them, but knew the owners of McRae’s…even built a house for Sam McRae

  23. Spent a small fortune in Pizitz in Birmingham.

  24. John Burchfield says:

    My grandfather was engineer on L&N RR. L. Pizitz would travel on train and sale his. Notion. At his each stop he would come to my grandfather and thank him for a safe ride

  25. Was Pizitz Drive where the Huntsville store was located? I think it’s off of Bob Wallace and apartments sit on it now.

    • Patti Wood says:

      Yes. Tat was the original one and then they opened another store when Madison. Square Mall opened.

    • Lisa says:

      The location I remember was at the Parkway City Mall which is Parkway Place now. Pizitzs sat where the parking garage for the mall is on the south end of the mall next to Drake Avenue. It could have been in downtown Huntsville but I have to speak to someone a few yrs my senior. Hope this helped.

  26. Bev says:

    Oh, those brownies! And, the fresh maple nut eggs. Always shopped at the one in Roebuck or Century Plaza.

  27. I shopped in the Huntsville one a few times, before it was McRae’s. I LOVED McRae’s.

  28. I loved shopping at Pizitz…

  29. John Burchfield says:

    He was a legend. He would buy poor families coal and put it on their.
    I occasion Isadora told poppy the had to close for inventory poppa took him to notion and said this is inventory everything else is profit.
    NO close!

  30. I started at Lovemans downtown while I was in high school. Then transferred to Western Hills when there was a opening.

  31. Karen HillKaren Hill says:

    I worked at the Pizitz ztore in Huntsville 1982-1986, in cosmetics

  32. Alice "Kay" Watts says:

    In 1959, I was 12 years old and allowed to ride the bus from Tarrant to “downtown” (B’ham). I could shop all of 1st and 2nd avenues for Easter dresses, graduation, etc. Plus at Christmas who could forget the wonderful window displays at all the big stores. Such good memories. Remember the Tea Room?

  33. Don’t forget there was a Pizitz store in Huntsville and some of the family still live in Huntsville. Abe Pizitz was legendary for his merchandizing. In fact, I once lived in Pizitz apartments off Bob Wallace. How time does fly.

  34. I remember the store well. My family had a charge account there. My Father bought a sled there during the big snow of 1940. I remember buying a jacket there that I had for many years. There was a Richard Piztiz who was a good tennis player. He was about my age. The thing I remember most is that Piztiz had the big Santa Claus in Birmingham. There were Santagrams that you could write in, and if you were lucky it would be read over the radio. You could visit Santa on the sixth floor.

  35. I bought my children clothes there. They had slim sizes in boys jeans, and Feldman Brothers baby clothes.

  36. Joyce KentJoyce Kent says:

    Pizitz was a good store. I liked their clothes and when I was pregnant, I had cinnamon rolls from the Pizitz Bake shop for break just about every day.

  37. I remember Pizitz in downtown Tuscaloosa .

  38. I worked for pizitz downtown Birmingham in the late 60s as a stock boy. Then as a cashier in the parking deck. Went on to working in their print shop and finally in the mail room. My mother also worked in the bargain basement in linens. Mom went on to work at McRays till her death and I went to the BJCC in maintenance for thirty years. Worked for my future wife as a stock boy she was my boss then and now

  39. Lori BibleLori Bible says:

    Amy Allen Fischer, we were just talking about this last week!

  40. My wedding cake came from Pizitz in Roebuck

  41. Bought my wedding dress at the one down town in 1962.

  42. I saw Mr. Isadore on many occasions while I worked for Dr. Spielberger and Heiman in their optical shop in Pazitz.
    The shop was in the back entrance, and that is the entrance Mr. Isadore Pazitz entered when he came to work.

  43. Olivia Dawkins says:

    Linda Mann…believe Pizitz family were Jewish so I would? Easter dinner.
    Yes, this family knew how to treat shoppers and staff. My first job was at Pizitz in downtown Bham.
    Linda Antonio Nd Audrey Picle. I worked with Bertha in the monnogramming room. Fifteen years old and I still remember fondly!

  44. My Aunt Marion Sertell worked at the Pizitz in downtown Birmingham and my mother in law Hilda Barksdale was a beautician there. I remember being in a fashion show as a little girl there. Also bought my uniforms for John Carroll there. Such good memories.

  45. I remember riding the streetcar fro Ensley to downtown and Pizitz was always the first stop. Wonderful store, wonderful people, so nice to us kids.

  46. I remember pizitz well

  47. About 1950, I used to catch the streetcar in Pratt City to B’ham to spend my allowance at Pizitz. Then to the Alabama Theatre for the matinee.

  48. My dad was a fraternity brother of Ronnie “shitz” Pizitz at Alabama

  49. yes I do, used to work there.

  50. Who remembers the Rum cake?

  51. I loved going there with your mom. So many happy memories.

  52. Live in B’ham in the 50’s. Loved Piztiz. It was a great store

  53. So many fun memories in Huntsville! Thx for sharing!

  54. Very interesting. Now compare that to the immigrants today.

  55. I worked there Betty. I worked in the accounting Department

  56. Patti Lynn Wood says:

    I opened the Pizitz Department Store when Madison Square Mall opened in Huntsville. I remember meeting Mr. Pizitz! It was a fabulous store! Loved working there for many, many years! I was in Customer Service and have so many fond memories of Pizitz!

  57. Daryl E. Ratterree says:

    Agreat rags to riches story!

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