Hecht’s Department Store

One of the things I best remember about Old Town Cape’s Main Street was Hecht’s Department Store. Even as a kid I was fascinated by the sailing ship weather vane that perched atop the building at 107 N. Main. I snapped this shot Oct. 15, 2003. I’m glad I did. It’s not there today.

What happened to the weather vane?

The Missourian was asked by a reader what had happened to it. Here’s the answer:

“We had a major windstorm back in the fall before we closed, and we had some slate that blew off the roof onto the sidewalk. The next day I noticed the vane was missing,” said Dan Elkins, former president of Hecht’s. “The assumption is that it blew off during the storm. I climbed up and looked for it on the lower roof line, thinking it might have fallen there, because it was heavy and not likely to go far. If it blew to the street, someone could have picked it up.

“I doubt someone stole it,” Elkins said. “It was tall, a good 3-4 feet in height and solid. It’s a relic, definitely, from when the building was built in 1927. It was original with the building, designed by architect Thomas P. Barnett.”

Holy Cow, where’s her top?

As a kid, I remember a round piece of furniture inside the store. I’m going to say that it was red and had seats around a center piece that rose up to be a tall back rest. It was a perfect place for a squirmy kid to crawl around while his mother was shopping.

What I DON’T remember is the topless babe on the ceiling above the entrance.

Maybe it was because my Mother would distract me when we walked in, “Hey, look at that funny seat for you to play on.”

Hecht’s anchored downtown for 86 years

Hecht’s was the second oldest business in continuous operation downtown. Lang’s Jewelers opened a year before Hecht’s. Marty and Tootie Hecht retired in 2004, after nearly six decades of operating the store.

The store, which had been converted to a bar, was empty when I was home in the spring.

Scott Moyers did a history of the store that’s worth reading.

Hecht’s Photo Gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to step through the images.

39 Replies to “Hecht’s Department Store”

  1. Love the building, even as a kid…probably was only in it a couple times my entire life! It was so ornate & had a Big City aura about it…I thought only the very rich should enter…I did however buy the very most favorite coat I ever owned there on sale…& when hats came back in vouge, bought a perfect matching hat at Dolly’s Hat Shop. Dolly’s was owned by a long time friend from my Mom’s youth…a very stylish pretty lady, who was a client where I worked at that time…don’t recall her name …just remember it wasn’t Dolly!

  2. I read the Hecht family history in the Missourian article and saw no connection to the upscale Hecht’s department store chain here in the Mid-Atlantic east, all converted to “Macy’s” a few years back. ???

  3. Oh…Hecht’s…if your mom wouldn’t take you to St. Lou to buy your prom dress, that was the place to shop. I still have three Hecht formals, lavendar, yellow and cream but best of ALL!!! I have my ‘crinolines’ which still are amazingly starchy. I’m sure some others remember dipping them into the liquid starch bath and hanging them in basement to dry! Still have an original Hecht’s dress box but, Ken, it doesn’t have any facsimile of the “nudie” lady on it. I, like you, never knew that she was watching down from the ceiling.

  4. Semi-annual sale days were family experiences for us. My mom would take us downtown early, and we would gather with the other shoppers in the area around the display windows. When the doors opened, the rush of shoppers was “rock concert” in intensity. Barb and I were ushered to the round, red velvet seat and told not to move. (Ken, we must have been there together!) I remember a beautiful pink sweater knit suit mother bought at one of the sales. It had pearls and crystals sewn on the top, and she wore it for years.

    I read the Scott Moyers article, and it said Marty and Tootie had 18 grandchildren. Do you think there was a misprint? I thought Roseanne and her brother were the only two children. Roseanne attended CHS through our sophomore year and then went to a private school in St. Louis. Of course large families do exist.

    1. I knew it was red, but I didn’t remember the velvet part.

      I was thinking it was some kind of slippery plastic-type material, but that would have been out of character for the place.

      I’ll accept your memory as being better than mine on that point.

      1. I remember the round seat as being velvet…. That round seat was great for husbands waiting with what appeared to be great patience for their wives or significant other to make the decision on that one and only dress, suit, hat or coat. One person I really remember seeing sitting there was the Sidney’s step father I previously message about…. Mr. Bidewill ..connection to Jenkins clan some way. Remember getting my first pay check and shopping at Hecht’s …buying two dresses!

    2. Great pictures! They bring back such wonderful memories of my grandparents’ store. And, it was not a misprint, Sally. Marty and Tootie do have 18 grandchildren!

      1. My mother and father worked there in the mid 1940s. My mother, who was 95 died a few weeks ago, and I’ve been going through her things. I found a “10 year” pin she received from there today.

  5. I loved looking at the Hecht’s display when I was a young girl although they catered to the Seasoned Ladies. I liked to Hopscotch on the elegant marble tiles. Awesome memories….Thanks Ken

    1. That’s a great description. That’s what I’m going to call myself from now on: Seasoned.

      Others may place bets that my fate is to become well done at the end of the journey.

  6. I remember going to this store with my Mother. I miss the customer service we received in stores like this one, Buckner Ragsdale and Rust and Martin.

    Mom knew ladies in the family. Some of the names, as she would say, ring a bell with me in the newspaper article. Roseanne was with me somehow in Girl Scouts. I don’t remember if we were in the same troop. I think she went to a Jewish High School at some point in St. Louis.

    I always liked her. Does any one know where she is, how she fits into this store history, and what she is doing these days.

    Thanks so much, Ken, for continuing to give us walks down childhood lane.

  7. I have many fond memories of the Hecht’s building as a child. My stepfather, Bruce Watson, owned the Hecht’s shoe portion of the business for a good fifteen years or so. I would help out in the clothing shop every Christmas as a gift wrapper from the time I was about thirteen. We hand made all the bows that went on each package with a nifty machine and there was expensive red paper and gold and silver labels for embellishments. This was a department store where no detail was left unnoticed. I remember trying on the furs and having my make-up done by the Estee Lauder ladies. Oh, the memories!

    1. I am doing a history project at SEMO and I have to research the history of 109 N. Main. I was wondering if you had any information, stories or pictures of the building from back when it was still Hecht’s Shoes. If you do and you are willing to share it would be greatly appreciated!

  8. Those pictures are terrific. I would love a copy of the Mayflower.I am in St. Louis Prudy. I liked you too.

  9. I loved that store….from the architecture to the merchandise to the wonderful sales people. If you wanted that extra special dress, you could usually find it there. If they didn’t have it then, your friend/sales person would call you when they received something she thought you’d like. Shopping will never have the same allure.

  10. When I started to put this piece together, I started with the Google News Archives and searched for stories between 1904 and 2010. There was such an abundance of stories that I knew I’d never do the topic justice.

    That’s why I took the easy way out and just posted photos.

    If you’ve never played with the archives, click on this link.

    Warning: count on being there for hours. The stories and ads around the stories that pop up will send you off in wild tangents.

    Next to an ad for Hecht’s is a 1920s news story that Buckner’s is going to have a plane fly in their clothing to that the latest styles will be available, for example.

  11. You have posted, but may not know it, photos of the original Hecht building.

    And, while there may not be a connection to the Eastern Hecht’s, check the Las Vegas connection, last manifest with the Cape casino question 17 years ago.

  12. I am going to have to play Bob Hope’s theme song as I read these articles: “Thanks for the memories!”

    I do remember that red circular (velvet, I belive) sofa.

  13. Remembered…Dolly’s Hat Shop: Proprietor…Virginia Fennimore…Mom somehow helped me recall, as though I heard her whisper in my ear.

  14. the other hecht’s stores..i remember on in cabondale? were not related to the hecht’s in cape. they were like the dept store “foleys” owned by the same company that famous barr was owned by. i do remember sensing this..”fear” going to hecht’s…cuz they had had the meanest sales ladies god ever put breath in. if you looked like do didn’t belong there….that’s how they treated you…LOL.if if you let them..then i realized my money was as green as anyone else in town.beautiful building sad it’s bar…the last thing downtown cape needs is another bar..
    i did like the st.charles pharmacy..one of the only places you could find guerlain products for women and men.

    1. Steven, I certainly agree with you about the attitude of the sales ladies at Hecht’s!!!!! How could I ever forget…..a mere 5’2 and not from Cape…LOL!! In their mind how could this young little petite girl afford to buy anything….. Like you I felt my $ were as green as anyone’s. That type of attitude really bothered me! In hind sight I suspect I have more of those green dollars at my age than they did…. LOL. I never worked for min wage after age 19….. A few years later I spent my $ at Buckner’s and STL.

      1. mary, it was a different time. when hecht’s was closing. my sister vicki told our sister debbie to go to hecht’s pick out a winter coat and tell them to put it on her charge. debbie looked like a deer caught in headlights…and said almost in a whisper..”i can’t go in there”.i laughed out loud..and said what is going happen? one of those sales ladies gonna eat you?..and in praise of hecht’s they did bring style to cape. they had things that you would have to drive to memphis or st.louis to buy..st. charles pharmacy was like that.they had guerlain fragrances..never thought you would find that in cape..

  15. I too discovered the wonderful angel at Hecht’s long after it was closed and wondered how I missed it all those years.

    Great memories shared here – Virginia Fenimore was Janet’s mom – lived next door to Chuck and Larry Blitstein. Janet is still in Cape??? I remember many sleepovers at Janet’s house. Virginia was indeed a ‘stylish’ lady.

  16. By the way, I seem to remember a GREEN VELVET, hat-shaped seat in the Broadway Theater Lady’s restroom. THAT WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL RESTROOM I think I’ve ever seen. Lots of long green velvet curtains and mirrors in the “lounge” part of the restroom. Does anyone else remember it?

  17. As a student, I fell in love with Broadway in Cape Girardeau. Although I could not afford to shop in Hecht’s at that time, I well remember marveling at the building. It was certainly an attraction for many, many years.

  18. I am a current student in the HP program and I am doing research on the Hecht building (107 N. Main) for a project. If anyone has any old photos or stories they would like to share I would love to hear them.

  19. Caira, I grew up at Hecht’s store as I am the granddaughter and the daughter of the former owners of Hecht’s. I know everything there is to know about the history of the building. I would be glad to help you if I can. The provenance is fascinating.

    1. Rosanne,

      That would be a tremendous help! So are you the daughter of Martin and Tootie then? I do have a couple questions that I haven’t been able to get answered so far in my research.

      1. I had read somewhere that Louis Hecht had originally commissioned the building in a French Revival Style and that when Martin Hecht took over the business he remodeled it in the Spanish Revival Style that it is today. Is that true at all?

      2. Do you happen to know what business was located in the building before Louis purchased it from Anna Jaeger?

      3. Do you have any pictures of the building from its early years? I thought that would be an easy find but it turns out I was wrong because I have yet to discover an older picture of the exterior of the building.

      Also, if you just have any fascinating stories I would really love to hear them. I feel like I could ask you questions all day but you probably know the most interesting facts/stories about it! Thank you so much for contacting me-I really truly appreciate it. =) After doing research on your family they seem like the most amazing people. Especially with their influence on the Jewish community, it is really just amazing.


      1. I am Tootie and Marty’s daughter. your information about the building and renovation of Hecht’s is not correct. The architect was from St. Louis. He had designed the building for the Southeast Missourian on Broadway and my grandfather loved it. The architect was Ferdi Pollinelli and had a big reputation in St. Louis. The style of the building was never changed although the interior was updated in the 60’s. My father always loved the middle window on the exterior as it resembled stores on Fifth Avenue in New York. My father was 2 years old when the store opened and handed out cigars to the gentlemen. The detail on the ceiling as well as the black and white floor tiles on the exterior were all the architect’s ideas. My grandfather wanted something fabulous and he got it. 107 North Main was built from scratch so I don’t think any other business was ever there although my grandfather had originally opened a store at the north end of Main Street but was “called to the colors” in WW1 and left to serve in the army. He had another small location before commissioning 107 North Main. My grandmother worked in the store with him as did my Mother with my father. I am happy to answer any questions. I have so many stories that I should write a book. Please feel free to contact me. I actually live in St. Louis so am close. My folks have a residence on Spanish Street on the river although they spend their time in California now.

        1. Hello Roseanne,
          I have great memories of your store, too. When we would visit, from Chicago area, our grandparents in Cape…we would enjoy seeing our grandmother Olgarite Busch working there. Our grandparents lived on S. Spanish, too. Do you remember them?
          Thank you,
          Nancy Busch Minarik

  20. I’ve enjoyed reading all of this as our family was friends with the Hecht family going back generations. Many stories in all of that. My selfish favorite was from college when in 1969, several fraternity brothers and I decided to drive from Colorado to Las Vegas as we’d never been. With perhaps $50 between us we set sail and drove through Wyoming all night, then south into Nevada. We arrived about 9 a.m. the next morning and went directly to Hecht’s store there. We were a bedraggled looking bunch after an all-nighter and the clerks surely thought we were there to rob when I asked for Mr. Hecht. I’d never met him, but knew of him through my grandfather, R.E.L. Lamkin and thought, “what the heck”, no pun intended. Mr. Hecht came out on the floor with a bit of suspicion in his eyes which lasted only till I introduced myself and explained my lineage. He burst into a smile and welcomed us all in, even bought us breakfast. His son Marty and family were much the same. Alan was a very close friend during our early years and we had some memorable times, especially when I was the designated ‘babysitter’ for Alan when his parents went to market in New York. I was a whole year older and not a good influence. Our poker games were the stuff of legend, with various friends roaming in and out at all hours. What a nice family.

  21. I would like to talk to the owners of the Hechts store that was in Cape concerning money they had on account for my sister. She had $750.00 in credits and when the store closed they did not send her a check for the amount they owed her. Please email me or call me at 573-587-0706. Thank you very much, Joanne Dudley

  22. I was employed at Hecht’s Department store in Cape Girardeau in 1988-1989 at the age of 18, before departing on my military career which spanned 25 years. I would have loved to see the store still operational. Mrs. Hecht , I remember very fondly and several other sales representatives. If only all department stores still had that level of customer care and service.

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