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Bonwit Teller Closes Last Store

March 6, 2000 GMT

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ Bonwit Teller, a once-gilded Fifth Avenue retailer rescued from bankruptcy by The Pyramid Cos., said Monday it is closing its last store, ending nearly a century of business.

Bonwit Teller did not open its store Monday in the Pyramid-owned Carousel Center mall.

The store, which employs 60 people, will begin a going-out-of-business sale Thursday, said Murray Daitchman, Bonwit’s chief executive officer.

The 62,000 square foot store, one of five anchor tenants in the giant mall, will be replaced by a collection of new ``lifestyle″ stores. Pyramid executives said the store’s lush interior, with its elegant decor and muraled ceilings, will remain.

Decade-long ``operating inefficiencies″ of the store, coupled with Pyramid’s plans to put more stores inside the mall, forced Pyramid and Bonwit to close the store, said Daitchman.

Bonwit Teller’s demise was not unexpected.

The Syracuse-based Pyramid Cos. paid $8 million in cash in 1990 for the once-glitzy Bonwit Teller name and two of its stores in Buffalo and Boston after the retailer went bankrupt. Later that same year, Pyramid opened a new Bonwit Teller store in Syracuse.

Plans to expand the Bonwit Teller store name throughout Pyramid’s other two dozen malls plus a new flagship store in Manhattan never materialized. The Boston and Buffalo stores eventually were closed.

Despite being one of the most successful regional mall developers in the nation, Pyramid could not transfer that success to the retailing business.

Founded in 1902, Bonwit Teller was the first retailer in the United States to import designer clothing from Europe. It also was the first U.S. retailer to open a designer section for men in its stores.

In its heyday, Bonwit Teller was at the pinnacle in American fashion with its upscale store on Fifth Avenue, where customers could buy Louis Feraud dresses, Bruno Magli shoes and Fendi handbags. At its peak, the chain had 16 stores.