Posted: Sunday, 21-02-2010
The Samaritaine business was first opened in 1869 by Ernest Cognacq and Marie-Louise Jaÿ, his wife and incidentally the first clothing vendor at Le Bon Marché, a rival department store. Cognacq began his trade on rue de la Monnaie, starting out on a small scale with a very small boutique. By 1900, the couple had decided to expand their enterprise, giving birth to the large edifice seen today, the "Grands Magasins de La Samaritaine." Yesterday's AK File discussed the fascinating impressionism collection amassed by this couple.
Inspired by the commercial methods of Aristide Boucicaut to those of Le Bon Marché, Ernest Cognacq drew upon various sources in organizing the ideal (and ideally managed) department store. Cognacq arranged La Samaritaine as a collection of individually owned stores, each managed by true "petits patrons" who operated in concert yet autonomously.
Through the steady acquisition of neighboring buildings, Ernest Cognacq regularly expanded what could no longer be called a "boutique." The surrounding city blocks were entirely reworked and reconstructed progressively from 1883 to 1933. (Notably, between 1903 and 1907, this work was taken on by the architect Frantz Jourdain, who applied an Art Nouveau aesthetic to the building.) Further structural changes were successfully completed in 1933 by Henri Sauvage who, in his turn, reworked the architecture to reflect the aesthetic principles of Art Déco. The result was an eleven-story department store, one that is today considered a historical monument.
Falling prey to the national deficit of the 1990s, La Samaritaine saw itself shrink; it was bought in 2001 by LVMH, the luxury-goods company that had just previously purchased Le Bon Marché. On June 15, 2005, in order to update the 19th-century building to modern standards of security, or for purposes of corporate restructuring, as the labor unions believe, the department store was closed abruptly. Over 750 workers are presently retained on its payroll during this renovation period. It is estimated that La Samaritaine will reopen its doors by the end of 2011 as a showcase temple emporium for such top LVMH designers as YSL, Dior, etc. .
The name La Samaritaine ("the Samaritan Woman") comes from a hydraulic pump installed near the Pont Neuf, which operated from 1609 to 1813. The front of the pump featured a gilded bas-relief of the Samaritan Woman drawing water for Jesus at the well as described in the fourth chapter of John's Gospel.
The store is well-known for its rooftop café, which affords excellent views of the city. We look forward to an advertisement soon in AK Colleagues...