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September 4th, 2005

Another Merger, Another New Name

So a few months ago, SBC announced it was going to buy AT&T. That’s a huge deal since SBC was one of the “Baby Bells”, and it’s now essentially buying its parent.

The funny thing is that word came down this week that SBC might adopt the AT&T name for itself, since it’s such a powerful brand (gag). What this means is that the name of my local phone company will change again. It started as, of course, Bell Telephone. Upon the breakup it became Illinois Bell (even though it served the whole upper midwest). Then Ameritech. Then SBC-Ameritech. Then SBC. And now, maybe, AT&T.

On a similar note Bank One, the gigantic bank in town, was bought by Chase last year. They’re changing names. So First Chicago and NBD became First Chicago, which became Bank One, which is now becoming Chase.

But that’s a bank and the phone company, with no real emotional investment. The big gamble is Marshall Field’s. Marshall Field’s is one of the names of Chicago merchandising. It’s the city’s pride and joy insofar as department stores go. The State Street store is a gorgeous masterpiece, a beautiful place. Last year, the parent of Field’s was sold to Macy’s and speculation immediately began that Field’s would become Macy’s. May Department Stores, which owns Macy’s, has a tendency to kill off any local department store names in order to (sigh) build a stronger national brand. Guh.

There’s no final decision yet, but I can’t ever imagine going to the Macy’s on State Street. As Preservation Chicago head Jonathan Fine said, “I don’t think Chicagoans will ever accept it as a Macy’s. To us that’s somebody who sponsors a parade in New York.” Exactly.

I feel there’s a huge difference between changing the name of a bank and a department store, in this case. Field’s is integral to Chicago history. It is Chicago history. Turning Field’s into Macy’s just brings Chicago one step closer to the generic downtown atmosphere of Any Big City, U.S.A. – a fate it definitely doesn’t deserve.

Posted in Everyday Life

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