Shop Pomeroy’s First by Michael J. Lisicky

Book Review presents reviews of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects by noted scholars, historians and journalists.

Shop Pomeroy’s First
by Michael J. Lisicky
History Press, 160 pp, paper, $19.99Shop Pomeroy's First

Entrepreneur George Pomeroy (1853-1925) and two partners opened their first department store in Reading, Berks County, in 1876, beginning a retailing enterprise that lasted more than 100 years. Pomeroy’s stores were not flashy, not exclusive, but always offered medium-priced goods for the average family. Until 1990 Pomeroy’s was one of the biggest draws in central Pennsylvania cities like Reading, Harrisburg, Wilkes-Barre and Pottsville – and later at locations in southeastern Pennsylvania and even New Jersey.

In Shop Pomeroy’s First author Michael J. Lisicky chronicles the rise and fall of Pomeroy’s with great warmth, recounting the tremendous loyalty of its customers and more especially its employees. This “family” came to know each other through years of service to the store, still meets to reminisce and, since no official archives exist, provided much material for the book from their own memories and scrapbooks.

Lisicky writes of the special features that Pomeroy’s offered, including fashion shows and its Tea Room restaurants. In the Harrisburg store the Tea Room was located on a mezzanine overlooking the first floor, so that shoppers could enjoy a sandwich made with cheese bread or the store’s popular cinnamon sticks while watching their friends and neighbors shopping below.

The book is illustrated profusely with photos of Pomeroy’s buildings, various departments within the stores, newspaper advertisements, and even the famous Christmas window display, where in Pottsville and other cities, spectators stood five-deep to see animated figures amid winter and holiday scenes. If you have ever loved a department store, this book will enlighten and entertain you.


John K. Robinson was born and raised in Harrisburg, where as a youth he visited Pomeroy’s nearly every Saturday morning. He is now president of the Historical Society of Dauphin County.