Epstein's was the place to go if you wanted a bargain.
Epstein's was the place to go if you wanted a bargain. (Baltimore Sun files)

Baltimore shoppers had choices for back-to-school shopping in the days when there were four major department stores.

Hochschild Kohn, Hutzler’s, Stewart’s and Hecht’s were the flagships, but there was another level – the budget stores.

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The E. J. Korvette’s chain arrived in Baltimore with branches on East Joppa Road, Route 40 West and Glen Burnie in the early 1960s, and brought discount prices.

This national chain competed with such Baltimore mainstays as Epstein's, Goldenberg's and Julius Gutman's.

Korvette's employees Robin Holston, from left, Bertha Braun and Sue Colonna are pictured outside of their Glen Burnie store as it shuttered its doors in 1980.
Korvette's employees Robin Holston, from left, Bertha Braun and Sue Colonna are pictured outside of their Glen Burnie store as it shuttered its doors in 1980. (Jed Kirschbaum / Baltimore Sun)

The Epstein chain dominated Baltimore’s neighborhood shopping districts — Light Street, Gay Street (later Oldtown Mall) and Highlandtown, and the Alameda.

Epstein’s counters were neatly arranged and there was no mistaking a price at this store. Each sales table held a sign held by a metal frame. Large red numerals stated the cost, while the bottom of the sign said, "Be wise, economize at Epstein's."

Singers from the Community College of Baltimore perform Christmas carols to entertain shoppers at the Lexington Mall downtown, outside of Brager-Gutman's, in 1975.
Singers from the Community College of Baltimore perform Christmas carols to entertain shoppers at the Lexington Mall downtown, outside of Brager-Gutman's, in 1975. (Ralph L. Robinson / Baltimore Sun files)

Downtown Baltimore’s Gutman's, at Park and Lexington, was a classic department store, with rows of elevators and bells calling out codes for employees. It was a busy store, and the cash registers made a racket. And as buyers stocked up on their school needs, they often paused by the popular 1950s-era 4-cent table. It was hard to resist... a pack of pins, a new pencil and maybe a tape measure.

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