In 1970, after a hiatus of nearly 15 years, the Halle Brothers decided to return to the Canton, Ohio market in grand fashion, with an anchor store at the brand new Belden Village Mall. After over a year of extensive market research the Halle Brothers would determine that the Stark County area was already being more than adequately served by a number existing of full-line department stores. They needed a plan. Something different.
So the Halle Brothers came up with “The Shop Concept”. With this new concept the Halle Brother’s would buck the notion of being a traditional department store selling items such as sporting goods, camera’s and toys, and focus strictly on higher end fashions and offering only quality merchandise from select lines. In this way the Halle Brothers thought they could better serve the needs of area residents.
The Halle Brothers also realized there would be other retailers already offering similar lines of merchandise at comparable prices. They would attempt to overcome this hurdle by stressing innovation in merchandising techniques and offering high quality service.
Now that the company had their business model, they needed someone who could bring their innovation into reality. They brought in Rudi Baumfield of Gruen and Associates. Rudi was somewhat a legend of retail design at the time, he was the man who designed the first enclosed two level shopping mall in the United States as well as designing more than a dozen Joseph Magnin stores on the west coast.
Rudi’s plan would feature wide aisles, bright colors, and subtle lighting. There would be thick carpeting throughout the store with the exception of some small surfaces in the men’s department and at the entrances, which were covered in black tile. The various departments would be recessed from the main aisles and be decorated in their own distinct manner, giving the illusion of small shops rather than a department store.
The store would feature a stunning 20 X 116 foot artificial skylight in the center of the sales floor. The skylight consisted of four colors of plexiglass arranged in randomly rising and falling four-sided pyramids almost looking like an optical illusion.
In addition to being one of the most appealing retail outlets in the area, the Halle Brothers also stressed that one of the most important factors to running a successful operation was the quality of service. And they would make sure of this at their Belden Village store. Out of a near 700 applicants for jobs, they selected only the top 120.