I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland back when downtown department stores were what malls are today. Cleveland had three major stores, May Company, Higbees, and Halles. My mother, I think, preferred May Company and Higbees, but when her sister worked at Halles, I know she spent a fair share of time there.
If you have ever seen the movie “A Christmas Story,” and recall the scenes in the store when Ralph goes to visit Santa, that is Higbees in downtown Cleveland, where those scenes were shot. Being the location for that movie, however, is not the most awesome thing that ever happened in that store.
The most awesome thing is that they used to sell monkeys. They had a small-ish pet department, and had a wall with cages, and sold animals. I was just mesmerized by that creature. I was just a dumb kid who faked headaches so that I could beg for an orange flavored aspirin, so what did I know about cruelty to animals, the exploitation of third-world countries, or exposure to exotic diseases for which humans have no defense? I just wanted a monkey.
Those department stores were not cheap, and catered to an otherwise well-heeled crowd, so I’m not sure that they needed to be as full service as offering monkeys for sale to people to whom they are also selling expensive furniture and draperies. The monkey is most likely going to crap all over the place, anyway.
Perhaps that was their strategy–sell them expensive furniture, then sell them an exotic pet that would destroy the furniture, prompting the customer to buy more furniture. It’s rather brilliant.