Four generations of us went to Alexander's on the corner of Fordham Road and Grand Concourse in the Bronx: two of my great grandmothers (mother's mother's mother and mother's father's mother), my grandmother (mother's mother), my mother and myself. We all took the BX 12 bus there from the White Plains Road and Bronx River Parkway/Pelham Parkway stop. (Actually, I think that even my dad went to Alexander's. He took the BX 20 from a stop not too far from where he lived in the Amalgamated Housing Development near Van Cortlandt Park. See? Everyone came to Alexander's.)
One time I needed something to wear for a party, but my grandma wouldn't go with me because I was wearing a -well, a halter that was a bit on the revealing side. She said angrily that she wouldn't be seen with me. This was very very unlike her. I would guess that I was in one of my rebellious phases. Sorry, grandma :( However, my mom, not quite as shocked by the halter, agreed to accompany me to Alexander's. I ended up getting a snazzy disco type vest for two dollars on one of their bargain tables. I think that even my mom liked it. She bought a blouse.
You boarded the BX 12 bus from the stop where the road opened out into the ramp for the Parkway and a hill above it. You could see the stately light tan brick Art Deco buildings in two lines at the cross streets of Bolton Av, but your eye led you on to where the gates for the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Gardens stood about a mile on. As the bus passed the small bridge over the Bronx River, you craned your neck to see the river flowing placidly past.
The bus then made its way onto Fordham Road, and you passed Fordham University and Arthur Avenue, Little Italy of the Bronx. Then you passed more stores and of course Schrafft's where people went for ice cream after shopping or after a movie, which made quite a lot of sense, since there were two movie theaters withing walking distance.
The bus disgorged you and more than half of its other passengers at what was known as the Alexander's stop. It was even fun to be part of the crowd disembarking because you knew that most of you were bound for the same store.
The first Alexander's opened on East 149th Street in 1928; the second one, the one we referred to when we said the name, opened in 1933. One of the wonderful things about it was that for a long time, people of all classes and ethnicities shopped there. It had something for everyone - bargains, high end, somewhere in the middle. Some of my favorite pieces of clothing came from there, as they did for my mom, my grandma, and my great grandmas. That 1970's disco type vest of black with silver sparkles all through was a standout. I probably gave it away, although like Bilbo with the Ring, I kept sticking it back into my chest of drawers when I thought I'd sent it away :)
Alexander's closed in 1992 after several attempts were made to save it. They never found a store to take its place, visually or culturally or economically. I did eventually find stores that I liked a lot. But never one that matched the sheer, easy fun of going to and shopping at Alexander's on Fordham.