At one time the major east coast discount retailer, the E.J. Korvette chain was founded, in 1948, by New York City's Eugene Ferkhauf and Joe Zwillenberg. Its name was a play on "corvette", a type of sub-destroyer in the the Royal Canadian Navy. War time restrictions on the commercial use of military terms was still in force, so the name had to be modified with a "K"...into "Korvette".
The Korvette company was among the first to legally challenge New York State's anti-discounting statutes, which forbade retail sale of various items below a set price. To initially get around this law, Korvette adopted a "membership store" format. However, this was in name only. Membership cards were plentiful and available for free.
The first modern Korvette location, a so-called "Korvette City", encompassed 90,000 square feet. It opened in December 1954, in the Nassau County, Long Island hamlet of Carle Place. A large campaign of suburban expansion ensued, with new stores popping up in the metro areas of New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Boston. The Chicago and Detroit markets were entered in 1963; St. Louis in 1964.
A flagship store had also established on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. Encompassing 8 levels and 180,000 square feet, it came inline May 24, 1962. By the late 1970s, there were fifty-eight "Korvettes" stores. The typical Korvettes location would envelop between 90,000 and 200,000 square feet...with some suburban stores having 2 levels.
All matter of goods were sold, including apparel, hardware, home appliances and notions. There might also be a separate Korvette or Hills Korvette supermarket, a Korvette Furniture and Carpet Store and freestanding Korvette Tire & Auto Center.
The mighty merchandiser was brought down by poor management and its misguided attempt to compete directly with major department stores, such as Macy's. In 1979, the company was purchased by the Agache-Willot Group of France. Unprofitable stores were closed and company-owned real estate divested. The last fifteen stores went dark in December 1980.
KORVETTES-ANCHORED SHOPPING MALLS:
*KING OF PRUSSIA PLAZA, Montgomery County, PA (1962)
*NORTHWAY MALL, Albany County, NY (1970)
Click on this link to view a vintage KORVETTES TV commercial>