Two Must Sees – Harrods and Fortnums!
Our thought, this week, is automatically going to London where the amazing Olympics are being staged…..and, when one thinks of London, if one likes to shop, the first two shops that come to mind are Harrods and Fortnum and Mason.
Harrods…………well Harrods is almost a household name that is synonymous with LONDON! Most people who visit London for the first time feel the need, the absolute necessity, of going to Brompton Road and into Harrods. It is pretty amazing how this store, started in 1824 by Henry Edward Harrod, has held onto the Gold for so long! It is number one, there is no doubt! Harrods has many, many departments from clothing to stationery and its Food Hall is fabulous. Wonderful meats and cheeses and deli items can be found within its Hall.
Harrods put the first “moving staircase”, now known as escalator, into its store in 1898 which was quite scary to a lot of its patrons. Apparently, the store served brandy to several of its customers when they reached the top! ”A moving staircase, you say – don’t know about that!” was the cry of many. But, of course, like every other new invention, people quickly got used to it and realized how helpful it can be.
As mentioned, Harrods first opened its doors in 1824. In 1849 it moved to the current location but in a much smaller space. It gradually grew and enjoyed great business but in 1883, it burnt to the ground. Even with this set back, business went on as usual and Charles Harrod (son of Henry E. Harrod), remarkably, was able to fulfill his Christmas orders that year. He took the opportunity to rebuild on a grander scale and helped to create what we know today as Harrods.
Harrods was bought in 1985 by the Fayed brothers – yes, that would be Dodi Fayed’s father and uncles. When Dodi and Diana were so tragically killed in a car accident in Paris, Mr. Fayed put up a memorial to them in Harrods. Shortly thereafter, he let go of the Royal Warrants as he claimed they were a “curse” to the store. A Royal Warrant is usually considered a great privilege to a business as it tells the world that royalty shops there and, for this reason, increases business! Businesses which hold a Royal Warrant are entitled to print the Queen’s Coat of Arms on their buildings, stationery, etc. to show the world that the Royals partake of their goods. So, if the truth be known, Mr Fayed was poorly guided when he made the move to let them go.
In 2010 Fayed sold the business to Qatar Holdings for around two billion dollars. For a long while, Fayed denied the fact that he was selling but indeed, the sale did go through in May of 2010.
So, Harrods goes on, catering to the rich and famous and the not-so-rich and not-so-famous alike! One can find many a green apron with “Harrods” written on it and even more green Harrods shopping bags in our American kitchens.
More than one hundred years before Harrods was born, Fortnum and Mason was started by two gentlemen, William Fortnum and Hugh Mason in 1707 – yes, 1707. It was a wonderful department store and, above all, was known for its out of the ordinary foods. Quickly, it became very popular with the well-to-do of London and before they knew it, it had several Royal Warrants. In 1761 William Fortnum’s grandson went into the service of Queen Charlotte and this Royal Court affiliation greatly helped to boost Fortnums’, as it is fondly called, business. Hampers were prepared for Queen Victoria and these hampers are still being enjoyed by anyone who chooses to buy one. They come in all sizes and have inside of them whatever you desire. Their price ranges from around US$50 to US$30,000! Quite a range, as you can see!
Recently, during part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, joined the Queen at Fortnum and Mason where they were each given one of these fabulous hampers. Golly, wouldn’t we love to know what was in each one of them! Lots of lovely delicacies, I can assure you.
In 1951 Canadian business man, W. Garfield Weston, acquired Fortnums and in 1964 he commissioned a four-ton clock to be installed above the main entrance of the store. Every hour, 4-foot-high (1.2 m) models of William Fortnum and Hugh Mason emerge and bow to each other, with chimes and 18th century-style music playing in the background.
What a beautiful tribute of respect! Mr. Weston’s granddaughters now run this jewel of a store.
People come from far and wide to buy a tin of Fortnums loose leaf tea. A perfect memento from a lasting “institution” and a fun addition to your kitchen at home.
There are a few stores, such as these, left in the world that echo the tradition of yesteryear. As far as your Two Chums are concerned, they certainly add to the loving, joyous and abundant lives that we are enjoying.