65° Good Afternoon
65° Good Afternoon

Secrets of New York

The ultimate insider's guide to the best-kept secrets of NYC's must-see places and buzzed-about people.

Fill up your shopping bags with these secrets

Fill up your shopping bags with these secrets of Macy's Herald Square. (Credit: Meghan Giannotta)


Macy's Herald Square: History of the nation's largest department store

151 W 34th Street, New York, 10001

Macy's Herald Square is a shopper's paradise.

It stretches an entire city block, has more than 10 floors of merchandise and houses 10 dining options right inside. Built more than 100 years ago, it has dug its roots deep as Manhattan’s iconic shopping destination.

Behind the designer labels and well-known holiday shows, Macy's has plenty of secrets (involving wedding bells, chickens and Kanye West, to name a few).

Macy's General Manager Patti Lee, who has been with the department store for 33 years, shared all of the store's quirky facts with amNewYork.

The original Macy's opened in 1858 on 14th

Credit: File photo

The flagship store isn’t Manhattan’s first Macy’s

The original Macy's opened in 1858 on 14th Street and Sixth Avenue. Its first day sales totaled $11.06. By the end of its first year in business, it brought in a profit of $85,000, according to Macy's.

When the growing dry goods store -- quickly evolving into today's well-known department store -- outgrew the location, construction on the Herald Square store began. At the time, it was the largest excavation in New York City history, Lee said. The location opened its doors in 1902 and its 7th Avenue expansion was completed in 1924. Known still to this day as America's largest department store, there's no question as to why Macy's considers its second location to be its flagship store.

Pictured: Macy's Herald Square without the Seventh Avenue addition, circa 1910.

The red star first appeared next to the

Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

There's a story behind the star

The red star first appeared next to the Macy's logo in 1861, a few years after the 14th Street location opened. It was added as a part of an advertisement campaign. Just as the store's name is a nod to its founder R.H. Macy, the star is as well, Lee said.

The star is a replica of a tattoo Roland Hussey Macy had on his forearm when he was a Nantucket sailor in his teenage years, Lee said. Macy got the tattoo as a reminder of a star that helped him navigate the waters, she added.

For months Nine West was front and center

Credit: Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Why your favorite brand just so happens to be by the entrance

For months Nine West was front and center when you entered the shoe section of Macy's. Then all of the sudden, you see Steve Madden there instead. Why?

Where brands are placed within Macy's depends on changing factors, according to Lee. The brands are moved around based on customer shopping patterns and what is popular at the time.

"The one thing that remains the same in the department store is that it's constantly changing," Lee said.

The busiest sections of Macy's Herald Square are

Credit: Getty Images / Stan Honda

And the most popular floor is…

The busiest sections of Macy's Herald Square are the handbag, jewelry, cosmetics, fragrances and men's -- and they all happen to be on the main floor. Does their popularity have to do with the location of designer items, or are drop-in tourists a big reason? It's a mix of both. Macy's sees 23 million visitors annually and most of them pack the main floor without straying to higher levels, Lee said.

"The busiest day of the year is always right after the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, on Black Friday," she added.

Don't add Macy's to your list of potential

Credit: Newsday / Daniel Goodrich

There have been two in-store weddings in Macy’s history

Don't add Macy's to your list of potential wedding venues just yet -- tying the knot in the department store is very rare. Only two couples have been allowed to do so.

Macy's held a contest in 2000 to celebrate the new millennium, allowing one lucky couple to marry after the annual Flower Show. A 27-year-old graphic designer, Tracy Crinion, and a 28-year-old Wall Street lawyer, Greg Nahas, won the "Wedding of the Millennium" contest with a 100-word essay documenting their relationship, according to an article that appeared in Newsday on Jan. 2, 2000.

On Jan. 1, 2000, their ceremony was held in the flagship store's window (pictured). Bridesmaids came down the main escalator and the bride and groom said "I do" in the store's window, Lee said. As a gift to the couple, Macy's provided the gowns, tuxedos, hair styling services, a champagne reception and a honeymoon in Aruba, all free. It was a "once-in-a-lifetime" contest, she added.

An NYPD officer who met his wife-to-be at the Flower Show was contacted by Macy's to be the second, and last, couple to wed in the store in 2011, Lee said. It "was such a beautiful love story. We heard about it and wanted to make that magical experience happen on our main floor," she said.

"We don't put on weddings every day, but those two were very memorable for us," she added.

The 11-level building, with 2 million square feet

Credit: Meghan Giannotta

It’s the nation’s largest department store

The 11-level building, with 2 million square feet of retail space, covers one full city block. It's not only the largest Macy's in the nation, but the biggest department store in general, Lee said. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a national historic landmark in 1978.

Back in 1902, Macy's became the nation's first

Credit: Meghan Giannotta

The original wooden escalators still work

Back in 1902, Macy's became the nation's first building to have modern escalators installed. At the time, modern meant made of wood. Forty-three original, fully functioning wooden escalators remain in the store today and can be found on the Broadway side of the building, Lee said.

Insider tip: You can find the best view of the escalators while riding from the sixth floor in textiles, to the seventh floor in children's, she added.

At Macy's, personal shopping is a lifestyle, not

Credit: Getty Images / Jemal Countess

You don't have to be a celeb to shop like one

At Macy's, personal shopping is a lifestyle, not an elite privilege.

My Stylist @ Macy's is open to all customers -- and it's completely free. Shoppers are partnered with a stylist to help them "put outfits together and become more efficient with their own shopping," Lee said. "Some customers don't even come in the store at all, they just call in" and work with a stylist over the phone, she added. The service is available by appointment only.

The store also offers personal shopping aid to celebrity clients, but Macy's doesn't reveal who takes advantage of the service. "That we never tell. We will always keep our client lists secret," Lee said.

If you took the wooden escalator to the

Credit: Getty Images

Macy’s once sold airplanes on the ninth floor

If you took the wooden escalator to the ninth floor of Macy's Herald Square in the early 1900s, you weren't looking for a new handbag. Once known as the exhibition floor, Macy's used to sell model homes and airplanes, camping equipment and even chickens. It was converted to the furniture floor "very early on," Lee said.

Today, you'll find furniture, luggage, mattresses and other home goods on the ninth floor.

Department store windows in Manhattan are known to

Credit: Getty Images / Stan Honda

The window displays are sometimes very, very real

Department store windows in Manhattan are known to light up during the winter months, but the Macy's window once turned heads for an unusual reason.

Comedian Mike Birbiglia, who starred in "The Fault in Our Stars," lived inside a Macy's Herald Square window for one week, starting on Jan. 26, 2011. The window's usual mannequins were swapped out for a mattress during a publicity stunt to put Downy April Fresh's "Clean Sheet Week" guarantee to the test, according to a P&G news release. Birbiglia live-streamed his experience and interacted with intrigued pedestrians from the other side of the glass.

Isidor and Ida Straus, the former co-owners of

Credit: Meghan Giannotta

The ‘Titanic’ memorial is tied to the former co-owners

Isidor and Ida Straus, the former co-owners of Macy's, died in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Today, a plaque in their honor hangs inside the memorial entrance on the main floor. According to Lee, Macy's employees pooled their money after the couple died to have the "My Heart Will Go On" plaque made and displayed in the store. Enter on 34th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue to find it.

Santa first made a public appearance at a

Credit: Getty Images / Daniel Boczarski

Better be good: Macy’s has direct connections to Santa

Santa first made a public appearance at a Macy's store in 1862. His annual visit is still one of the store's most popular attractions.

Macy's remains the only department store with direct connections to Santa, through its annual Believe Campaign, which sends holiday wish lists to the North Pole, Lee said. For every letter mailed to Santa, Macy's donates $1.

Each holiday season, the 1947 film

Credit: 20th Century Fox Productions

It's the filming location for one of NYC's iconic movies

Each holiday season, the 1947 film "Miracle on 34th Street" brings locals and tourists back to Macy's Herald Square to experience the magic firsthand. The opening of the movie was shot at the store and featured one of the iconic Santas and decorations, according to Macy's.

In the years since the filming of the classic, Macy's has become more than a popular shopping and filming spot. It has hosted countless celebrity events, like Heidi Klum's lingerie ice cream truck party, and even concerts, like Z100's Jingle Ball. Kanye West even filmed part of his music video "Heard 'Em Say" at the store in 2009.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.