A History of Innovation

Since 1848, Products As Unique As Their Name
Perhaps no other retailer has a history as unique as Hammacher Schlemmer or holds such a special place in the hearts and minds of consumers. One of the first national hardware stores and one of America's very first catalog merchandisers, Hammacher Schlemmer has consistently surprised, intrigued and ultimately satisfied a worldwide audience with products that can only be described as "the Best, the Only, and the Unexpected." Since 1848, it has served as more than just a retailer of fine and innovative products - it has served as a window to the future: the pop-up toaster, the portable radio, the electric razor, the microwave oven, even the first flat U.S. panel television - all were first introduced by Hammacher Schlemmer, long before the average consumer conceived of these eventual daily necessities.

In fact, if there is a corporate philosophy at Hammacher Schlemmer, it is to give consumers an innovative way to solve everyday problems with unique, top quality products. And for more than 150 years the institution has practiced this philosophy. Products that were initially intriguing are now found in almost every home in America.

Purveyors of the Unique
In the beginning, the store that would become Hammacher Schlemmer sold hardware to a young nation full of ambitions and dreams. As America built bridges, roads and dams, it relied on the tools and supplies that only Hammacher Schlemmer, then located in the Bowery in New York City, could provide. Whether it was for a Manhattan commercial building or a homesteader on the frontier, Hammacher Schlemmer was for most, the only source for the right tool, the right nail, or the right wire. In short time, it earned a deserved reputation for the place to go for "hard to find" items. It is a reputation that persists to this day. Whether it is a two-person submarine, a flat panel television or a sound-sending bird feeder, Hammacher Schlemmer has introduced products that solve every day problems for just about everyone.

Offering more than 400 items at its three store locations in New York, Chicago and Beverly Hills, California, and through its famous monthly catalog, Hammacher Schlemmer prides itself in offering items which are the "only ones that do what they do." It is this merchandising concept that gives the store its reputation as "purveyor of the unusual, provider of the unique," quotes The Wall Street Journal. The New York Times called it "a paradise for gadget hunters." To The Los Angeles Times it's "a store as unique as its name." This tradition of unique merchandise coupled with world class service has attracted - and thrilled - presidents and princesses, as well as millions of satisfied customers the world over.

From the Bowery to the Boulevards
Like all American success stories, the dream started small. Hammacher Schlemmer opened its doors in 1848 when William Tollner, a German immigrant, opened an unpretentious hardware store in lower Manhattan, better known as the Bowery. No unique or exotic items filled its shelves initially, just high quality tools and equipment. The store prospered and when Tollner's twelve-year-old nephew, William Schlemmer, arrived from Germany, he was immediately given a job selling tools in front of the store.

Soon Alfred Hammacher, an acquaintance of the family, joined the enterprise, investing $5,000 in a business in which he saw potential. Gradually, Hammacher and Schlemmer bought out the elder Tollner, setting the stage for growth. By 1883, the store became officially known as Hammacher Schlemmer & Company.

By the early 1900s, Hammacher Schlemmer had established the largest inventory of tools and hardware in the East. Its flair for the progressive also surfaced in a unique way - it began selling automotive parts and tools before there were any service stations, despite the fact that there were only 600 "horseless carriages" in all of New York.

Hammacher Schlemmer's penchant for innovative retailing took hold before the turn of the century, however. It was one of the first businesses in America to install electric lighting. And, in 1878, the store was listed among the initial 271 subscribers in the first New York City telephone directory. In 1881, the company became a catalog merchandiser. Today, the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog is the longest continuously published in America.

As customer needs evolved from building supplies like swags, saw bummers, plumbbobs, mortise gauges and pin punches, Hammacher Schlemmer began adding household devices and luxury items to fulfill America's growing desire for the finer things. William Schlemmer's son, William F., took over full ownership of the company upon his father's death in 1916 and continued to lead this change away from hardware to luxury household and bath items, delegating building supplies to the basement floor. He also added a distinctive feel and look of elegance to the store: every customer was greeted by a doorman donned in tailcoat and was attended to by a staff dressed in dark suits and starched collars.

Thanks, in part, to these changes, Hammacher Schlemmer entered into a new dimension of the consumer consciousness, attracting worldwide fame and praise for its rare products and quality service and consequently attracting a steady stream of the rich and famous.

The company's popularity was underscored by a hit Broadway song, "Hammacher Schlemmer, I Love You," that captured the growing love affair America had with its favorite retail store. Ownership of the company finally left the Schlemmer family in 1953, passing onto a series of corporate owners. Today, the company is privately held. In 1984, the company opened its first store outside of New York, on Chicago's famed North Michigan Avenue. Two years later, its third store opened on North Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. Both of these locations offer customers the opportunity to see the latest additions to the Hammacher Schlemmer line.

Showing America the Possibilities
Since 1848, Hammacher Schlemmer has been synonymous with innovation and quality. It was in the pages of the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog that America glimpsed revolutionary items such as the steam iron, the telephone answering machine, the battery-operated toothbrush, the microwave oven and the pop-up toaster. It sold the first electric can opener, the first electric pencil sharpener, the first blender, the first food processor and the first automatic coffee maker, changing the way people went about their everyday household tasks.

Service Second to None
Hammacher Schlemmer has helped change the way we live, adding convenience in ways once thought unimaginable. Throughout its long history it has remained committed to finding and offering the world's most innovative products. To this end, The Hammacher Schlemmer Institute was created in 1983. This associated, but independent, organization tests and rates hundreds of competing products, looking for the select few that will earn the ultimate Hammacher Schlemmer endorsement - The Best. This designation means that in side-by-side comparison testing of many similar products, the product demonstrates superior performance.

Other service policies that set this unparalleled retailer apart? A full unconditional guarantee which means just that. Customers can return any product at any time, no questions asked, for a full refund or credit. And, everything - including batteries, adapters and special plugs - is included for customers' convenience.

A tradition of service, commitment to the unique, a flair for the creative, and an almost magical, mythical mystique - all define and describe the Hammacher Schlemmer experience. For more than 150 years it has entertained delighted, and served, always keeping a consistent focus on its products, always looking for the next unique item to make a difference to our customers. It is a commitment the company was built upon and commitment that exists to this day.

For more information call 1-800-543-3366 or via email at pr@hammacher.com.

About Hammacher Schlemmer
Hammacher Schlemmer is America's longest running catalog, offering the Best, the Only, and the Unexpected since 1848. The company provides unique products that solve problems or represent the only one of their kind, and backs its products by a rather famous Lifetime Guarantee of Complete Satisfaction. Hammacher Schlemmer's innovative offerings are available through its catalog, online at www.hammacher.com at its landmark store on East 57th Street in New York City.