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Hamptons Life

Aug 27, 2018 6:10 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Former Gimbel Estate Sells In Water Mill For $5.4 Million

391 and 396 Cobb Road, Water Mill. COURTESY DOUGLAS ELLIMAN
Aug 28, 2018 9:44 AM

If only the buyer turns out to be named Macy! In any case, we’ll soon learn who has just gone into contract to purchased a compound at 391 and 396 Cobb Road in Water Mill that once belonged to the Gimbel family of department store fame—back in the day, when department stores made good money. We’re told the agreed-upon price is $5.4 million, with the deal done by Douglas Elliman.

The Colonial main house, built in 1890, is nestled on 1.5 acres within the estate section of Water Mill, only a short distance to Flying Point beach. The main house invites guests in onto a grand wrap-around porch, a formal living room and a library (both with fireplaces), an elegant dining room with French doors that open to the gardens, kitchen with wet bar, pantry and breakfast nook, and a playroom with full bath and separate entrance. A large master bedroom with sitting area and fireplace is on the second floor, and the additional four bedrooms and 4.5 baths spread out on the second and third floors. The beautiful park-like grounds have plenty of patios and terraces and contain a guitar-shaped pool in case the new owner wants to invite Eric Clapton over. There is an artist studio with fireplace and a separate bathroom above the two-car garage. So close to the ocean beaches and Southampton Village, it’s a rare opportunity and first time on the market in over 30 years.

The home is believed to have been one of the three Gimbel estates in Water Mill purchased by the family in 1910. It has most recently been home to an Italian financier, fashion house owner, and composer. Notable visitors to the home have included Carnegie Hall musicians.

The Gimbel, founded by a young Bavarian Jewish immigrant, Adam Gimbel, began as a general store in Vincennes, Indiana. After a brief stay in Danville, Illinois, Gimbel relocated in 1887 to Milwaukee, which was then a boomtown. The new store quickly became the leading department store in that city. However, with seven sons, Adam Gimbel saw that one store, no matter how successful, would not accommodate his family’s future.

In 1894, Gimbels—then led by the founder’s son, Isaac Gimbel—acquired the Granville Haines store in Philadelphia, and in 1910 the family opened another branch in New York City. With its arrival in New York, Gimbels prospered, and soon became the primary rival to the leading Herald Square retailer, Macy’s, whose flagship store was located a block north. This rivalry entered into the popular argot: “Would Macy’s tell Gimbels?” To distinguish itself from Herald Square neighbors, Gimbels’ advertising promised more: “Select, don’t settle.”

Gimbels became so successful that in 1922 the chain went public, offering shares on the New York Stock Exchange—though the family retained a controlling interest. The stock sales provided capital for expansion, starting with the 1923 purchase of across-the-street rival Saks & Co., which operated under the name Saks Thirty-Fourth Street; with ownership of Saks, Gimbels created an uptown branch called Saks Fifth Avenue. By 1930, Gimbels had seven flagship stores throughout the country and net sales of $123 million with 20 sites, making Gimbel Brothers Inc. the largest department store corporation in the world. However, not for the long run: After several business reversals and takeovers, the Gimbels chain was closed in 1987, a century after its founding.

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