Michael Lisicky of Baltimore has made a name for himself as one of the nation’s leading authorities on the history of East Coast department stores.
His “passion,” he said, has evolved into six books since 2009, and led to appearances on CBS “Sunday Morning,” interviews in Fortune, and lectures at the New York Public Library, Boston Public Library, Historical Society of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh.
His first book, “Hutzler’s: Where Baltimore Shops,” was the top-selling book on Maryland history for seven months. National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” named his book “Gimbels Has It!” one of “the freshest reads of 2011.”
Lisicky’s latest book, “Woodward & Lothrop: A Store Worthy of the Nation’s Capital,” released last month by History Press, focuses his attention closer to home. Affectionately called “Woodies,” Washington, D.C.’s first department store opened in 1887, at the corner of 11th and F streets.
In 1956, Woodies opened its first Fairfax County store at Seven Corners, in what was then the largest shopping center in the region and one of the largest on the East Coast. For nearly three decades, Woodies’ expanding footprint in Fairfax “mimicked the county’s growth,” Lisicky said.
Woodies’ true success was at Tysons Corner Center, one of the largest malls in the country when it opened in 1968. The Tysons store, which soon overshadowed the Seven Corners store, became a testament to the fact that the Virginia suburbs were spreading farther out.
Fair Oaks Mall opened in 1980. According to Lisicky, developer and eventual company owner Al Taubman convinced Woodward & Lothrop to open a store there, predicting that economic buying power in Fairfax was shifting westward. However, Fair Oaks never produced big results for Woodies. Tysons remained the crown jewel. Seven Corners, once a suburban gem, slipped from second fiddle to third.
In the ’80s, competition from New York-based stores — Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales — became fierce at Tysons Corner. Woodies needed to upgrade, Lisicky said, but construction delays plagued renovations. When Seattle-based Nordstrom opened its shiny store in 1988, Woodies was little more than dust and scaffolding. Sales dropped 70 percent during that time as thousands flocked to Nordstrom.
Woodies never recovered. The Seven Corners store succumbed in 1995, following the loss of Garfinckels in 1990 and the erosion of the solidly middle-class community surrounding the center. By August 1995, the entire Woodward & Lothrop company had closed its doors.
“Woodward & Lothrop: A Store Worthy of the Nation’s Capital” is a collection of interviews with store insiders and includes dozens of rare photographs. Tim Gunn, a judge on Lifetime’s reality show, “Project Runway,” wrote the book’s introduction. A native Washingtonian, Gunn’s first job was with the Hecht Co. store at Tysons Corner.
The book is dedicated to Lisicky’s friend John Findley, a Fairfax County music teacher who attended Robert E. Lee High School in Falls Church.
Lisicky will talk about his book at 6 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library, 901 G St. NW, Washington, D.C.
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has appointed these local residents to state boards and commissions.
Asian Advisory Board: Jason Chung of Oakton, Asian Pacific American communications director for the Republican National Committee.
Board of Health: Bradley Beall of Annandale, attorney with the Department of Defense.
Board of Medicine: Syed Salman Ali of Vienna, hematologist-oncologist with Fauquier Health Physician Services; Deborah DeMoss Fonseca of Springfield, Realtor with Long and Foster; David Giammittorio of Lorton, CEO of The Physician and Midwife Collaborative Practice.
Board of Visitors to Mount Vernon: Glen Bolger of Alexandria, survey researcher for Public Opinion Strategies; Julie Dime of Alexandria, partner at Principle Advantage Ltd.
Common Interest Community Board: Thomas Mazzei of Lorton, CEO of Cardinal Management Group Inc.
The Library Board: David Skiles of Centreville, government relations adviser for the Vectre Corp.
Litter Control and Recycling Fund Advisory Board: Larry “Buddy” Buckner of Lorton, vice president and secretary of Service Distributing Inc.
Milk Commission: Robb Watters of Great Falls, managing partner of The Madison Group.
University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors: Kenneth Lopez of Alexandria, CEO of A2L Consulting; Lisa Taylor of Chantilly, director of contracts for Northrop Grumman Corp.
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy: Michelle du Pont Olson of McLean.
Virginia Geographic Information Network Advisory Board: John Palatiello of Reston, president of John M. Palatiello and Associates Inc.
Virginia Latino Advisory Board: Theresa Alvillar Speake of Alexandria, CEO of Speake Consulting Services.
• Army Cadet Christian Rowcliffe has received an Army ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) scholarship to the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. Scholarships are awarded on a merit system, and Rowcliffe is enrolled as a member of the ROTC Corps of Cadets.
Rowcliffe, son of Charles and Milissa Rowcliffe of Falls Church, graduated in 2012 from Jeb Stuart High School.
Upon graduation from VMI and completion of the ROTC program, Rowcliffe will receive a bachelor’s degree and a commission of second lieutenant in the Army. All scholarship students incur a military service obligation of eight years.
• Army Cadet Shahn Khan is an Army ROTC cadet involved in Cadet Language and Cultural Immersion Training — his first training deployment as a cadet. After a week-long training session at Fort Knox, Ky., he will be deployed to a partner nation where he will be immersed in the local cultures and languages. He will spend three weeks involved in assisting with current Army missions that range from helping build community projects to teaching English to local children.
Khan, a 2010 graduate of South Lakes High School, is a student at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
• Air Force Airmen 1st Class Jesse Kesterson and Alexandra Cowper and Air Force Airmen Ronald Armaza, John Weaver, Ezekial Marshall, Jimmy Nguyen, Benjamin Brouillette, Matthew Henton and Michael Murphy have graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.
Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.
Kesterson earned distinction as an honor graduate. He is the son of Shay Brunderman of Springfield and Bruce Kesterson of Woodbridge. The airman, a 2008 graduate of C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge, received an associate degree in 2012 from Old Dominion University in Norfolk.
Cowper is the daughter of Kelly and Terry Cowper of Herndon.
Armaza, son of Raul Armaza of Herndon, is a 2010 graduate of Oakton High School.
Weaver, son of Maria Weaver of Chantilly and David Weaver of South Riding, is a 2010 graduate of Chantilly High School.
Marshall, son of Zachariah Marshall of Herndon, is a 2012 graduate of Potomac Falls High School in Sterling.
Nguyen, son of Lan Nguyen of Hyattsville, Md., is a 2012 graduate of Falls Church High School.
Brouillette, son of Thomas Brouillette and Christie LaPlume, both of Vienna, is a 2012 graduate of Potomac Falls High School.
Henton, grandson of Lascelles Henton of Windsor, Conn., is a 2011 graduate of Oakton High School.
Murphy is the son of Michael Murphy of Southport, Fla., and grandson of Shelley Murphy of Fairfax Station.
• Army Pvt. Daniel Moon has graduated from basic infantry training at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga.
Moon, son of Sun Kim and Jeong Baik, both of Fairfax, is a 2008 graduate of Fairfax High School.