About Geraldine Stutz

Geraldine Stutz was the long serving president of Henri Bendel, a specialty store located at 10 West 57th Street in Manhattan. From 1957 to 1986, Stutz led a dramatic turnaround of the specialty store, transforming Henri Bendel from a declining carriage trade store into a chic specialty shop patronized by the city’s most fashion conscious women. She pioneered innovating merchandising concepts, notably the ‘Street of Shops’, which launched the concept of the boutique within the department store, and also introduced and developed many designers including Stephen Burrows, Mary McFadden, Sonia Rykiel and Zoran. Perhaps most remarkably, her presidency came at a time when women were largely absent from upper levels of management in fashion retailing, and she holds the distinction of becoming the first woman to own a major New York fashion retail store when she purchased the store in 1980.

Beyond professional endeavors Stutz also filled her life with philanthropy and civic engagement. From 1976-1982 she served as a representative for the  National Endowment of the Arts. Other positions included Chairman of the Visiting Committee at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and member of the President’s Council with the Museum of the City of New York. In support of theatre, she served on the Board of Carnegie Hall, of the Phoenix Theatre and the City Center for Music and Drama. Today, the Geraldine Stutz Trust continues to provide funding and grants that support initiatives related to Stutz’s three passions of theatre, fashion and gardening.

Upon her death in 2005, the New York Observer wrote the following excerpt about the store:

“There was a time in New York City, in the 1960s and 1970s, when the name Henri Bendel immediately evoked an image of intimate glamour. It was the place where women bought clothes from the latest European designers in an atmosphere of coddled elegance. The store at 10 West 57th Street was the manifestation of the impeccable taste and business instincts of one women, Geraldine Stutz…Bendel’s was arguably the greatest store in the world.”[1]

Stutz developed a reputation as an innovative merchandiser and was widely acknowledged by her contemporaries as one of the city’s most important tastemakers. Despite this, there has been little scholarship accounting for her leadership in New York fashion and retailing.

[1] New York Observer, April 5th, 2005.


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