When Beatrice Fox Auerbach became president of Hartford’s G. Fox & Company in 1938, in an era where there were scarcely any female retail executives in the United States, neither she nor any of the popular department store’s board members expected her to remain in the position for very long. But instead of stepping aside, Auerbach remained the head of the company for the next 27 years, steering it into a golden age of expansion that led it to become the largest privately held department store in the United States.
Auerbach proved to be a brilliant executive who oversaw the greatest expansion in the company’s history while simultaneously implementing a system of generous benefits for G. Fox’s 3,000 employees, which included five-day, 40-hour work weeks, structured retirement plans, and even “safety net” programs, like interest-free loans, to employees in need. She pioneered several innovative ideas designed to make shopping at G. Fox a pleasant and customer-centered experience, from the inclusion of beauty salons, lounges, personal shopping assistants, and even foreign-language interpreters at the company’s brick-and-mortar stores to the creation of the nation’s first toll-free telephone order department for men and women who preferred the convenience of ordering from home.
Auerbach stayed at the helm of G. Fox & Company until 1965, and upon her death three years later at the age of 81, one-third of her estate was left to the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation, which continues to fund philanthropic efforts across the greater Hartford community. The business maven who defied expectations by creating a more compassionate corporate culture while realizing record retail profits left a memorable legacy for Hartford and beyond, beginning on this day in Connecticut history.