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Memories of Alice Hoffer’s dress shop in York

Around the middle of last year, reader Becky Carr asked if anyone remembered Alice Hoffer’s dress shop in downtown York.

Well, wow. The answer was a resounding YES! Today, I have many, many memories of Alice Hoffer’s, also known as The Fabric Shop, to share. What I do not have are any photos of this establishment, so if you have any, please do share… and read on for more memories!

From Sue Haberstroh, I heard, “Alice Hoffer’s was an exclusive dress shop who sold Capezio shoes. Every teen wanted them. I had a red pair. They closed with a button on one style. Store was on the 300 block of East Market street across from the YWCA.”

Susan Runkle shared that memory. She wrote, “I remember those Capezio shoes. I had that style with the buttons on the side. Their soles were so thin. Oh, what memories…”

And Suzette Smith Maisch recalled a more formal name for the store. She said “Alice Hoffer’s store was ‘The Fabric Shop,’ an upscale clothing boutique. Alice dressed me from the time I was a little girl. The store was located at 315 East Market Street. Alice was the sweetest woman who made everyone feel so special. She knew I was looking for my first apartment and she rented me an apartment above the store. I still own outfits I bought at The Fabric Shop.”

Ruby Nelson of York wrote, “I was born in York 90 years ago. There was a dress shop called Alice Hoffer’s across the street from the YWCA. A friend of mine’s aunt used to work for the family as a housekeeper.”

From our first male correspondent about this shop, Larry Reiber, I heard a lot about the neighborhood. He wrote, “Here is some additional information about Alice Hoffer’s. It was located directly across the street from the current YWCA, at 319 E. Market Street. Basically it was listed as a ‘wearing apparel’ business. An upscale shop at the time for ‘high fashion’ women’s clothing. One of two in York at that time. The other was ‘Alberta Lee’s,’ located in the first block of North Beaver Street, next to the now White Rose Bar and Grill. At that time, there was a business that separated (sat between) these two businesses, and you recently did an article on… Ernie McCall’s Deli… his original location. One more point of interest. The current YWCA location was originally the ‘Holy Child Nursery School,’ which at that time had moved to 1141 East Market Street. Whereas the YWCA was then built.” Larry also added “The Fabric Shop” name at the 319 E. Market location.

Janet Overmiller of Dallastown also remember that other shop mentioned by Larry; she writes, “I don’t recall Alice Hoffer’s Dress Shop, but I do remember Alberta Lee’s Dress Shop. It was at 38 N. Beaver St. I bought my wedding dress from her. I still have the receipt. It was in July of 1953.”

Back to Alice Hoffer’s, another reader, Karen Simon, recalled, “This was a very high end clothing shop designated for more mature women who liked unique, classic designs – outside of the cookie cutter offerings of the local malls. If you wanted a beautiful piece of clothing for a special occasion, this shop didn’t disappoint. I remember treating myself to visits a couple of times a year. I would go with friends each time and we were offered a very comfortable, elegant place to sit. Alice or an associate served beverages or champagne, and we were shown the beautiful clothing throughout the shop. It was an experience to say the least, certainly one that was dedicated to perfect customer service.”

Judy Hoke wrote, “There was a dress shop called Alice Hoffer’s on E. Market St. across from the YWCA. It was an upscale dress shop that also sold Capezio shoes. These shoes were very popular in 1959, ’60, ’61, ’62. They were leather ballerina type shoes that had one strap across the top of the shoe and 2 small buttons on the side. For a long time that was the only store in York where they could be purchased. After some time, they were then sold at Bear’s Department Store in the shoe department. They cost $10, which at that time, was a lot of money for a pair of shoes.”

Another reader, Ann Kordenbrock, recalled Alice Hoffer’s store as The Fabric Shop as well. “Very fashionable clothing,” An wrote. “She bought directly from New York and carried both cruise wear and formal wear… Downstairs they had a teen-ager shop. My girls all had their prom dresses from that shop.”

And Mary Alice Heilig writes, “Alice Hoffer’s was quite the dress shop. I remember it being on East Market Street across from the YWCA. Not only did my mother take me shopping there, but whenever my parents were out-of-town, my Aunt Marian would pick me up from school and take me to Alice Hoffer’s for a new dress. We then joined my cousin, Jack, for dinner. Fantastic memories!”

I loved receiving a note about this topic from Melissa Markel, activities director at Autumn House East. Melissa wrote, “We here at Autumn House enjoy reading about the way York used to be! Several of my residents shopped at Alice’s dress shop! It was located in the 300 block of East Market street… across from the YWCA.”

From Barbara Ann (Leach) de Leon of Seven Valleys, I heard, “The store Alice Hoffer’s was known as The Fabric Shoppe. I was a student from the first graduating class at York Country Day School back in 1957. The class had 13 girls and no boys and we all shopped at Alice Hoffer’s. The store had the best selection of collegiate clothes plus the most exquisite gowns and party dresses for the June Ball at the York Country Club. All the girls in the class plus myself were getting ready to go off to college the following September and the best selection of ‘CAPEZIOS’ shoes, wool sweaters and skirts was at Alice Hoffer’s store. In those days casual dressing was not jeans, T-shirts and sneakers. The store which is on East Market St. is now occupied by Renaissance Bridal.”

Reader Judy Snyder of Springettsbury Township recalled Alice Hoffer’s as “One of the best dress shops in York during its time. A bit pricey, but wonderful clothing and the nicest sales women. I bought my first pair of Capezio shoes from this store in the late ’50s, and some of my most lovely clothing there. And may I add, Alice Hoffer was a nice, warm person, who was a true gem in clothing retail.”

Carol Woodbury added that Alice Hoffer’s The Fabric Shop “began in a small space, in the ’40s I think, at 158 or 160 East Market Street. Later she moved up Market St. to where the bridal shop is now. It was always interesting because the adult, more sophisticated dresses were up a half flight of stairs and the younger girls’ clothes were down several stairs on the lower lever. We used to walk there after York High to look at the newest Capezio shoes in the little alcove downstairs. My best friend’s mother worked there.”

And finally, a reader who signed a note N.M., of Spring Garden Township, wrote, “I am 86 years old and have lived in York County my whole life, 20 years of them in York City. The dress shop ‘Alice Hoffer’s,” also known, I believe, as ‘The Fabric Shop,’ was a wonderful upscale women’s shop located on the north side of East Market street somewhere across from the YWCA. If you needed a dress for a special occasion, it was the place to go.”

WOW. It does indeed sound like it was absolutely the place to go in York for women’s dresses! Thank you all for sharing these memories!

1 comment on “Memories of Alice Hoffer’s dress shop in York

  1. I remember the big sale they would always have on December 26th. My eldest sister would go, i think it was a real madhouse! Beautiful, beautiful clothing, 2 levels, i remember the wrought iron railing on the staircase.

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