A powerful story of family, as told by our Chief Legal Officer, Elisa Garcia.
On September 7, 2016, Macy’s, Inc. welcomed our new Chief Legal Officer, Elisa Garcia. A New York City native, Elisa has had an impressive career known for her strong leadership and passion for mentoring. In addition to leading 50 attorneys and 40 paralegals and support staff, Elisa serves as executive sponsor of the La Voz employee resource group.
On November 14, 2018, Macy’s hosted a grand reopening after renovations to our Downtown Brooklyn store. The store has been an integral part of its community since 1865, when it was known as A&S. The “S” in A&S refers to the Straus brothers, Isidor and Nathan, and former owners of R.H. Macy.
You might be wondering how these two seemingly separate events are connected. The answer is a beautiful story, told to us by Elisa Garcia herself.
My Dad, who passed away in February of 1978, worked as a stationary engineer at A&S in Brooklyn, now Macy’s Downtown Brooklyn. He was responsible for the HVAC system and for keeping things working at the store. My Dad worked there the entire time I knew him and I visited him at work several times when I was young, as we lived nearby. The last time I was at his workplace in the basement of A&S was when I cleaned out his locker after he passed away. He died of a heart attack while moving his car to the parking garage next to the store because a blizzard was in progress and his relief shift could not get there. I never had the opportunity to say goodbye.
Fast forward 40+ years and I am the Chief Legal Officer of Macy’s. It is a dream job in so many ways, but more so because I am at the very company my Dad worked for. A&S was part of Federated Department Stores, which changed its name to Macy’s. I have felt honored to be a part of the company he worked for and a bit sad that he was not able to see how far I have come. I am the first in my extended family to go to college, graduate school and law school.
When I joined Macy’s two years ago, I learned of the renovation of the Brooklyn store. I was excited to see it, as it was an important part of my life. I got my first haircut there in a fire engine chair, I ate frozen custard at the coffee shop under the escalator and I met Santa there. I waited, however, until November 9, 2018, for the celebration of our grand reopening of the renovated Brooklyn store. It was the day after my birthday and I was quite excited to see the new store, but I also planned to visit the basement where my Dad worked. I took a quick tour of the basement work areas and much looked familiar. The boiler room was the same, and the old lockers were still there. It was nostalgic and I was pleased that I could spend some time there.
I returned to the main floor for the grand opening festivities when I was introduced to Brenton Brooks, the Chief Engineer of the building. The very job my Dad had. He invited me to return with him to the basement as he had a found a couple of old photographs that he wanted to share with me. When we returned to the basement, it felt even more familiar. He pulled an old bulletin board off the back of a desk and told me he had found it when they were renovating.
The bulletin board had two old photos. The first was a group of men in suits, and I commented that my Dad was blue collar. He showed me a second photograph of a large group of men, posing at what looked like a retirement celebration. I looked carefully at each face, my finger guiding my eyes. I got to the middle of the photo, to the top row, and my heart stopped. I used some expletive and Brenton said, “No, don’t tell me…,” and I responded that it was my Dad. We hugged and both got teary and I felt an incredible joy. It filled me from the inside out, and I haven’t stopped smiling since.
My Dad must have worked really hard to orchestrate that moment. I do not believe that my finding the picture of my Dad was coincidence. It was a message. I believe that my Dad was telling me how proud he is of what I have accomplished. I will carry that message with me always.
Brenton Brooks, the chief engineer at Macy’s Downtown Brooklyn store, has been with the company for 19 years. He makes sure the environment is safe and comfortable so that we can provide the best store experience to our Macy’s customers. He also takes care to keep old artifacts he finds from the historical store, which includes a network of tunnels beneath where a New York City Subway station used to live.