About The Merhandise Mart
Located in the Near North Side, The Merchandise Mart is an iconic feature of the downtown Chicago area, and is widely known for its role as a leading innovator in culture, art, business, fashion, media and more. Spanning two city blocks, The Mart is a world-renowned center for high design and luxury goods, and welcomes nearly 10 million people through its doors each year.
The Merchandise Mart was conceived and developed by James Simpson, president of Marshall Field & Co., in the 1920’s to create a central marketplace under one roof – a virtual “city within a city”. Designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, The Mart opened on Monday, May 5, 1930, providing a place where retailers could come to buy their wares in one central location. Designer Alfred Shaw created the unique, modern concept of The Merchandise Mart by using an Art Deco Style that echoed the Chicago Board of Trade Building.
The Mart suffered a downturn during the Great Depression, and was converted into government offices during World War II. Purchased by Joseph P. Kennedy in 1945, The Mart returned to its initial use and gradually allowed public access, thereby ushering in a new era of merchandising. During the mid-1940s and 1950s, The Merchandise Mart became the single largest producer of trade shows in the United States, paving the way for Chicago’s booming convention and tourism industry.
Today The Mart is world-renowned as one of Chicago’s premier international business locations – serving as home to 15 major trade and consumer shows, and the corporate offices of many leading firms. In addition, its role as a leading wholesale design center attracts both professional buyers and consumers to its showrooms and events. With its distinctive presence on the banks of the Chicago River, The Merchandise Mart is interwoven into the fabric of Chicago’s history, culture, and economy.