corporate story HEMA
how did it all start?
Back in the 1920s, two Jewish entrepreneurs, Arthur Isaac and Leo Meyer, were witness to the most severe economic crisis of the century. Observing countless people who were hurting financially and struggling to make ends meet, they wondered if there might be some way to improve the lives of these people and their families. That’s how their dream started: they decided to open a store geared specifically to people of limited means, one that sold everyday household items that were both affordable and of a high quality. Alfred Goudsmit, the director of the Amsterdam-based Bijenkorf department store, responded positively to their idea, and soon the dream of the three businessmen had a name: Hollandsche Eenheidsprijzen Maatschappij Amsterdam [the ‘Dutch Unit Price Company of Amsterdam’]. Known by the acronym HEMA, the company became a subsidiary of De Bijenkorf. On 4 November 1926, the first HEMA store opened its doors on Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat, the city’s premier shopping street.
what are our origins?
It all began in 1926, when we opened our first store on Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat. Shoppers in the capital were surprised to discover a wide range of items – including anything from fragrances and chocolate to men’s and women’s clothing and household items – for as little as 25 or 50 cents apiece. HEMA guaranteed its customers affordable quality, which turned out to be just the ticket during the lean 1930s. And it wasn’t just the poor who flocked to the store – the middle and upper classes were delighted to discover it as well. Of course, they sent their servants in their place, since back in those days a lady or gentleman wouldn’t be caught dead in such a ‘common’ store. During the German occupation of the Netherlands, we were compelled, like all businesses, to fire our Jewish employees, and many of them did not survive the war. Each year on 4 May, when the Dutch commemorate...