A biography on Norm Ebenstein and his many accomplishments, would not be complete without another biographical blurb about his life and career. Norman Ebenstein was born in 1906 in North Dakota and spent much of his early years in college and law school working on a federal research project. During this time he also began to experience a career as a salesman and drafter. It was while working for the Army Corp of Engineers that Ebenstein earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Michigan, in the Electrical Engineering department.
From his studies in Electrical Engineering, Ebenstein began to gain a wide knowledge of many different subjects including mathematics, art, and architecture. It was while studying in Duke University that he began to focus his attention on one particular area that would later serve as the basis for much of his career and that is retail building design and retail space planning. It was during this time that he also began to dabble in interior design, something that would help him gain even more knowledge about interior design and retail design. It was also during this time that Ebenstein began to develop the legendary “Ebenstein Chair” which he was so proud of and used to give out to potential customers when he was considering designing any type of retail space. He used this chair to test the usability of lighting fixtures and electrical wiring.
Norman Ebenstein was also very interested in studying the world of the architectural and he set about to learn all he could about retail center construction. After developing a retail center in Cleveland, Ohio that he designed completely by himself, Ebenstein decided it would be the perfect place to open an architecturally significant store. He named his building “The Larder” after a favorite German beer and marketed it for a very long time. Eventually The Larder went out of business but not before Ebenstein and his friends had gained a great deal of experience and knowledge about retail center construction.
After opening his first location in Cleveland, Ebenstein knew right away that he had to find a way to have his name on the “timeless” side of retailing. His next move was to contact the Chicago architecture firm of Skidmore, Earls, & Poole. These experienced professionals knew right away that Ebenstein’s retail space needed to be planned to “make history”. They helped Ebenstein design and construct the first Sears flagship store that still stands to this day. This is another story in itself.
In addition to these stores, Ebenstein continued to grow his reputation as one of the country’s best and most prolific designers of retail space. He designed retail spaces for such iconic names as Best Buy, Circuit City, and Xerox. All of these companies grew in popularity, which allowed Ebenstein to expand his reputation as one of the most innovative, creative, and successful retail designers in the country.
Norman Ebenstein is one of the most legendary figures in retail history. A former employee of the legendary Ralph Lauren, Ebenstein designed the now famous blue and white Polo brand. He also designed tie-dyed shirts for Polo’s rival, Ralph Lauren, which remain one of the most popular polo shirts in the world.
Ebenstein’s work can be seen all around the world. A visit to London will reveal many of his retail designs. The design concepts he created for the Ritz Carlton and W Hotels are widely used around the world. As well, his tie-dye tees are a big hit with college kids throughout the world. His designs for Reebok are worn by professional athletes around the world as well.
Although Norman Ebenstein is best known for his work with clothing retail companies, his life was truly a colorful one. He was a talented illustrator, writer, painter, and designer. And all of this was before he ever considered himself a “retailer”. Now, his work is readily available all over the world.