As the holiday shopping season begins in earnest this week, we remember a major player in local retail and fashion for more than 140 years: Godchaux's. The chain of high-end clothing stores was best known for its flagship location on Canal Street. Founder Leon Godchaux was a Jewish immigrant who came to New Orleans in 1837 at the age of 13. He peddled needles, thread and dry goods for several years before opening his own store, the Leon Godchaux Clothing Company Ltd., in 1840. Early in its history, the store was located on Canal near Chartres Street (now the site of the Marriott Hotel) before moving to the 800 block of Canal in 1926. By the 1980s, the family-owned chain had grown to seven local stores including shops at Lakeside Shopping Center, The Esplanade and Oakwood Center. The Godchaux's chain filed for bankruptcy in 1986 and the stores were closed. The Godchaux name is still well-known in the River Parishes, where Leon Godchaux owned several plantations (including what now is the town of Reserve) and established a sugar refinery that at one point was the largest in the U.S.