Paris has several prestigious, long-established, and huge department stores, and one of them is (or rather was) La Samaritaine, seen here from the opposite side of the Right Bank of the Seine River, on which it resides.
Like its competitors, Samaritaine was a moderately upscale, enormous, fashionable department store occupying several multistory buildings (two of which are visible here). The selection of merchandise was huge (more comprehensive than that of the competition, and it was much beloved by customers for this reason), and the prices, while hardly discount, were not ruinously high, either. It was a bit closer to a Sears than the competition, and that was one of its strong points (because of the better selection of goods).
In 2002, the LVMH conglomerate (which owns such overpriced, overhyped brands as Louis Vuitton) purchased La Samaritaine and dramatically converted it into a very upscale, very overpriced department store with a restricted selection of fashionable junk featuring prominently in the inventory. The store did not do well. Then, in 2005, it was abruptly announced that the store failed to meet local fire codes, and that it would have to be closed for several years for renovation. It has remained closed ever since.
Anyway, Samaritaine (pronounced /samaʁitɛn/) is named after a water pump that drew water from the river at this location until the nineteenth century and supplied the Louvre and the Tuileries (the pump, in turn, was named after the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan). The department store was founded by Ernest Cognacq, but it is now owned by the aforementioned giant multinational LVMH, which also owns Dom Perignon, Louis Vuitton, Sephora, TAG Heuer, etc. LVMH even owns some of the competition for Samaritaine, including Le Bon Marché on the Left Bank.
Apart from the merchandise, one of the attractions to this department store was the nice restaurant and the open observation deck on the roof of the main building. Thanks to the excellent location of the store, it was possible to get a fabulous view of the center of the city. You could eat while admiring the scenery, too. I have an example of what the view looked like from the roof, if you are interested.
There are many rumors about what might happen to the store before it reopens, including speculation that it will be turned into a hotel or luxury condominium. Supposedly the Paris city council has moved to prevent any such repurposing of the historic structure, but I haven't been able to confirm any of this, so we'll see.
Click directly on the photo to see a larger version (twice this size). Photographed on April 22, 2001.