This article examines Western department stores active in Istanbul between 1889 and 1921. It explores two aspects crucial for the department stores’ retail system: location and personnel. It goes on to demonstrate that Western department stores were situated not only in the Western districts of the city but also in traditional areas, such as the bazaar district. Rather than being exclusive they appear to have been closely connected with local business and aimed to appeal to the ethnically highly mixed customer pool. Equally, the workforce was heterogeneous, with the majority of local employees having diverse ethnic backgrounds, including Greek, Jewish, and Armenian, though rarely Muslim. Based on a large-scale sample drawn from the address registers of the Annuaire Oriental yearbook, the analysis of personal letters, and on Ottoman daily newspaper and journals, this study sheds light on the individuals who worked at a number of department stores, their ethnic composition, sex ratio, duration of employment, the job types they carried out, as well as their income situation, career paths, and domiciles. It hopes to contribute to the labour history of the late Ottoman Empire by exploring, for the first time, the employees of Western department stores, workers who have rarely attracted the attention of scholars so far.