I dragged a friend out on a recent freezing day to check out the end of Loehmanns. Prepared to see only hangers and shelves left, we were surprised to find quite a bit of merchandise and we each managed to secure a few things at great prices.
We reminisced about the Loehmanns of our youths. She loved the “Back Room” that held the higher end, designer labels. I remember going with my mother and sisters; our store in CT was about a 45 -minute drive, for us it was an excursion. We loved the communal dressing room and how complete strangers would offer advice about what was flattering and what wasn’t.
Over the years, we’d bought many outfits for school, work, and special occasions. All my mother’s “mother of the brides” dresses came from there, as did one of my sister’s wedding dress. A family friend had found the dress in her suburban Philadelphia store and called my mother, described it, and had it shipped to the store near us. A few alterations and it was perfect!
A few days later, my daughter-in- law’s sister and I chatted about Loehmanns and its demise. For her family, the store was the destination for Shabbos clothes. We were helping take care of the 4 & 2-year-old grands while their parents stayed in the hospital with the new baby boy.
The 90-year-old store, an icon in Brooklyn, announced the closing of its 93 stores in 11 states early this month after years of financial troubles.
And while Loehmanns memories abound, most concede that what we’re nostalgic for is the Old Loehmanns, the store that truly had great amazing fashions found nowhere else. The New Loehmanns, what emerged after its takeover in 1983, didn’t offer the unique experience, the one-of-a-kind bargains. It looked like too many other stores and many of us stopped shopping there.
I think about other retail stores that have closed, forcing me to readjust my sights and find new outlets. In my former NJ town, there was a 5 & 10 Cent Store; you could find everything. Felt for last minute school projects, shoelaces, a pot, anything you needed. My favorite yarn store closed; the owner could design a pattern from a magazine photograph. And along with the loss of Loehmanns, my favorite local boutique where I’ve bought everything from jeans to black tie outfits is moving to South Jersey, about an hour away. The store was across the street from my dentist and provided the perfect post-dental retail therapy. The owner optimistically hopes her clientele will make the trip.
The loss of retail impacts the local community, and it’s sad to see the half-empty stores, selling at a loss. I admit to taking advantage of plenty of “closing” sales, seeing shoppers, like vultures on road kill, plow through racks and piles as if it were their last meal. I try to shop local retail as much as I can, but realize my purchasing alone can’t save a store from shutting its doors.
What about you? Favorite Loehmanns story? Retail or Internet shopper?
And speaking of Loehmanns, my friend Miriam wrote a great post about what we “take away” from beyond the last sale sweater. Check it out: http://bubbyjoysandoys.com/2013/12/30/5-loehmanns-takeaways-about-life/