Friday, January 10, 2014

Naked and Crying

Naked and crying. In a dressing room. More specifically, in the large, weird, open dressing room that is part of what makes Loehmann's unique. The love of my life is ceasing to exist come one day soon.

This is my ode to Loehmann's. So get ready.

Unlike a lot of my friends that I've spoken to about Loehmann's taking it's final bow, I don't have a story about going with my mom or grandma. My grandma Edna was a BIG shopper and probably loved Loehmann's back in her day. But by the time I was born she was in Ft Lauderdale, we were in NJ and we weren't doing a lot of clothes shopping on our short visits. My mom wasn't a shopper at all, for clothing, and could not be talked out of buying her clothes at Kmart or a flea market. Names for less was lost on Rita, because she didn't know the names to begin with. She wasn't interested. She had her dolls, her sporting trading cards and her videos. I had Loehmann's.

I must have found it when I moved back up to Bergen County from Mercer County in 2001. I was poor, single, and dating a lot. I needed new outfits on the cheap for dates and for my summers at D'Jais in Belmar. I wanted trendy designer jeans but for a price I could afford. I needed nice gifts for friends and family that I could be proud to give but that wouldn't bankrupt me. Tri-fold leather Kenneth Cole wallets, funky Steve Madden winter hats and scarves. Eventually, when I found my husband, gifts for him like leather driving gloves and Calvin Klein dress shirts. And Pucci silk scarves for B's secretary (at the time). I would take my old roommate Aimee in there with me when she'd come visit from Pennsylvania to celebrate her weight losses. She let me be her personal shopper and I'd look forward to it immensely.

There was just something special about Loehmann's that I don't find shopping in any other discount store. I know there is TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Century 21, and even Fox's in Ridgewood that my friend Stacy has been strongly suggesting to me for years. But none of them are the same. Loehmann's is it's own, huge, free standing building. It has tons of parking and one of the few places that has parking on two sides where you can get in at either. In Bergen County, that kind of ease of parking and getting in is nothing to sneeze at. You never "hunted" for a spot. You just drove in like a bat out of hell and ran in. I could be home to there and back with the right pair of discount Spanx in under 30 minutes. Maybe with a pair of irresistible Joe's Jeans for under $99 as well.

It was always clean and organized. I always knew exactly where to start looking and where to end. I knew to park on the Passaic St side if I just wanted shoes quickly. I could find BCBG on the other side and dresses in The Back Room. Sometimes, I'd close my eyes for a second as I got to The Back Room just so I could open them back up and survey the scene all at the same time, zeroing in on where I should start my search. To me, there is no comparison. Every other off-price kind of place seems dirty, disorganized, and more into their home goods they also sell vs really being a clothing store. It was like Macy's but BETTER. Macy's doesn't even have the sheer range of designers that Loehmann's had. The other discount places don't have memberships and coupons. Whatever the price is, that's it. In Loehmann's, I always had my extra 10% discount card or some 20% off coupon that came in the mail. In the "old" days, you'd get point coupons correlating with how much you bought. So, like with Gymboree and Gymbucks, you were always buying so you could get more coupons, then use more coupons.

I'd seen Loehmann's on Undercover Boss a few months ago with a new owner. I was thrilled. It seemed like all was well. They even had personal shoppers at their place in California they were showcasing. I'd been worried a few years back when I heard they were in bankruptcy and they started closing stores. Wayne closed and became a pet store. But miraculously they never shuttered Paramus so I didn't take it seriously. And then the news came last week. And I'm just as devastated today as I was the day someone brought it to my attention on FB. Literally. I was in the shower this morning and I just thought out of nowhere, "WHERE AM I GOING TO GET MY JEANS??"

I saw the liquidation was starting yesterday (Thursday) morning. So of course I said to B- "I'm going to be late". He said- "You're going to Loehmann's, right?" Why yes, of course I am. I'd randomly gone in about a week or so ago and saw this Halston Heritage dress I didn't need but just had to try on. The retail price was $645. It was a "sample sale". The Loehmann's price was $200. I am a gold member so I get 10% off no matter what. It was still too steep for a dress I don't even know when I'm going to get to wear. But I went in the dressing room, tried it on, and in a communal dressing room, of course there was a naked woman next to me. She was saying, "Oh my gawd! You're totally buying that, right??". I wistfully told her that I'd love to, but it was out of my budget right now. Maybe I'd come back in a few weeks and it'll still be there on sale. It's navy, thick stretch jersey (my favorite material in the world), with a deep V-neck (my only "signature style" THING), but it's LONG. Like where it almost has a train. Only someone really tall, someone willing to wear stilettos, or someone willing to do a big alteration would be interested in buying it. So I thought I'd had a shot. This is different than the red boots (previous entry about the thrill of the chase) at Marshalls. I've done this with Loehmann's before. I've left things only to be able to buy them at deeper discount in a few weeks. It just has a different...way...than a Marshalls.

I decided that if they had the Halston Heritage dress, and on deeper sale, at the liquidation, I'd get it. They had a decent amount when I'd been there and it was only a week prior. I got there at 9:48a. I couldn't believe I didn't know they open at 9:30. I just assumed they open at 10a like everything else. So I was eighteen minutes late. I ran in and flew right back to the dresses. They had about four left! Two XS, one L and THE LAST MEDIUM. I grabbed it. Then I started grabbing other things to try on because it was getting busy in there and I didn't want to miss a thing. I filled my rolling floor cart, and went to the dressing room for my first round of try-ons. I walked right into that giant dressing room, right into the whitest boobs I'd ever seen. People were in a frenzy and it felt like they were extra naked either for nostalgia or to get clothes on and off as quick as possible.

I was standing next to two ladies who didn't know each other but were giving opinions on each other's finds. Communal means a big room of nude strangers but it also meant COMMUNITY. You would try something on and if you were struggling with getting a zipper up, someone next to you would lend a hand. The one blond, standing two ladies down from me, was saying how she had always wanted a David Meister dress, but couldn't find one meant for a 6ft model of 115 lbs. But she was so excited she found a more A-line shaped one for spring. The lady next to me was older and talked about going as a kid with her mom in the Bronx, and all her special memories. As they were talking, a skinny, pretty blond asked me if I thought the shirt she had on was too big and blousy for her. It was. I told her.

Then, after I picked up a soft orange striped sweater, a knit hat of the same colors, a Pure Karma tye-dyed tank and a purple peace-sign tee, a button down for B and a package of Jelly Belly, I stood on that line, just taking in the whole place. Thinking about all the boob shirts I bought for dates, the jeans I got for my many weight gains and losses, and all the times I came there just to pick through racks for hours and "clear my head". I used to leave work before B when we were in Garfield and it was right on my way home. Sometimes I'd be in there a good hour and a half just walking around. I got ever formal dress for every wedding, 201 Magazine party, shower, WGirls event, there.

I heard a guy in a really loud voice say to one of the employees, "I'm SO UPSET! Everything I'm WEARING from HEAD TO TOE is Loehmann's!! WHAT WILL I DO?!". And the poor saleswoman, just simply said, "I know. How do you think WE feel?". She said it sadly. But I don't feel like she said it sadly just because she was losing her job. It was in way that I understood, she was feeling the impact of losing Loehmann's too. I just wanted that guy to shut the hell up and stop making it worse.

Then it was time for me to walk out those glass doors. As I was walking out I saw a girl out there taking photos of the outside. I almost did it myself but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

I went home and showed Barbara (close family friend), my purchases and she told me when she was a little girl in Brooklyn, she used to go there with her mom and brother and Frieda Loehmann used to sit in the dressing room with all the naked ladies as they were getting changed. She also said it was her brother's favorite place to go. I'm sure a lot of little boys got their first eyefuls of women's bodies in there. I know Ethan did! From strippers with elaborate tramp stamps to enormous breast implants, to ladies from the old country, we've seen it all.  

Here are some news stories on it- one reporter saying that women he's spoken to made it sound more like a wake than a liquidation- TRUE DAT.

Rest in peace Loehmann's. You will be missed greatly. There will never be another like you or who can compare.

Edit: I finally got to wear that Halston Heritage dress this past weekend (Oct 24, 2015) for a wedding! So it was totally worth it.

1 comment:

  1. I have fond memories of you taking me shopping at Loehmann's! I got great stuff for not a lot of money... and I do remember that dressing room! This was also the day that my husband called to tell me he was getting my son's ear pierced... I think I was yelling, in the store, on the phone... because Tanner was only 3 at the time.