Walking home tonight from my subway stop, Friendship Heights, I passed the store. The big modern-60’s style Lord and Taylor’s, it’s name still suspended on the gray molded concrete building in it’s emblematic, quirky-casual black script. I say “still” because the store has been closed for years. It was not even a Covid business causality- it closed well before 2020. The bargains kept getting deeper and deeper until the stock dwindled, then it became a “pop up” space for carpet sales, then nothing. There are plywood sheets over the doors and lower windows but they haven’t prevented breakage in higher, expensive arched windows. I suppose rocks or bricks did the job, I don’t know why.
Of course it is sad to see a respected business fade and fail. But passing this building is always especially sad for me. I am not much of a shopper but I made some important purchases in this store over the years.
I bought pearl earrings for each of my daughters’ 16th birthdays here at their jewelry counter, studying the gradations in color and the beautiful luminosity for a deliciously long time before choosing. (Neither of my girls wear their pearl earrings but it still pleases me that they have them.)
Once during a big sale I brought one daughter to get a winter coat. She loved two of them, so we started sending photos from the dressing room to her older sister, away at college. We ended up buying both coats (I said it was a big sale) and they happily traded them back and forth- the tailored black wool with the silky flowered lining, and the burgundy, softer cut with maroon lining. This went on for many years until one moved to a warmer climate. She mailed the black coat to her sister, along with a stretchy sequined dress that didn’t fit her anymore, (but that’s another story.)
We found a perfect prom dress here once, and for my son’s prom, a lush red and gold paisley matching cumberbund and bow tie set. They created a splash with his thrift shop tuxedo that pleased us both. I found my mother-of-the-bride dress at this store. In those days they had a tailor on staff who altered it to fit me properly, making me feel just right. (I also bought gray silk pumps here to go with that dress that were swimmingly big, but that’s also another story.)
About a year after the death of my mother I dropped into the store while walking back from the subway and impulsively bought myself a pair of lavender-gray river-pearl drop earrings. I think that was the moment my grief began to lift.
The store sits empty, still, such a sad sight. Reflecting here I realize that most of these purchases are gone now, too. I remember taking my pretty mother-of-the-bride dress on a hanger, encased in plastic, to Goodwill and admonishing the worker who slung it into a big messy pile, “That’s a nice dress, take care of it.” They say change is the only constant. I guess the memories suffice.
9 thoughts on “Closed”
I’ve long thought of clothing as rhetoric and an inherent part of how we express our identities, which is why the closing of iconic stores cuts deeply for some of us. For you L&T is/was more than a clothing store as your vignettes illustrate. This adds to the sadness, the emptiness of a boarded up building. We, understandably, grieve for such loss.
I bet this old building has tons of other stories to tell, too. I enjoyed yours and have fond memories of the Lord and Taylor stores where I worked in my twenties post college. One was in Michigan and then when I moved to Texas to teach, I did summer and seasonal retail at Memorial City’s Lord and Taylor in Houston.
Your slice is a reminder of how a place gets you to think and then the memories rush in. Your piece is so strong. It captures many special occasions – birthday, prom, weddings but also includes the everyday, with the winter coat sale. Then your impulsive earring purchase says so much. Your closing line about change is so true. I miss Lord and Taylor, Garfinkles and Woodies…these lovely stores where, like you, I’d go on special occasions, for sales and on impulse. Now my mind is brainstorming my purchases. I may have to write my memories of shopping places down too! Thanks for sharing.
The poignancy of the piece is palpable. Your choice of words and vignettes makes it powerful, and I love how you connect it to the broader world at the end. Nicely done.
It is amazing the memories anchored to a place. It shows your history in the area too. That is one thing I miss by moving so often.
I enjoyed walking down memory lane with you. What great memories you will always treasure, even though times change. And one day, your daughters will pull out their pearl earrings and wear them with pride and fond memories.
What a beautiful tribute to the personal connections we have with our purchases. This is a lovely idea for a prompt for others. Thank you for entrusting us with your memories.
There’s definitely metaphor to be had here: in the closed store, in the memories we had of a place, in the derelict state it’s in. You’ve got me thinking.
And what I really like about your post today is the way you toy with the idea of THINGS – how the drop earrings you purchased help lift your grief, how your donated dress – a nice thing! – just got lumped into a pile by someone who didn’t see things the same way.
Thank you for that. =)
This was a great nostalgic piece. Your descriptions carried a calming peace that contrasts with the fast paced world of today. More and more people just order things online, especially fast fashion clothing, which is definitely a different experience from taking your time to shop in person.