My elegant grandmother made shopping an occasion. She loved to dress up and head downtown to browse the big department stores like McAlpin’s or Pogue’s, where she’d cap off a rigorous round of selecting, modeling and purchasing outfits, with a trip to the ice cream bridge, an architectural wonder suspended over the second floor of that massive store.
I did not inherit the gene that allowed my grandma to spend all day in heels, chatting conspiratorially with clerks and maneuvering through departments with increasing energy until, with their help, she discovered The. Perfect. Ensemble.
But, I did love the ice cream.
My grandma would have mourned the demise of the Saturday shopping trip. Smartphone technology would have baffled and then appalled her. I think about that every time I take advantage of Amazon’s one-click shopping, and I try to shop local as often as I can.
Still, there are encounters that make me think the world my grandma enjoyed, in which store personnel greeted customers enthusiastically and enjoyed helping them select The. Perfect. Ensemble. has disappeared.
Recently, I went to a local bookstore to purchase “The Zookeeper’s Wife”, a pretty well-known book I had a hankering to read before I saw it on the big screen. Sadly, my conversation went like this:
“Do you have the Zookeeper’s Wife?”
“Who wrote it?”
“I don’t know if we have that.”
“Could you check?”
He could. Obviously.
But, then he said, “Yes. It looks like we have it.”
So I, having perused the store prior to asking for his help, said, “Could you tell me where it is?”
“It should be somewhere over there,” he said, waving his arms in a vague direction.
“Don’t you know where the book is in your store?”
“We get so many books and they come in and out and I can’t keep track of them all,” he said.
So, I left that store and, with one click, purchased that book on Amazon, which sent it to my doorstep the very next day. It’s an excellent book, by the way, but I digress.
My point is that brick and mortar retailers have the seemingly impossible task of competing with on-line behemoths like Amazon. Ironically, I, the girl who could not wait for the actual shopping portion of our downtown Cincinnati trips to conclude and who once shopped for a cold bottle of water while my friends moseyed happily through Charleston’s historic shopping district, absolutely support brick and mortar stores.
But, they have to meet us halfway.
I love to walk into stores like the Blue Moon Emporium to see what cool local artists they’re featuring today. I like to try on clothes at stores like Macy’s and Ann Taylor and consider the advice of the people who work there. But, I want to be greeted by people who understand that customers aren’t an inconvenience.
We live right now in a fascinating juxtaposition of convenience and camaraderie. We can click on exact measurements, style, color and composition to give us The.Perfect.Ensemble.
Or, we could step inside a shop to find something even better.
“It came from Pogue’s” was the store’s slogan for as long as I can remember. Sadly, Pogue’s closed its downtown store in 1988 a victim, I can logically surmise, of my own grandma’s passing five years prior.
Here’s hoping the spirit of that slogan lives on and that we can all enjoy both the accessibility and exactness of online shopping and the personal attention of local businesses.
And, following a successful afternoon in the retail world, may we all enjoy a big scoop of ice cream.