Thursday, September 22, 2011

The New Anthropologie, the Old Hess's

I went to the grand opening of the Newbury Street Anthropologie on Wednesday night. I was glad I had replaced my ubiquitous shorts-and-flip-flops uniform with a cute dress and cardigan — everyone was decked out in layers of well-accessorized Anthro. The whole store had a candlelit glow, and there was live music, and flowers, and food.

I guess they won't always have a jazz quartet on the mezzanine.

I made the rounds of both floors a couple of times while downing miniature cupcakes and good cheese. I didn't know a soul, but I chatted with some friendly sales associates while checking out the merch.

I suppose they won't offer mini Kickass cupcakes permanently, either. 
They were surprisingly delicious, considering that I declared them 
best-suited to dogs in one of my first blog posts, just 3 years ago. 
I tried vanilla with chocolate frosting; a pecan-topped spice model,
and a chocolate peanut-butter. All winners. Who evolved: them or me?

The new store is perfectly nice but, honestly, it doesn't compare with the old store. The ceilings are just too low! Apparently, this design detail instantly wrecks the atmosphere for me. I seem to be attracted only to stores with lofty ceilings, like ABC Carpet & Home in Manhattan. Am I the only one with this peculiarity? Are you happier hanging around in soaring spaces, too?

Raw, or barely finished, lumber is the design theme, just as 
it is at the Cambridge store. It was nice to see flowers everywhere.

This pretty, vintage-style tile is also used on the mezzanine and stairs.
There's a separate lingerie section, as you can see, but no shoe section, 
although that was promised. Maybe it will come later.

Typical table display, with lots of greenery.

It's a perfectly appealing, pretty store, but the magic is gone. I used to pop into the Boylston Street store to lift my spirits, the way other people pop into a bar, or a church. I'm going to have to find a replacement, but I don't drink or say Rosaries. Ideally whatever I pick next won't take credit cards. And no, I'm not going to haunt the Capitol One Bank that's moving into that space. Maybe I'll go in there once.

I don't think I got my penchant for high ceilings from spending hours a week sitting in church as a schoolgirl. I suspect I've been influenced by my childhood adventures in the legendary Hess Brothers department store in Allentown, Pennsylvania. That long-gone store already has earned itself a book, a PBS documentary, and a museum exhibition, and the eternal love of many thousands of Pennsylvanians. I'll write a separate post someday soon. But I have to explain here that shopping there was an extraordinary experience — the owner, Max Hess Jr., was a showman who stopped at nothing to excite people: crazy sales, celebrity appearances, the first topless swimsuit.... Manhattan had nothin' on us.

Every floor of the flagship store had dozens of massive crystal chandeliers, so you often wandered around staring upward, blinded by hundreds of candle bulbs and bumping into things, like the life-size reproduction of the Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Women's Show Department. (When I finally saw it at the Louvre, I couldn't stop thinking about back-to-school loafers.) The chandeliers were at least twice as large on the main floor, which frequently had enormous floral displays everywhere, plus charming animated tableaux at Christmas. Here's a postcard from those days:

As you can see, an Aladdin type is wandering through a cactus-accented tropical jungle in the Necktie Department. This photo was not taken at Christmas; this is just one wacky, temporary idea of Max Hess's. That was how it was.... you went shopping and found serious entertainment — and very good deals, too. And the ceilings were deliciously high.

So I've been spoiled, it seems. Top that, Anthropologie. You could have at least offered me a decent ceiling! Boy, I'm going to save a lot of money from now on.

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