Bye-bye Smith and Hawken….just too blooming bad!
July 14, 2009

Smith and Hawken says bye-bye in email.....

Smith and Hawken says bye-bye in email.....

I got a surprising, ok…kinda shocking, email this morning….you see it in the picture there….Smith and Hawken is going bye-bye. All 56 stores will close by the end of the year, and the company is no longer taking online or phone orders. No doubt a sign of the financial times, S&H was an upscale, gardening store that catered to those who loved to garden, and had the taste and money to indulge in their goods. There used to be a lovely store in Mt Washington Village, until a flood closed it, and they never came back. But I  cruised through their aisles at lunch, more times than I’d care to count, just to smell the rarified air and look at their beautiful products. Oh, they had good sales…and that was when I would buy things from S&H….and I’ve found many gifts there for others(and for myself) that I still love. And they carried excellent English made, gardening tools. Pricey, but well made and guaranteed for a lifetime.

lounging, sipping and flipping....

lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle....

What Smith and Hawken sold really, especially in the past 5 years or so…was lifestyle….a lovely, gracious, and expensive lifestyle….come on, who doesn’t want their back patio to look like on of  S&H’s?  You can just imagine yourself out there, lounging in the shade, sipping a glass of wine and flipping through the pages of a glossy magazine….can’t you? It’s  a lovely dream, anyway.

What happened to S&H? Chalk up another victim to the recession, at least in part….Here’s a link to an article  from the San Francisco area, which is where the company was based… about the whodunnit. One of the founders said when S&H was bought by Scott’s Miracle-Gro in 2004, it was the beginning of the end….here’s a quote from  Mr. Paul Hawken in the above article…”How could you possibly have a gardening store in this economy and go wrong?”  Hawken said. “I’ll tell you why. This wasn’t a gardening store anymore. Even though gardening and garden seeds are booming, all of a sudden you’re left with an image and a lot of products that real gardeners and real farmers don’t really need or want.”

Enough said….except for this…700 people will lose their jobs, and any way you look at it, that’s a bloomin’ shame. Look for deep discounts ahead if you live near one of their stores, as the company begins to liquify their stuff(where’s C-Mart when you need them?). But it makes me sad. I really loved that store…at least the store it used to be.

C-mart…. do-it-yourself version??
October 22, 2008

C-Mart...You bring it and you cart it away?

C-Mart...You bring it and you cart it away?

It caught my eye, yes it did this morning, as I was reading The Baltimore Sun,  that sweet familiar handwritten notice.  Only one place has ads that look like that and smells of….ooohhh, bargains. C-mart!! Kind of.

This is a do-it-yourself  kind of C-Mart….it’s a flea market, ok? I  can rent space and sell all the things I bought at C-Mart that perhaps I shouldn’t have ( the Marc Jacobs Venetia handbag comes to mind). They’re calling it The Big Tarp, and it will be not at the latest C-mart location but at the old Forest Hill one….the one I always got lost trying to get to. Anyway, someone…I’m assuming the original owners of C-Mart as they still own this property….is opening up and is renting table space now…75 cents a square foot. Not bad  I guess.

And here’s the great thing about it it….. in a down economy, when people are hurting, this place will provide a place not just for people to spend money, but also a place to MAKE SOME MONEY…..that can’t be anything but providential.  The Big Tarp will be open every Saturday and Sunday. So, there it is. No, C-Mart isn’t returning, but I’m keeping the door open and the welcome light on. See you there!

Bald Head Reaction….and a ray of hope for C-mart??
October 13, 2008

I had some sweet, moving reactions over the weekend to my blog about Clare, a longtime friend whose head I recently shaved during her cancer treatment….I know she will enjoy your words of encouragement. Isn’t it strange but wonderful how we can reach out to people we don’t know and will probably never meet, to share a moment of kindness and meaning? I love it. I just love it.

This from Trish:

What a beautiful blog which screams out loud of a fantastic friendship. Yay to both you and Claire!”

And from Travis:

I just had to say…thanks for making me cry! It’s so rare that you find friendships strong enough to last through such tough times. My best friend’s son was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 6. He underwent chemo treatments, too, and lost his hair. One night, while taking a bath, his mother walked in and noticed his hair was falling out in the bath water. She turned as she started to tear up, but he looked at her and said “Don’t cry, mom, it’s okay”. The next day, her husband and two other sons all shaved their heads, so they could match their brother. Having witnessed the effects of cancer throughout my family and friends, it is people like you, Donna, who are remembered most for their friendship during those times. “

From Nicole: “Very very good of you to support your friend, Donna! Clare was taking back her power over the situation. See Robin Roberts’ (ABC) story about her fight with breast cancer. She did very much the same thing, and had decided to shave her head after the chemo started affecting her.

As a woman in this society, being bald is such a tough thing. I actually chose the experience for a while… On April 23, 2005 I participated in a Baltimore “St. Baldricks” event. I had my head shaved as part of a fundraiser for children’s cancer research. I was one of the few women (only about 10% of the ’shavees’ that sign up are women) who decided to go through with this. I learned a lot about myself. It was very empowering. I decided, as an experiment, to keep the look for 6 months. I never wore a wig. There was only 1 or 2 situations that I opted for a hat, but that was because I was personally approaching people I wasn’t sure how they would react. Otherwise, in public, my bald head was shining in the sun. I had a woman stop me in the Mall in Columbia and say “do you know how beautiful you are?” I was shocked. Come to find out her daughter was a cancer survivor. Of course I explained that I wasn’t a cancer patient, but that I had started this process as a support for children’s cancer research……..

Only funny side effect is that once I had grown my hair out, I actually went to the Jose Eber salon in Beverly Hills. Decided to shock Jose himself with a picture from those bald days. The reaction was priceless. -)

Tell Clare that it’s ok to be in public as she doesn’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed about the bald head. She’s ok as she is. She doesn’t have to hide. Just focus on her day to to day tasks, and don’t think about the fact that she’s bald. If she’s comfortable within herself, people will be more comfortable, too.

From Susan: “Donna & Clare, what a tribute to a wonderful lasting friendship. Claire I wish you success in your battle with this dreaded disease.”

And last,  a  ray of hope from Doug Carton, the founder of C-Mart??

” As the founder and former co-owner of C-Mart, I am as sad as anyone to see C-Mart close, it’s almost as if one of my children was leaving forever. The old C-Mart building in Forest Hill still belongs to my family, and you should never say never. Maybe one day down the road, C-Mart will rise like a Phoenix from the dead. Right now, it looks like a very slim chance, but I can’t imagine Maryland without a C-mart.”

Me either Doug, me either…..



Laments and memories of bargains at C-Mart…..
October 8, 2008



Tears all around today over the demise of C-Mart. I thought you’d enjoy some readers’ favorite memories and thoughts on the situation….This is from Debbie:

Donna, I loved your C Mart eulogy. One day, my husband Howard was shopping at C Mart and as a joke brought me home a paperweight for my office which says “Because I Said So.” I immediately recognized the Pottery Barn box (I’m not sure he had ever heard of Pottery Barn!), and after grilling Howard, discovered that they had tons of Pottery Barn merchandise. As was the case with the designer bags and clothing, they obtained the merchandise after Hurricane Katrina. So we went back, and I was very excited to discover they did indeed have tons of great stuff — dishes, telephones, clocks, linens, hardware, lamps, bathroom containers, and on and on. Some of the dishes they had were the same ones as I was using, so I bought every serving piece, bowl, tray, etc. that goes with the set. I am not the most patient of people, but I did brave the long lines to buy my Pottery Barn treasures at half price. And they brought out new stuff for weeks — so I think we went back 3 or 4 times and kept finding more great stuff. What fun — we will definitely miss C Mart.As I’m writing this email, it has become clear to me that a Congressional bail-out of C Mart is in order.”

This from Susan in Forest Hill:

I remember C-Mart when it was in a dark and odd-smelling building near Main St. in Bel Air. It was like a wonderful treasure hunt to walk along the aisles full of one-of-a-kind clothing and items. Then they moved to Forest Hill and it was still odd-smelling but brighter and larger and it was still like a treasure hunt. One time I found a silver designer gown with an orange crayon-looking mark across the front. The original price tag on the gown was $485.00. I bought the gown (which fit like a glove) for $20.00 and took it to the dry cleaners thinking if they couldn’t get the mark out, I would cut the dress apart and use the material for pillows. They got the mark out for $7.00! I felt so gooood. I had a designer dress for $27.00! It didn’t matter that I didn’t have anything (like the Academy Awards) to wear it to – ever! C-Mart should have never moved to Joppa. It looked too much like a department store and smelled too good. They tried to sell lots of very expensive leather furniture that was in poor condition and the prices were too high to make any of the damaged items worth owning. The thrill of the treasure hunt was gone. The old store in Forest Hill is still vacant. They say you “can’t go back” but I wish someone would turn the pages, start the book over and begin again in Forest Hill.”

This from Jerry…

Its a real shame that so many lives were affected by the mismanagement, greed and inexperience of the new owners. Cmart could have survived the economic downturn if not for those bozos.”

From Jan:

All good things must come to an end, Oh My So Sad! I’ve been a Cmart shopper since the beginning when it was a funky ‘head shop’ in ‘74/’75 on Bond Street in Bel Air, stocked with pipes and crazy hippie stuff. Young Doug got his start selling Eagle Eye shirts to students @ UDel out of the trunk of his car back in the day – kudos to him! I’m wondering if it made national news — my daughter in Chicago sent me a quick txt in disbelief. Oh, how we’ll miss the funky handwritten ‘CU@Cmart’ ads and the anticipation of finding some REALLY great buys.”

This from Kelly:

I started going to C-Mart with my Mom when I was I little girl (1970’s). I have fond memories of C-Mart when it was located in Forest Hill. You never knew what you were going to find — in fact I bought my prom dress there for $15 when most of these types of dresses were selling for $150 or more. When C-Mart announced it was relocating to Joppatowne, I was thrilled. It meant the shop would be a mere mile from my home. Unfortunately, that’s when C-Mart “changed”. All of a sudden they were only selling high-end designer goods it seemed, especially in their furniture department. (If I couldn’t afford a $20,000 couch, chances are a 50% off sale wasn’t going to help!) The other issue I saw was that the style of furniture etc. began moving away from items everyday people wanted in their homes and turned into a flea-market of the odd. Chairs in lime-green with silver sparkles and bright orange tassels, china closets that were so enormous that you needed 15-foot plus ceilings to even contemplate their charm in your home. I am very saddened to see C-Mart close it’s doors, but I couldn’t imagine how they were staying open when they had moved so far away from what made them great in the first place. It would seem to me, especially in these tough economic times, bringing back the old C-Mart philosophy of “quality goods at close-out prices” and ditching the “high-end goods you still can’t afford even if you like the bizarre and garish” would still be a solid business plan at the current location.

This email I got today from Lisa, who has no idea why it fits in this blog!

This message is for Donna Hamilton:I love that watch she wears on the air and was wondering what brand it is and where could I get one! Thanks!”

Well Lisa, it is a Michele watch, and they sell them at Nordstrum’s, jewelry stores, online, and of course, at Saks. Where did I get mine? Half off at where else…C-Mart! When I saw it online during their big Saks buyout, I dispatched my husband there with a detailed description and strict instructions to brave the lines and buy it for me for Christmas. He did, and I still love it. Sniff.

This is from Lori:

Donna, I’d be happy to carry that beautiful Marc Jacobs Venetia bag for you!”

Lori, here’s an idea….maybe I should rent it out and give the proceeds to charity!




In Mourning for C-Mart….
October 7, 2008

See this chair? Got it at C-Mart...

See this chair? Got it at C-Mart...

I’ll be honest…I have wondered about what was going on at C-Mart for a while now, for years one of my all time favorite stores. I know people who furnished their entire (lovely) homes with great buys from C-Mart. So when the company was sold over a year ago, and their idea was to make it an online company, I just thought, “Huh?” I mean, C-Mart was a treasure trove of one of a kind things, remainders, leftovers…and since you probably didn’t have 100 of anything, maybe not even five, how could you possibly turn it into or keep up with an online service? It just didn’t make any sense to me, but I figured that they knew a lot more about business than I did, so I guessed it would work. As I read today in The Baltimore Sun, turns out, not so much. And what a loss.

These too....

These too....

Can I just share some of my favorite memories of C-Mart? And you can share yours. The biggie of all biggies had to be the buyout of the entire Saks Fifth Avenue in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. No one was supposed to know it was Saks, but everyone did. Keith Silberg, then the  owner of C-Mart(come back Keith)…told me it was the most amazing thing he had ever done, wandering through an entire store load of shiny, silky, leather-like-butter designer goods, and having to make a bid on the whole lot. He wanted it and badly…who wouldn’t ? He didn’t want to get outbid, but didn’t want to pay too much either.  And as he pointed out, C-Mart was one of the few places with the capacity to handle such a huge deal. And he got it.

OK, this too....

OK, this too....

Remember the handbag sale that year? Where they had to call the cops and close the store ’cause the ladies got a little out of hand ? It was at the height of the designer handbag mania….shelves and shelves of Isabella Fiore, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, Prada, Longchamps and other high end bags… seriously made your heart beat faster just to look at their smooth leathery tasseled, buckled beauty….AND THEY WERE ALL 50 % OFF. Gulp. It was no wonder C-Mart had a near riot. In a kind of fever, I bought the bag you see at the left….it was a $1200 Marc Jacobs Venetia…kind of the “it bag” that year( I know, I know…such craziness)…and it feels rather embarassing saying I paid “only” $600 for it. My Mother looked at it and then at me and said with a touch of shock in her voice…”You paid 600 dollars for a purse?” I think it was in a tiny voice that I replied, “But it was half price…” Sigh. I never carry it and always refer to it as “that ridiculous handbag”. Live and learn, live and learn.

But that bag aside, I have found so many bargains and things I love at C-mart, its demise is horrifying to many people. I remember Dominica Davis, who now lives in NY and works for Fox (still miss you Dominica!), talking about the clothing sale from Saks at C-Mart. She described running around with a shopping cart and piling items in her cart “like I was at K-mart, only these were designer clothes, and even at half price you’re talking about thousands of dollars!” I know. It’s true. I was there too…it really was kind of a manic buying going on that day, and when the cash register told the tale at the end of the spree…there were  many faces that had a touch of the accident victim in shock. Ahhhh, good times, good times.

Hey, maybe someone with vision will swoop in and see that in tougher economic times, people really want a place like C-Mart. I don’t know what happened there…but it is still a viable entity. It was a classic…”See you at C-Mart”…is it really over? And why?