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…..it 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?

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Gustav tales from the Gulf Coast….
September 2, 2008

Gustavs big blow....

Gustav's big blow....

As many of you know, one of my sisters lives on the Gulf Coast…Gulf Shores, Alabama, to be exact. She and her husband live in a charming home that sits on stilts, high in the air, right on the intracoastal waterway. She and I have spent quite a few pleasant hours sitting on her screened porch, overlooking her pretty garden (on which she has worked very hard), and the waterway…watching brown pelicans, pleasure boats and big barges loaded with coal glide past, to parts unknown.

They’ve had to evacuate several times…of course…The very first time, my bro-in-law George had tied their boat up under the house , every which way from Sunday, when an old timer came along and said, “Son, I don’t care how you tie it, if the water comes up, that boat is gonna be in your  living room.” They moved the boat. And since then they have a “list of what must be done” when they leave….such as, take up every other plank on the pier in hope of saving it, putting all their potted plants(and there are lots of them-too many George says) in a trailer and haul the trailer to someone who lives on higher ground, carry all the lawn furniture upstairs into the house, move everything on the screened porch into the house, take the blades  off the porch ceiling fans, empty the freezer and fridge in case  the power is out for a while….you get the point. It’s exhausting. Hurricane Ivan was their worst hit in Gulf Shores….they lost their pier when a big barge got loose from its anchor in the canal, and careened wildly downstream, knocking out piers along the way. They had lots of water under the house, of course the cars and boat were moved…the windows were boarded up so the worst of it was they couldn’t get back to their house for at least a week or so, because the roads were covered with trees and refrigerators and boats and everything you can imagine. And even though that was three years ago, there are devastated houses there that still look it happened last month.  And her garden wasn’t the same for a year or two, after being soaked in sea water.  Since Katrina, they’ve been lucky along the Gulf Coast.

I called sis this weekend as they were making preps to go to their son’s house…she was agonizing about how much to do …as Gustav really wasn’t really expected to hit there, but you don’t want to be sorry, what if it changes course…you can imagine. And everything that you do, when you come home, must be undone. Boards back on the pier, furniture thumped back downstairs, …another day or two of labor. She says it’s worth it to live there…right now anyway…though their insurance has skyrocketed to the point that if they get another big hit, they really might not be able to afford to stay.  And they have talked frankly about leaving, even though she loves it there…they both do. That has been the scenario for lots of folks in those parts….just too much trouble and too much money to stay.  Same for New Orleans. But this time….this time, they were lucky. Lots of people were.