New York: A Shopping Spree

A Pretzel Break at  Bergdorf Goodman and the Grand Army Plaza (Photographs by Theadora Brack)

A Pretzel Break at Bergdorf Goodman and the Grand Army Plaza (Photographs by Theadora Brack)

An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant (Image: Movieposterdb)

An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant (Image: Movieposterdb)

By Theadora Brack

Start spreading the news! Grab your glad rags and shopping bags. This week, we’re trekking to New York, New York for some springtime faire du lèche-vitrine.

Whilst day tripping, time is precious. However, it’s possible to visit most of my favorite centuries-old department stores in one day. I’ll also throw in a few cinematic tidbits. I’ve been walking Fifth Avenue since the age of eight. I’m still cuckoo for it.

Here’s how Anaïs Nin described New York City to Henry Miller: “I love the proportions, the amplitude, the brilliance, the polish, the solidity. I look up at Radio City insolently and love it. The newness. The vitality. Just bring your own contents, and you create a sparkle at the highest power!”

All aboard? Let’s glow.

Miracle on 34th Street

We’ll kick-off our jaunt outside Macy’s at Herald Square. Commandeer a few chairs, while I trap the still almighty hot-to-the-touch salted pretzels.

After we’ve admired the vitrines and massive pots of tulips, we’ll gaze up at the nearby Empire State Building, the closest thing to heaven in this city. It’s still true. However, before crossing, do look both ways or else you, too, will have a star-crossed Affair to Remember! Besides, Cary Grant left the building years ago.

Bergdorf Goodman 754 5th Avenue (at 58th Street)

Heads-up: As we stroll, study how the vitrines mesh with the reflections of the surrounding cityscape. Providing seamless backgrounds, the trees and skyscrapers play nicely with the mannequins.

1. Macy’s 151 West 34th Street (at Broadway)

Rowland Hussey Macy’s “World’s Largest Store” has been shimmering at Herald Square since 1902. Curious about the store’s “star” logo? It’s a nod to the tattoo that Macy got when he worked as a teen on a Nantucket whaling ship in the 1830s. Perhaps R.H. had Moby Dick in mind when he created his first whale of a sale?

Tip

Interested in some time travel? If so, don’t miss the original Otis L-type escalators, located smack dab in the middle of the revamped fragrance hub. The escalators with the wooden treads run between the 8th and 9th floors. Going down? Hold on to the railing because it’s a bumpy ride but worth every click-clack and jiggle.

Film buffs: Here, outside Macy’s, is where the Thanksgiving Parade in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) was shot. Reel it back! In the film, you’ll catch actual footage of that year’s parade in action. Macy’s has been putting on the Thanksgiving pageant glitz since 1924. Now, let’s form our own conga line, and hit the hill!

Old Fifth Avenue—the street “bustles and pushes and elbows!”

Old Fifth Avenue—the street “bustles and pushes and elbows!”

2. Lord & Taylor 424 5th Ave (at 38th Street)

Each time I spy the mile-high stacks of silky-smooth shirts as I make my way to the Lord & Taylor’s elevators, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby pops to mind: “They’re such beautiful shirts,” Daisy sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts.’” Pass the hankies.

That’s what they said. In 1925, Lord & Taylor commissioned an artist to create a miniature Saint Patrick’s Cathedral out of starched handkerchiefs. Talk about pressed for success! On the first day of the launch, the store sold thousands of hankies at 25 cents a pop. How’s that for pulling out all the props?

Don’t cry for me, Lord & Taylor. Your vitrines are still knockouts.

3. Saks Fifth Avenue 611 5th Avenue (at 49th Street)

Now, let’s hobnob it up to Saks, my flappers. Grab my hand as I set the scene with a little George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” or perhaps “It had to be you” by Isham Jones and his orchestra. The year of the grand opening was 1924. At the crack of dawn, hundreds of sight seekers appeared, including boxer Jack Dempsey.

“Rush of shoppers opens Saks Store! Crowds so large even stenographers are pressed into service as Saleswomen. First package to President Coolidge! False report that Prince of Wales is there causes stampede of women to men’s department!” Such were the zippy headlines in that day’s New York Times.

Bergdorf Goodman with the Pear Trees in Bloom

Bergdorf Goodman with the Pear Trees in Bloom

4. Tiffany & Co. 727 5th Avenue (at 57th Street)

Golly, gee—glam, Lula Mae. Get ready for your close-up because we’re approaching another cinematic backdrop, perfect for your social media portraits.

Here is where Holly Golightly not only bid farewell to the “mean reds,” but also lingered over sticky buns and window-shopping. Fanatics of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s book (and the flick based on it) still pay homage, so you might have to wait in line for the picture-perfect shot.

5. Bergdorf Goodman 54 5th Avenue (at 58th Street)

Who hasn’t passed the Bergdorf vitrines without humming the “That Girl” theme song? “Sable. Popcorn. White wine. That Girl!” Your secret is safe with me.

Ahead of the curve: Herman Bergdorf and Edwin Goodman’s flagship moved on up to 54th Street in 1928. Overlooking Central Park and the Grand Army Plaza, don’t miss the Callery pear trees. Also, keep your eyes peeled also for the Plaza Hotel. Located next to Bergdorf Goodman, The Way We Were is just one of the many movies to feature the photogenic hotel.

Just thinking of the film gets me all emotional. I am my own girl, Hubbell. It’s true.  After a much-needed crying jag (and another pretzel break) at the “Abundance” fountain, let’s now hotfoot it to Barneys. Rebounding just got easier.

6. Barneys New York 660 Madison Avenue (at 61st Street)

Come hither. After Haberdasher Barney Pressman pawned off his wife’s engagement ring for $500 (with her consent I should hasten to add!) and with forty discounted suits to sell, he opened Barneys during the most deafening roar of the roaring twenties.

“No Bunk, No Junk, No Imitations!” was Mr. Pressman’s slogan. A cross between P.T. Barnum and Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., Barney hired barrel-clad gals to give away matchbooks stamped with the store’s logo and address. Talk about a storewide campaign with legs!

So keep on strolling! As Millie, my friend Paul’s mom, says, “You only live once in awhile!”

Dapper Don Draper spotted on the side of a bus on Fifth Avenue

Dapper Don Draper spotted on the side of a bus on Fifth Avenue

View of the Empire State Building from Macy's at Herald Square at l'heure bleue

View of the Empire State Building from Macy’s at Herald Square at l’heure bleue

Saks Fifth Avenue 611 5th Avenue (at 49th Street)

Waiting on the Pretzel Man at Saks Fifth Avenue 611 5th Avenue (at 49th Street)

BRACK New York 1555

Head in the clouds at Bergdorf Goodman 754 5th Avenue (at 58th Street)

Ground Control at Bergdorf Goodman 754 5th Avenue (at 58th Street)

Ground Control at Bergdorf Goodman 754 5th Avenue (at 58th Street)

I can see your halo at Zara 750 Lexington Avenue (with Bloomingdale's in view)

I can see your halo at Zara 750 Lexington Avenue (with Bloomingdale’s in view)

BCBG 461 5th Avenue with the New York Public Library in View

La Vie en Rose at BCBG 461 5th Avenue (at 40th Street)

BRACK Rock the Vote 75

 

 

 

 

 

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88 thoughts on “New York: A Shopping Spree

  1. Golly Gee….indeed……….Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co.(swoon……….klunk…hit the floor), (back up again….) Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York!!! oh wow, Theadora…..Truman Capote grabbed my pretzel and ran out of the room. What delights……can’t wait for Virginia to get here. You two know how to shop!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Monsieur Tin Man, Truman Capote grabbed your pretzel and ran out of the room? Good. Golly. Indeed! I’ll meet you at Macy’s in their new ground level beauty hub (inspired by Galeries Lafayette!). Virginia will love the place. Longchamp now holds court at one of the entrances. Then, we’ll fly up to the café. Champagne is now on the menu! The pretzels and the bubbly are on me.
      Big Hugs,
      Theadora

      Like

    • Thank you, Francine! It was a fun post to create. I’m still in the research phase. I’d like to add Bloomingdale’s to the mix. Great lounge for the ladies. Beaucoup chairs and flattering lighting, to boot. Perfect spot for changing camera batteries and resting the dogs (feet)!
      Have a great weekend,
      Theadora

      Like

  2. A thrilling and exciting tour of this part of the city with you TB. I always remember Jane Fonda and Robert Redford starting married life at the Plaza before she taught him how to dance barefoot in the park. Scrumptious shots!

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    • Thanks, Patti! As you know, I love your gorgeous shots of the New York City. Barefoot in the Park with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford! Another favorite flick, featuring New York City! It’s pretty darn sassy. I agree. The shots are scrumptious. Adding it to my weekend movie list. Jane is adorable in this film!
      T.

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  3. Never knew that about the escalators at Macy’s. I worked at Alexander’s 57 and Lex during Christmas 1972. I wrote a poem there called 5th Floor, Santa Claus I’ll have to dig up and share. Great shopping spree, thanks!

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    • Alexander’s?! Have you found your poem? So the department store was located across from Bloomingdale’s? What was it like working there at Christmas time? Alexander’s opened in 1928. I’ll try to dig up more history for you. Or perhaps you have some historical tidbits . . . And YES. Do share your poem!
      Theadora

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    • I’m digging your list! I also love the centuries-old Liberty. They’ve been open since 1875. Beautiful place! And your third favorite store? Drum roll . . .
      (Have a great weekend!)
      T.

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    • I know! I know! Hide the pretzels and the soft ice cream cones! (I also highly recommend Miss Korea BBQ on 32nd Street. Fun place.)

      Thom, what happened to the 25th flea market garage? Poof. It’s gone! I almost cried. Heck, I did cry.

      Have I missed any of your recent New York City vitrine tours?

      Enjoy the weekend!
      T.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Merci, Kim! Now I’m singing “New York, New York” again. A fabulous tune with an interesting history. Personal favorite: I love the duet by Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.
      Enjoy the evening!
      T.

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  4. You have captured the core of the Big Apple! Great shots – and the literary references have inspired me to whip out my dog-eared copy of The Great Gatsby…”In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” Sigh….don’t you just want to be there?

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    • Thanks, Mary! I agree. What a gorgeous passage. Yes, it’s time to re-read The Great Gatsby. What characters! Scott and Zelda used to surf down Fifth Avenue on the tops of taxicabs. Have you seen Zelda’s New York City paintings? Her “Fifth Avenue” work is my favorite. It’s very surreal. Saint Patrick’s cathedral, along with flying gloves and top hats. It’s fantastical!
      Theadora

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    • Thanks, Alexander! Like you, I enjoy connecting people and places. Even fictional characters! I need to add the New York Public Library to the list. It’s a great place for a picnic. I often their free exhibitions, along with their fabulous gift shop, of course. 🙂

      Do you have a favorite spot in New York?

      Enjoy the weekend,
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

      • Theodora, I am not Newyorker, do not really often visit it, and because of that do not know it very good, I do not have some specific places to love. I love this great city in general because of its special aura and energy. Thanks to people like you I can visit interesting places in other cities by the time of being there. In one week I’ll be to Paris and for sure keep in mind your posts about city and your experience. It helps me to feel that place better.
        Have a nice weekend!🌞

        Liked by 1 person

      • And I feel the same way about your beautiful travel prose and photography! (And YES. New York’s energy is like no other. The sights. The smells. The sounds automobile horns and voices. My spirits still soar. Ah, I miss living there.)
        Have a productive week!
        Theadora

        Liked by 1 person

    • LOVED your words, Violet! Do you have a favorite department store? We’re lucky to have so many New York palaces still open.
      Perfect for window shopping! Back to researching . . .
      T.

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  5. My sister and I use to joke that living in Manhattan was like living in a giant shopping mall filled with restaurants. Your list is perfect and I love the photos. I remember when Mayor Giuliani tried to get rid of the street vendors here. I can’t imagine the city without roasted chestnuts in the winter and pretzels and hot dogs year round. There’s something about that smell of the charcoal and the carts that I only associate with New York City. Recently I found a box of old slides of my dad’s. For some vintage New York City check out these photos from The 1939 World’s Fair! http://womensfootwearinamerica.com/2015/04/30/arthur-l-benjamin-1939-worlds-fair/
    ☺☺☺

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    • City street food! I agree, Julia! I can’t imagine a city without the carts and umbrellas. Ah, the hotdogs outside the Metropolitan of Art are fantastical. Moveable feasts. Perfect for all four seasons. Blame on the art, perhaps. Or the nearby Central Park. (And speaking of the Met, I highly recommend the exhibition: The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky.)

      I’m off now to check out the vintage photographs of the 1939 World’s Fair.

      Thanks for the link!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So happy to see your post in my mailbox, T.!! The pretzel hit the spot and even after all the walking and shopping, my feet aren’t tired and my credit card isn’t maxed out. Life is good. I hope it is for you, too.

    janet

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    • Bonjour, Janet! Thanks for taking a stroll with us up Fifth Avenue. I only spent money on snacks. Confession: However, I did fall pretty hard for a scent in Lord & Taylor. The sale person was very dapper and charming, too. He knew exactly how to push the perfume. Flattery works!
      Have a great week!
      T.
      (I’d love to return to Marshall Field’s in Chicago. Now Macy’s, it’s still a gorgeous shop. Interesting history!)

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    • Merci! Thanks for your swell words. Hands-down, walking up and down Fifth Avenue with my Grandmother is one of my all-time favorite memories. Along the way, we stopped in a diner. I ordered an egg salad sandwich and a Concord grape soda, with a straw, of course.
      I felt so sophisticated!
      T.

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    • Ah, thanks, Mary! As always, your words always make me smile. I love your enthusiasm. The perfect way to start the week!
      Theadora
      (Do you have a favorite department store in the world?)

      Liked by 1 person

      • For me it’s not so much the shop, but the place to shop. The place I just love is Union Square in San Francisco. When I lived in San Francisco I would go down to Union Square most weekends for the sights and sounds. Loved walking into the major stores likes Saks looking over the perfumes and cosmetic counters – the smells were wonderful and the ambiance of the scenes were arousing. For me this was a place to relax and explore, always something new to discover and absorb. Have you been? I used to consider SF the Paris of the US for its, art, history, food and shopping – loved living there. An old world charm ~

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, what a beautiful passage, Mary. I also San Francisco! It’s high time to visit again. Thanks to you, today I’ve been spending time with the department stores: I. Magnin and The City of Paris Dry Goods Company. And Macy’s! Here is where Julia Child promoted her first book. Fascinating finds: Mary Ann Magnin was big believer in the power of the “Made in Paris” tag. I think the City of Paris building now houses Neiman Marcus. I’d love to see the original rotunda.
        Thanks for the inspiration!
        T.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome my friend. I really loved living in the city. I worked in the financial district and walked 16 blocks to work every day, stopping for a “double” cappuccino – only when it rained did I take a cable car to work down California Street (one tough road to walk with the hills). So happy you enjoyed my favorite place to shop and hang out – there is so much to see and do in SF. Just love it! Take care ~ best wishes for a wonderful week!

        Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true! And this time of year, New York is overflowing with gigantic pots of flowers. The energy was overflowing. It was difficult to stop taking photographs, to stop walking.
      At the end of the day, I was exhausted but so inspired!
      Theadora

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    • Thanks, Richard! And I’d love to see your New York photographs. Every time I passed an interesting-looking person, I thought of you and Patti Kuche. The Masters of the Street Portrait. It’s true.
      Enjoy the week!
      T.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Merci! While you were in Rome, did you make it to the Trajan’s Market? The world’s first mall is still an incredible place, especially at night under a full moon. Haunting!
      T.

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    • Thank you, Philippa! I also took a few strolls along the High Line. Incredible views of art and architecture! The promenade is a great place for power walking, people-watching and eavesdropping!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Rhonda! I’m looking forward to reading your New York report. You have a knack for finding great restaurants. I highly recommend Miss Korea BBQ at 10 West 32nd St and 5th Avenue. Also, Macy’s re-opened their 34th Street entrance: The Memorial Door. They had been using it as a storage space. It’s gorgeous.
      Enjoy the trip!
      Theadora

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      • Thanks Theadora for the tips!! We are staying right next to Macy’s– so I can check in on it! and the BBQ sounds inviting– Hope you had a great stay in NY. (any other tips?)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Great area, Rhonda! I stayed at the New Yorker Hotel on 34th Street. Are you interested in Flea Markets? There’s an outdoor Flea on 25th Street. It’s a great place to visit early on a Sunday morning. And the Greenflea (one word) is located across from the Natural History Museum. And speaking of Macy’s, they now serve Champagne in their café. They recently worked beauty and pocketbook hub on the ground level. The changes were inspired by Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Don’t leave without riding on the old escalators. Enjoy! Do you plan to visit museums? Oh, what fun you’ll have!
        Theadora

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      • Oh gosh! I would love, love to happen upon a flea market in NY!! (how much room would I have in my small suitcase??!) I’m jotting these two down in my plans! thanks bunches Theadora! (and I was in the Galeries Lafayette once years ago, but with 4 small children in tow. So it wasn’t an entirely satisfactory shopping trip!). Are you still in NY? Hope you’re having a marvelous memorable time!

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      • Hi again, Rhonda, The 25th Street flea market is on the north side of 25th Street, between Broadway and 6th Avenue. Both of these are outdoor markets and about the same size (well, GreenFlea may be slightly larger).

        Enjoy the weekend,
        T.

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    • Yes! I’m always recreating memorable movie and television scenes. That’s the only way to stroll and roll. No, I didn’t make it to the sample sales. I somehow managed to stay focused on the department stores along 5th Avenue. Miracles sometimes happen!

      If you do make it to Paris, I’ll give you the name of a handbag shop. Oh, my. You’d love it. Practically in the shadow of the old Paris opera house, there’s a tiny shop that’s been selling discounted handbags for more than 60 years, stashed in endless floor-to-ceiling cubbyholes packed chock-full of leather treasures. No counterfeits. No Chanel. However, here you’ll find Lancaster, Le Tanneur and Longchamp—just to name a few. Heaven!

      Enjoy the week!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Theodora! So glad you’re back (to wherever). San Francisco is a fabulous town and I’m so glad to see your historical/vintage/Paris take – how fascinating! I so admire your journalistic talents and your investigative savvy. “California Dreamin'” is another really fun movie to be in. In June, I’ll be starring in “The First Time I Saw Paris” – would be so fun to run into you, sleuthing in a flea market . . . . . . . . . Au Revoir . . . . . . . . .

    Like

    • Merci! Yes, thanks for your thoughtful words. I’m still California Dreaming. So you’ll be starring in “The First Time I Saw Paris” film? You’re the perfect starlet for such a movie. This is very exciting news. You’ll love the flea markets and vintage clothing shops. Have you started creating your mission list? (Have you seen “The Last Time I Saw Paris” with Elizabeth Taylor, Van Johnson and Donna Reed?)

      Enjoy the trip preparation!
      Theadora

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      • Yes, The Last Time I Saw Paris is a fabulous movie – worth another look at my copy before the trip! Will also have to review my list of true vintage venues. So ready to discover the secrets and sample the mystique of Paris as a foundation for what may become a series of investigations . . . . . . .

        Like

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