New York City: Fifth Avenue Stroll
By Theadora “Golightly “ Brack
Celebrating Galentine’s Day, I’ve got a wonderful idea! Let’s do things we’ve never done before, starting with Champagne before breakfast. It’s in the icebox, darling! Pop open the bottle while I make a list of sights to see along Fifth Avenue. Never a thumping bore, we’ll shop hop ’til we drop. Grab your sunnies!
Don’t you just love it?
Love what? Macy’s at Herald Square, that’s what. Commandeer a few chairs, while I trap the pretzels and French fries. I’ll tell you one thing: I’m mad about this place.
After we’ve admired the vitrines, 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.
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 salute 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: If you dig time travel, 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 onto the railing because it’s a bumpy ride, but worth every click-clack and jiggle.
2. Lord & Taylor, 424 5th Ave (at 38th Street)
Each time the heaps of handbags greet me 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.’” This goes double for bags. 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?
Tip: Lord & Taylor was recently sold, so changes are right around the hairpin curve. If you’re in the city, get thee quickly to favorite “The Dress Address,” and explore it like there’s no tomorrow, starting with the gilded revolving doors and elevators.
3. Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 5th Avenue (at 49th Street)
Now, let’s roll on up to Saks. The year of their grand opening was 1924. At the crack of dawn, hundreds of sightseekers 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 The New York Times.
Tip: During a recent visit, I discovered the store’s café on the fifth floor. With its mod catbird seats and panoramic view of bustling scene below at the Rockefeller Center, it was difficult to stop at just one (very affordable) cup of coffee, I must admit. I was in heaven. Chocolate is sold here, too. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: I got weepy.
4. Bergdorf Goodman, 54 5th Avenue (at 58th Street)
Herman Bergdorf and Edwin Goodman’s flagship moved on up to 54th Street in 1928. Overlooking Central Park and the Grand Army Plaza, the view is a stunner when the Callery pear trees are in bloom (even if they’re a bit smelly). Also, keep your eyes peeled for the Plaza Hotel. Located next to Bergdorf, The Way We Were is just one of the many movies to feature this hotel.
Tip: For the first time ever, I recently explored the entire department store. I had a ball as I rolled through each and every tiny showroom like a high roller. On the 7th floor, I discovered an exhibition featuring gems from Berdorf’s own archives. My eye spied shots of the vitrines, advertisements, and sketches by Balenciaga and Dior.
Then, as I swooped down though the fragrance department, I succumbed to Robert Piguet’s powdery Petit Fracas. I sprayed it not only my wrists, but also on the back of my neck—letting the cat out of the bag. I could almost hear Mancini’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s soundtrack softly a-do-doing as I made my exit, floating all the way.
As Anaïs Nin described New York in the 1930s: “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!”
It’s still true. So keep on strolling. Keep on sparkling! And Happy Galentine’s Day!
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