Monday, December 10, 2012

Missing Loehmann's

The good Loehmann's used to be in Huntington, a solid half hour west from my parents' house, where I grew up in Smithtown.

If you don't know Loehmann's, you are not a Jewish girl from Long Island.

If you don't know Loehmann's, you are not your Jewish-from-Long-Island mother's daughter.

Loehmann's was a dream maker: the place you could spend hours trying on, crying, laughing, until you found that perfect item or six that made you feel pretty, presentable, ready to face the world with your new wardrobe. The place you shopped for something to wear on your first date. The place you wept over braces, glasses, thunder thighs, too-big-boobs, unruly shopping hair, or the dilemma of finding something that would nicely mask the mild curvature in your spine that would require you to wear a scoliosis brace.

Loehmann's was the place that patient men -- fathers, husbands, unwitting boyfriends -- sat waiting, lined up and uncomfortable, in the hard plastic penalty chairs by the door, as the women they "represented" disappeared for painful hours into the bowels of the dressing room, only to reappear occasionally wearing the same item in a different color, or a size up or down, to ask the dreaded questions, "What do you think? This one, or this one? Does this look good on me?"
mom and me, undoubtably that sweat suit was my
80s idea of high fashion, but the sneakers are cute, no?

Remember, these were the days before iPhones and iPads. How my heart bleeds for those men...

Now, I say there was a good Loehmann's. . .

Several years after we started frequenting the far west (wonderful, wish-fulfilling) Loehmann's, a new Loehmann's opened east of us, a mere ten minutes or so from my mom's.

We were excited at first, but it quickly became evident that there was no comparison between the old Loehmann's (good!) and the new one: Bad. It was as if they were two different stores.

Disappointment, but no matter. We were troopers.
We would just have to continue to travel a half hour in the wrong direction to the good one.

There was this one time, however. . .

I was home for the weekend visiting (I was fresh out of college and, well, did I mention I could be an uber-bitch when I was younger?)

My mom and I donned proper shopping attire and off we went.

To the good Loehmann's.

The usual excitement popped and crackled in the air.

Our brains swam with images of hand knit sweaters.

That new-tag smell permeated the air.

Three-quarters of the way there, we got in an argument. Who remembers about what? Something stupid, don't ask me.

(total lie, I remember. . . oh, how I remember!)

Suffice it to say, things quickly decompensated. I mean things in the car got ugly.

My mother veered off the road into some other shopping center, and turned the car around.

We drove in silence toward home. Which was better than the prior screaming.

At the exit to our house, my mother kept going, the tension still thick in the car.

Tentative, afraid (was she dropping me off far from home where I'd have to hitch a ride back to the city?), I whispered, "where are we going?"

She turned and glared at me, the fury shining in her eyes.

"The bad Loehmann's," my mother spat at me.

And so we did.

We bought nothing.

A fine punishment, indeed.

This Sunday morning, driving home from dropping my son at Driver's Ed, I passed the old good Loehmann's, a sense of intense longing permeating my soul.

I mean, I know the store has been long empty. . .

But this time, as I passed, it had suddenly morphed into a mega Tool store.

A mega-fucking tool store.

Don't the Gods of all things good know that tools are the farthest thing from fashion?

There was something so bracing about seeing that tool store there. It left me feeling lost and old and forlorn.

I miss Loehmann's.

I love my mother.

Thank goodness for Annie Sez.

email exchange with my mom this a.m.
- gae


  1. Funny how some of these places have such a strong association with our youth. Our only department store closed when I was in elementary (driven out by the mall). Maybe that is why I still hate to shop. #spuriousassociation

  2. I miss my mom. It has almost been three years since she passed. I am not sad when I think of her. I miss her more for the silly things. Being able to ring her and say, guess what happened on my flight today. Or to sit with her and roll our eyes at the same time, as dad is being stubborn once again.
    I remember visiting once a few years ago. Her clothes seemed odd. My mom was always a classic dresser. I asked her why. She said she hated to go shopping now because she couldn’t seem to get any help.
    Off we went to Macy’s. I introduced her to a line called Alfred Dunner. I like to think of it as the Geranimals for the older set. Everything is mix and match. My mom was so excited. After that day, she would always call me to tell me how she bought some new Alfred Dunner.
    Now when I walk through Macy’s, I always pass through the Alfred Dunner department. It makes me smile.

  3. proving, once again, Peach, that you are NOT too pretty to write.

    Glad you are smiling.

  4. Funny and sweet. Mom’s and shopping. My mom passed away 8 years ago. I have her ashes and her collection of Hummels in my home, but I really feel her presence, or absence, when I’m anguishing in front of that cruel three way mirror in Macy’s dressing room, alone.

  5. Loehmann's should probably pay you for this free advertising. or, judging by "bad Loehmann's, and Closed Loehmann's perhaps they should have paid more attention to not only your writing, but to their incredibly loyal, jewish long island customers. you are so right--that is a classic store for a Long Island Jewish girl. Though mostly I remember Mid Island and JC Penney, and Annie Sez. And judging by your picture, your outfit is from Parachute--in NYC? ;) this piece made me almost spit my tea out because I can actually picture so much of this. (though I do have one question: you and Ginger have had a fight?)

  6. Every time I go back to NYC I still pine for Loehmann's! Or, Nomann's as my Jewish husband refers to it. A name he and his brothers tagged it with during long hours spent sitting in exile on those white plastic chairs while their mother tried on clothes.