Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Saks Was the Place She Learned How to Shop with Style

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Saks Was the Place She Learned How to Shop with Style

Article excerpt

Holly Golightly depended on "Breakfast at Tiffany's" in New York to boost her mood. She saw the store's perfect ambience as reassurance that "nothing very bad could happen to you there."

Working at my first post-college job as fashion ad copywriter at the Gimbels store Downtown, I had a similar feeling about "Lunch Hour at Saks."

For a Brentwood girl, just graduated from Penn State's collegiate tweeds, the proximity of Gimbels and Saks Fifth Avenue was irresistible. Since the stores were then located in the same building, the tony fashion zone was accessible by a quick elevator ride on a lunch hour -- or even a coffee break.

I was transfixed by the displays of subtly elegant fashion, showcased where chandeliers glittered and carpeting was plush beneath your feet.

At first, I tried appearing invisible in this posh environment, but clerks were unexpectedly welcoming to a girl wearing her leftover college wardrobe. Maybe sales personnel realized that Saks was my own "Retail 101," teaching the value of saving for a fine outfit that would outlast a dozen bargains.

The piece de resistance for me? My Gimbels discount applied at both stores, and, eventually, I learned that Saks, too, had sales. They just were not as highly advertised as Gimbels' Dollar Days or Month-End Clearances, about which I typed until my fingers were calloused.

I liked putting aside money from my paycheck for an investment purchase to treasure. I also browsed other upscale Downtown stores like Horne's Galleries and Hardy & Hayes, where clerks indulgently welcomed a shopping novice who was "just looking."

When my wedding approached, I remember picking a china pattern at Reizenstein's that the whole ad office checked and approved. Yes, shopping-in-the-superlative came naturally to our young group of writers and artists.

Skipping several decades to the present, the era I recall is now ending, as Saks closes its Pittsburgh store. Bold clearance signs intrude on its understated merchandising style.

City officials and businessmen have given mixed opinions about whether the departure will make a real difference to Downtown. …

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