Like many women, I was taught to shop by my mother. She was a European immigrant and a single mother of three girls who had impeccable taste, but lived on a limited budget.
That's where Loehmann's came in. They had designer brands at affordable prices. She would take my sisters and me and, together, we would spend countless hours sifting through the racks. We went there for prom dresses, first-day-of-school outfits, college wardrobes, first job attire and eventually, a wardrobe for my honeymoon.
I remember the large group dressing rooms, the throngs of saleswomen who were often Russian immigrants and, of course, the long and well-worn pleather couches where rows of men of varying ages would sit and wait... and wait... and wait.
I suppose it's no wonder, then, that my heart skipped a beat and I heard myself gasp upon receiving the following notification: Loehmann's is going out of business.
It took me a minute to understand just where that feeling came from... and then it hit me. Loehmann's was more than a place to get designer dresses; it was a place that was filled with my own personal history and memories of my mother, who died from cancer nearly 10 years ago. Amidst the images that tend to fade with age, the vision of shopping with my mother in that store remains vibrant. That's what a powerful brand does; it elicits memories that are meaningful. And when the brand disappears, it's like losing a longtime friend.
And I'm not alone. Here are some recent tweets:
It's like a death in the family. Loehmann's closes its doors. My diamond membership now means nothing... http://instagram.com/p/jAMjr-LIXF/
Molly Edwards @mollyedwards Jan 9 today my lunch table had a heart attack bc loehmann's is closing
Even a male anchor for the Los Angeles Fox affiliate said:
Phil Shuman @FoxPhil I just heard Loehmann's is closing down. My life is slowly coming to an end
I decided to go into the store one last time, averting my eyes from the oversized "going out of business" sign. The store was in disarray with all the usually tidy sections now mixed together. Some of the staff seemed sad, but truthfully, the customers seemed sadder. One woman shared with me, "As a young girl, I got my first healthy image of women's bodies from that group dressing room. What happened?"
In a word, bankruptcy. A fate many popular brands have met in recent years.
I chose not to buy anything in the sale. It oddly felt wrong. Instead, I think, I'll choose to remember my sleeveless Dolce and Gabbana dress that looks like I should be making pasta in an Italian villa... or the one-of-a-kind Donna Karan jacket that I bought with my mother for my first corporate job and proudly still wear today.
That's how I will remember Loehmann's -- in the same way I think of my mother. Not in a state of deterioration, but in far healthier times, shopping together and watching her patiently wait as I tried on everything she brought to me. You see, like any fulfilling relationship, the memory lingers long after they are gone... and that is, quite simply, priceless.