This is a solo post from Georganne. Although he was disappointed, Rich had to miss George's "Girls Only" weekend in Manhattan!
I had the opportunity to spend a wild weekend of shopping in New York City with my daughter Kate, and my sister, Betsy. There is no place like NYC at Christmas time!
We stayed at my cousin's home in Manhattan which was very cool -- I could get used to having a doorman! NYC is wonderful but I had forgotten that you walk everywhere, and boy, did we walk!
We began with a visit to the Statue of Liberty. When we got to Battery Park to buy our Circle Line tickets (the boat that takes you out to Liberty Island) we noticed that the park was full of people we thought were homeless. There had to be 80 of them wheeling and carrying around what looked to be big Santa packs -- large bundles wrapped in sheets. These people turned out to be street vendors selling replica designer items. As soon as a boat docked they quickly set up shop. And business was brisk!
After visiting the Statue of Liberty we caught another ferry to Ellis Island and the Ellis Island Museum. If you haven't yet visited Ellis Island, I highly recommend it. They lovingly display the goods carried to America by immigrants. You can go solo, take a tour, or buy headphones and her the immigrants stories in their own voices. My husband's Grandmother and Grandfather both passed through Ellis Island as children, and we were able to find their names on the ship's rosters. We were there for hours. And it's haunting at dusk, so if you go, stick around and catch the last ferry back.
The next two days we went shopping and sight seeing. Here are the highlights:
* Madison Avenue is the street where the wealthy shop. And it's one beautiful street. One of my favorite stores is Fred Leighton Rare Collectible Jewels. Fred Leighton Jewelers specializes in estate jewelry -- very expensive estate jewelry. The cool thing about this store was their window display of dancing Santas -- the ones sold at discount stores for $19.99 -- decked out in the finest gems imaginable. The displays drew a crowd. That's a great idea to steal for your windows next year! Buy the Santas after Christmas at 50 -- 75 percent off so you'll have them for next year's displays. There's a Fred Leighton Jewelers at the Shops at Bellagio in Las Vegas. Check it out. You might just run into a celebrity! One time Rich and I saw them close the store so Michael Jackson could buy Elizabeth Taylor a $100,000 bracelet.
* Barney's New York's holiday theme is "Have a Royal Holiday!". Barney's is well known for its unique window displays. Two windows featured drawings of kings and queens by local school children. Each drawing is available for sale. The other windows held a satire on the Royal family. Prince Charles, Camilla, William, and Harry are all prominently featured. I hope they have a sense of humor!
* Henry Bendel, the famous department store, had a King Kong sized wreath, made from giant replicas of their signature gift boxes, hanging above its front door. Very cool!
And speaking of King Kong, I had my photo taken with him at the Toys 'R Us in Times Square. Love me some King Kong! Toys 'R Us has a huge ferris wheel in the center of the store. You buy your ticket (all the money from ticket sales go to charity) and wait in line just like at the amusement park, but you are surrounded by toys. Kids were going crazy! You can also have your picture and a message flash for 30 seconds on the Times Square Jumbo-tron! It flashes up intermittently for 24 hours.
* FAO Schwarz, the toy store of my childhood, had a line of people trying to get in that ran almost around the entire building. A full city block! FAO Schwarz was in bankruptcy not too long ago, and except for the store at the Forum Shoppes at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, all stores were closed. I was told that Donald Trump stepped in, announced that FAO Schwarz was a NYC landmark they couldn't afford to lose, so he rounded up investors and kept the store alive. Thank you Mr. Trump! http://www.faoschwarz.com/
* We went to SoHo and walked through all of the cool stores. Each one is unique because each store has the personality of the person who owns it. Hint, hint ...
* On Canal Street we met dozens of street vendors selling their wares. As we walked down the street we saw people with briefcases full of watches and bags full of handbags. We'd hear someone whispering, "DVD, DVD, DVD ...", "Tiffany, Tiffany, Tiffany ..." And then we watched as several NYPD squad cars pulled up and arrested the street vendors they could catch. Many grabbed as much as they could hold, and ran down the street. It was like being on a movie set!
As we were leaving the area a man whispered "designer handbags" in my ear. I said, "Where?" And like two idiots, my daughter and I followed him down subway stairs into the tiny back room of a store. Inside were 10 people, mostly women in full length mink coats, grabbing Louis Vuitton knock-offs like they were going out of style. Kate and I looked at each other and started cracking up. We got out of there as quickly as we could. If you can afford a $10,000 coat, you ought to be able to spring for the real handbag, don't you think? Anyway, we could always tell who had been shopping the street vendors because they were carrying their purchases in black trash bags. Think trash bags and mink coats will become a new trend in fashion?
* We went to "Top of the Rock", the newly re-opened top of Rockefeller Center. Before you go up the elevators you have to walk across a steel beam so you can get the perspective of the brave men who built the building. It was an illusion, but man, did it feel weird! At the top of the building, we walked out onto the rooftop and could see the city from all directions. Awesome!
By the way, almost every store we went in took our photo. We could buy them as we left the store if we desired. What a great idea for you to tweak and use in your own store. If you hold a special class or crop, have a celebrity guest in your store, a bride shopping for wedding supplies, or a wacky in-store event, whatever, take the customer's picture. And GIVE them the photo with your compliments. Put it in a paper frame that has your store's contact information on it. You know that photo will be shown to plenty of potential new customers!
* Rockefeller Center is where the Today Show is filmed. We looked in the studio windows and saw a staff meeting in action. Outside on the Plaza the two stars of "Extra" were filming a promo for the show. If you happen to have seen the promo announcing the birth of Ben Afleck and Jennifer Garner's baby, and you hear a woman in the background yell, "Look at how white her teeth are!", that would be my sister. Remember the "Friends" episode when Ross gets his teeth whitened and they glow in the dark? Same thing. Same glow.
The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is breath taking!
* There are retail shops in Rockefeller Center. One of them, J. Crew, had set up a cart on the street and was selling clothing right along side the guys selling cashmere scarves for $10. I liked this idea. If you can't get customers to come to you, then go to them!
* The next day two of my cousins came in from New Jersey and we went to Macy's and Bloomingdales. Both stores were unbelievably crowded with people were carrying fully loaded shopping bags. The skilled shoppers brought their own metal wheeled carts. Smart!
I love Macy's because my Mom worked there before she met my Dad. As a kid, we always went to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade when we lived on the east coast. Now, I watch it on television with my own family and cry throughout the entire thing. Memories. Yeah, I know. It's an age thing ... We rode the wooden escalators (they still have them!) and we went to see Santa and Mrs. Claus. I was 10 years old again -- everything looked the same as I remembered it!
Bloomingdale's was crazy busy too. These huge stores were filled with so many shoppers we could barely maneuver the aisles. Exhausted, we left shopping behind and headed off for the Empire State Building. After that, dinner, and a whole lot of catching up. Kate had a ball, and I am sure she was mentally cataloging my childhood stories for use at a later date. Yikes!
* We had dinner in Times Square. Broadway! The lights! The excitement! It was almost overwhelming. We stopped at MTV. Kate loved the store and Betsy and I lamented the loss of our MTV. It's no longer about videos, it's all TV shows about young adults behaving badly. I want MY MTV!
* Before turning in for the night we decided to drop off our packages and walk across the street to Central Park for a ride in a hansom cab. Our cab driver was from Ireland, so my sister mentioned that our Mother's family came from Ireland. He said, "This horse has more Irish in him than you do!" Guess he hears that a lot. But it was fun. And cold!
* We had an early evening flight the next day so we got up early and visited Ground Zero. We began to sense the area while we were still blocks away. There is rebuilding going on along side building still covered in steel mesh. They had erected a bill board that shows the time line of what happened on September 11. There is also a monument with the names of all who perished that morning. So sad. Right next to Ground Zero is St. Paul's Chapel, an eighteenth century church and cemetery that was virtually untouched that fateful day.
The roots of a sycamore tree that fell on September 11 -- missing all the historic tombstones and the church itself -- were returned there by sculptor Steve Tobin, after casting a mold of the stump, and its remaining roots, for use in his sculpture honoring St. Paul's. It's beautiful. Click on this link for more on St. Paul's Chapel http://www.saintpaulschapel.org/
* Later, we visited Century 21 "New York's Best Kept Secret!", a discount department store where designer goods are 25% to 75% off every day. What a place! It was loaded to the brim with product -- and shoppers -- and the customer service was unbelievable. At the top of the escalator a young lady announced, "Hello, I'm Linda -- welcome to the second floor of Century 21! I am here to help you in anyway that I can, so please let me know what I can do for you!" And it got better from there. Check it out: http://www.c21stores.com/nyc.asp
I love New York. At least I love to visit New York. Even with the doorman, walking to the grocery store, the drug store, the cleaners, anywhere, is a lifestyle you have to get used to. I must admit I have become a die hard suburbanite. Yep, I love parking my car 20 feet from anywhere I have to go! We plan to make this a yearly trip so you will be hearing about my adventures in NYC for years to come!
Rich and I wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a safe and prosperous New Year!