Remembrance of Stores Past

17 Jan

One of my favorite scenes in the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon is the recreation (above) of the department store B. Altman in New York. The stellar production team transformed an old bank into the bustling department store of the 1950s.

It reminded me of visiting the J. L. Hudson department store in Detroit as a child — complete with beautiful chandeliers, ornate drinking fountains, an elevator operator and a beautiful dining room.

So, it was nostalgic to read this piece in the New York Times, “New York’s Lost Department Store,” by Vanessa Friedman. Henri Bendel and Lord & Taylor are closing their Manhattan flagship stores.

What stores do you miss? Anyone remember Bonwit Teller?

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Reverse Hometown Visits

12 Jan

 

There’s something special when your hometown visits you in another state. Many universities visit alumni that moved away, and even hospitals host programs for patients with second homes.

Well, Detroit is coming to the Sunshine State with a fun-filled historical program at Indian Spring Country Club in Boynton Beach, 2 p.m., February 25.

The Jewish Historical Society will share a presentation, “From Hastings to Home,” with interesting historical facts. Refreshments will be served, and expect some Motown treats like Faygo pop (yep, we call it pop not soda!), Vernor’s, Better Made Potato Chips and of course, Sander’s. (I hope they bring the hot fudge!)

Register here.

Is your hometown visiting you?

 

Birthday Marketing

2 Jan

Guess who remembered my birthday? Bloomingdales! They obviously know I’m a fashionista, because they sent me a sharp gift. It’s stylish, black pencils with the cutest sayings.

The marketing is very clever in a black box, and oh if I spend $200, I get a $50 gift card.  Not bad. . .

Yes, this marketing ploy worked. I’m going to Bloomies and I posted about it!

So, who else is remembering my birthday?

 

 

 

Investing in Women

14 Dec

 

Want to make a social impact with your everyday purchases? Then, read the book Buy the Change you Want to See, by Jane Mosbacher Morris. (The book will be published at the end of January by Penguin Random House.) Morris is the CEO of To the Market that sells products from women artisans in vulnerable communities. She works with 100 suppliers from more than 20 countries.

Morris educates consumers on how thoughtful purchases can transform lives. She explains the second largest industry in the developing world is the artisan arena — sewers, beaders, leather makers, etc. To the Market connects artisans to factories to buyers. The ripple effect of purchasing a product from a country like Haiti can create positive change and economically empower several people.

 

I had the opportunity to hear Jane speak at the Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Greater Palm Beaches (JWF) event Imagine the Possibilities in West Palm Beach. (Disclosure: I was the co-chair)

The event theme was Investing in Women as the mission of the Foundation and the book align perfectly. The Jewish Women’s Foundation mission advances the status of women through strategic grantmaking, education and leadership development. It’s an inclusive organization that seeks to improve the lives of all women and girls regardless of background, religion or socioeconomic status.

In the photo, Jane Mosbacher Morris is in the middle, while I’m on the left and my daughter-in-law Jessica Rocher Schwartz is on the right.

Brutalist Style in Motown

20 Nov

Shane Pliska lives in a glass house. He wakes at dawn and spends hours gazing out of his windows at a forest and a pond. Snapping turtles lay eggs on his yard, and fawns sleep right below his deck. But this isn’t Walden Pond. It’s a suburban cul-de-sac in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

“It’s changed my life,” says Mr. Pliska, 38, president of a family-owned plant and interior-landscaping company. “It gives me clarity of mind.”

The house, which was built in 1956, wasn’t for sale. So he asked a real-estate agent to keep a close watch. When the home was listed—and marketed as a teardown—Mr. Pliska immediately offered $5,000 over the asking price and bought it in 2012 for $230,000.

The home, a 1,890-square-foot glass-and-wood rectangular box on 1.3 acres, was designed by Edwin William de Cossy, a former instructor at Yale University who had studied under Paul Rudolph, known for his Brutalist style. The cost of construction at the time: $30,000.

To better understand the architect’s vision, Mr. Pliska traveled by train to Connecticut to meet Mr. de Cossy, who was wearing a tie and white racing gloves when he picked him up at the New Canaan train station in a vintage black Mercedes. Over lunch, Mr. de Cossy explained that the style of the house was partly influenced by his work on modern homes in Florida in the 1950s and partly by the time he’d spent hanging out with Philip Johnson at his Glass House in New Canaan. “It’s a dream site,” says Mr. de Cossy, 89, adding that he built it originally for his brother-in-law, Leo Calhoun, who owned a Ford dealership outside Detroit.

Mr. Pliska lived in the house without changing anything for about two years. Then one stormy night, he heard a loud boom and felt shaking as a giant oak tree punctured his flat roof. The redwood roof beams saved the house from complete collapse.


 A modern Italian Scavalini kitchen inside Shane Pliska’s home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
PHOTOS: BRIAN KELLY PHOTOGRAPHY FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
 Mr. Pliska bought the 1,890-square-foot glass-and-wood rectangular box on 1.3 acres in 2012 for $230,000.
“It was in a pretty sad state,” says Roman Bonislawski, the co-owner of Birmingham, Mich.-based architectural firm Ron & Roman who led the $300,000 renovation, which took two years to complete. The project includes new windows, replacing the cork flooring with slate in the living-room conversation pit, redoing the bathrooms and bumping out the master bedroom to add a small balcony. Mr. Pliska picked a modern Italian Scavalini kitchen (paying a discounted $35,000 because it was a floor model) with reflective avocado-green glass cabinets and put in new decks made of composite materials in front and out back.

What didn’t change was Mr. de Cossy’s fundamental design. The house is raised on a pedestal with redwood beams that cantilever out from below on all four sides and on top to hold up the roof, giving it a floating illusion. All the rooms are visible from the exterior except the bathrooms, one of which is enclosed by the kitchen wall and the other by the fireplace chimney.

The younger Mr. Pliska oversaw the building of a new glass-enclosed headquarters with a plant-adorned courtyard that doubles as a wedding-venue business. “He really changed things,” says Larry Pliska, 72, who still works there.

Shane Pliska’s neighborhood has also changed: It was once a laboratory for modern design, inspired by the nearby art academy Cranbrook, which owns the Eliel Saarinen Art Deco-style Saarinen House. Now, existing houses are torn down to make way for large new structures that Mr. Pliska calls “Barbie castles.”

Still, some Midcentury Modern homeowners there have tried to preserve an element of the past, gathering regularly for cocktails to admire each other’s architecture and discuss design. Neighbor Nancy Lockhart says one thing about Mr. Pliska’s house remains unchanged: A feral tabby cat cared for by the former owner, an artist named Fern Tate, still sleeps under the house and roams the neighborhood. They take turns feeding the cat, which they named Fern.

In the early 1950s, fresh out of the army with no college education, Edwin William de Cossy started designing modern homes in St. Petersburg, Fla. His work caught the eye of Paul Rudolph, who became one of the central figures of postwar American architecture, and the two began collaborating.

Mr. de Cossy earned a degree in architecture from Yale University in 1957, where he later became an instructor. As a principal with Douglas Orr, de Cossy, Winder & Associates, Mr. de Cossy designed a number of significant buildings, including the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven.

Mr. de Cossy’s career lagged until 1975, when he resurfaced as a builder of wooden sailboats. He had a comeback five years ago, designing several homes, and is now retired, currently building a 20-foot cruising sailboat with his daughter in North Branford, Conn.

 

Treasured Shopping

1 Nov

This website is truly a jewel — www.usejewel.com

It’s an e-commerce site where you shop for luxury goods and receive cash back. Detroiter Andrew Landau is the website founder. The offices are based in Detroit, but the shopping spans the globe. Jewel partners with 350 brands from high-end department stores to indie labels. Some of the partners include: Neiman Marcus, Barney’s New York, Lululemon, Tumi, Tory Burch, Charlotte Tilbury.

The blogger the luxe strategist, explains the process simply here:

  1. Make sure you’re on the Jewel website and signed in.
  2. Find the store you want to shop at, then click the blue ‘Shop Now’ button. This will kick you over to the actually retailer site now.
  3. Complete your purchase in one session, and make sure you’re not paying with points or gift cards (these will not qualify for cash back, as I learned).
  4. Within 72 hours, your shopping trip and cash back amount should appear in Jewel.

Your check arrives quarterly.

Landau, a former Google employee, is a bona fide entrepreneur as he founded Chalkfly.com and sold it in 2014. This site is his latest venture.

Landau knows his customer base. “Every one, no matter what their wealth is, wants a good deal.”

Julia, the Ambassador

17 Oct

Julia Louis-Dreyfus wears the perfect tee. It’s not because it was designed by Wes Gordon of Carolina Herrera — although that’s a plus. It’s because 100 percent of this $35 T-shirt goes to charity.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the 2018 Saks Fifth Avenue Key to the Cure Ambassador, where this shirt is sold.

“I’m a breast cancer survivor so that is a huge part of my involvement with Saks’ Key To The Cure,” stated KTTC Ambassador Julia Louis-Dreyfus. “And, I’m absolutely thrilled that the AiRS Foundation is the beneficiary of the sales of the limited edition Key To The Cure t-shirt. Every penny from the t-shirt sales benefits the foundation, which helps women who are unable to afford breast reconstruction surgery post-mastectomy.”

I had to order this t-shirt at my local Saks store. The website said it was sold out, but there is a wait list. Note: It runs very small!

 

Memorable Memoirs

7 Oct

These two timely, immigrant stories transported me to countries I will never visit –Yeman and North Korea. The stories are compelling, suspenseful and inspiring.

Hyeonseo Lee grows up in North Korea revering the leader.
When she becomes a teenager, she sees that others are hungry and senses something is wrong. She walks across a frozen river to China. There she finds a new world and a new life on the run. Her identity needs to change often in order to be safe.

Mohammed Al Samawi is a devout Muslim in Yemen, but he becomes curious about other faiths when he reads the Bible. He connects on social media with Christians and Jews. He then receives death threats for communicating with the enemy. He escapes with the help of his new interfaith friends.

 

On the Fringe

24 Aug

I just returned from Edinburgh — a fairy-tale city. It happened to be the annual Fringe Festival. It’s a visual treat and celebration of arts and culture. The entire city participates from street performers to live plays to booths selling books, fashion and art. Artists and authors are abound in this cabaret setting.

What’s the best selling point? It’s for the entire family — all ages. I personally went to see Kafka for Kids with my granddaughter. Yes, it was a Kafkaesque experience — fun, delightful and meaningful. (Not sure Franz had that in mind!)

The New York Times reports the 2018 Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award is the play Ulster American by David Ireland. The play ponders “how men are reacting to a world in which women are increasingly empowered.”

This play was one of 1,000 plays from the Fringe this summer. For more award news from the New York Times, please click here.

If you love theater and culture, the 2019 Fringe Festival should be on your travel wish list.

Summer Sizzling Novels

2 Aug

If you liked Gone Girl, you will like these summer picks. All are fast-paced novels, with more twists and turns than State Route 1 down the coast in California.

If you were not a fan of Gone Girl, with an unreliable narrator, you probably will not like most of these.

So, my favorite is The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Yes, it’s confusing with the narrators, but stick with it for the multiple surprises at the end. I guarantee you will not figure out the ending!

Another psychological thriller is The Wife by Alafair Burke. Again, another marriage mistake. Who is the con artist? It will keep you flipping the pages.

 

Then, there is the Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn. It reminds me of the Hitchcock classic movie, Rear Window. Yes, someone sees a murder being committed.

Finally, there is The President is Missing. How can you go wrong with the dynamic duo of James Patterson and Bill Clinton? Forget the politics and read a thriller!

What are your beach reads this summer?

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