November 12th, 2007


Ann & Hope, Spag's, and a tangent about Oxford Academy.

Sometimes I need to not think too much about places likely to be no longer around.

I was having a wee disagreement with someone on Wikipedia about the status of Ann & Hope (New England retailer; as a little burrito I was fascinated by the shopping cart escalator, a predecessor to today's Vermaport systems, at the Cumberland store) as defunct. We came to the agreement that they are defunct as a department store but still active as a discount retailer, since their off-price department stores closed in 2001 but the company still operates several curtain & bath and garden outlets in southern New England.

All this digging about for reliable sources on Ann & Hope got me thinking about other retailers I remember from the 1980s. I know several are closed (Bradlees, Caldor, Lechmere, Zayres) but I shook my head really hard to shake out names of smaller retailers and came up with Spag's and The Fair. I found out both closed in the 1990s, which is a shame. I loved the feeling of going on a great expedition every time we went to Spag's, my grandfather telling me about Spag himself and how he'd call my grandfather (at one time an Otis elevator repairman) for mechanical repairs around the store, and the tubes! Those pneumatic tubes the cashiers used was like a steampunk fantasy to my shorter self. And I may lose all respect in Texas for saying this, but the first memory I have of cowboy hats was the giant hat of the Spag's sign.

ObTrivia: Cecily Morrison, one of my classmates at Oxford Academy, was Spag's granddaughter. She was a Fulbright Scholar a few years ago and is now a doctoral student at Cambridge.

Surplice =/= surplus; or, close enough for a discount retailer's clothing tag.

Over the weekend, I bought a surplice [1] top for Laurel. Blissfully ignorant of current fashion, I noticed Laurel was drawing them on some of her fashion drawings and spotted the top on a sale rack while looking for a cooler-season jacket to bridge the gap between track jacket and winter coat. Cutting off the tag before throwing the purchase in the hamper, I read the tag: "FG LS SURPLUS TOP". I am baffled by how someone could confuse homophones with such wildly different meanings.

1. A surplice bodice has two overlapping pieces at the bustline. Depending on where the overlap is sewn down and the bust of the wearer, the look can range from a modest v-neck to a deep plunge.