Sep 11, 2015

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part Fifteen: Living in the shade of the Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) behind Camelback Mountain - Goldwater's Department Store

Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)
I felt it was time (later in the 1960´s) for me to move up and move along with my career as a retail buyer.  L. Hart and Son and my mentors Alex Hart, Harry Schlisky and Nick Marafino had prepared me for a full-out retail career in a large store/market. I had learned retail skills from the Retail Buyers Guide as an executive trainee.  I had worked in the stockrooms and in all of the departments of my Division as an assistant buyer and even had market experience in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York as a full buyer. I worked hard and my buying and merchandise skills soared.  My achievements were reflected with excellent profits, well managed buying plans and well executed sales/stocks.  I was a young person who had learned quite a lot and I was fascinated with my ability to instinctively know what our customers would want and then they would buy (at the retail price I had determined for quickist/most profitable sale). I had, and still do have good ¨instincts¨ as to the desireability of most classifications of womens/mens fashion merchandise, accessories, gourmet foods and giftwares too.  

In the mid 60´s I also had San Jose State College training/background in art (fine and commercial/design) which most of the other retail people did not. I understood color, I remember color and liked design extra-well and I had the  ¨flair¨ that became a real advantange when selecting/displaying/promoting basic or fashion goods...especially, SALEABLE, fashion goods.  

Remember the sixties?  Remember Peter Max?  Remember Piet Mondrian-retros and the neo-advanguardistas put to fabric and paper prints?  Remember Pierre Cardin?  Psychedelics?  Maxi's and Mini's and Chelsea?  Mod? Pop/Op Art?  Posters? Remember ¨In Cold Blood¨ and ¨I am Dancing as Fast as I Can¨ and (drum roll) ¨Sex and the Single Girl¨ (at Hart's I was the Stationery and Book Buyer and Gifts too)?  Remember Paper Flowers and wearing ¨Flowers in Your Hair¨, incense/candles/sealing wax and Lava Lamps? Andy Warhol? Oleg Cassini?Audrey Hepburn/Breakfast at Tiffany´s and Diana Vreeland/Vogue and the floral fantasies on decorative fabrics by Gloria Vanderbilt for Charles Bloom?  Yves St. Laurent even designed sheets and towels and Bishop Pike was at Grace Cathedral/San Francisco opening thoughts/doors to people and places that had NEVER been opened before!

Because of my Fine Art background, I could work with the advertising department and with their copy writers (especially hyping trends), illustrators and layout people. I contributed ideas to the Visual/Display Departments and their quick changing themes and it was all very natural and fun for me.  I understood the retail business.  I knew it vertically.  My markdowns were always fewer than planned and way below national averages (MOR) with any classification of goods.  That meant the profitability in the various departments I bought for and merchandised was good. I was a full Buyer before leaving Hart´s and San Jose.

DORIS DEAN - Helen McDougall - (and I can't remember ¨Lois¨ the other womens last name)
were the very best (3) Retail Personnel Agents on the West Coast. All three of their offices were individually/discreetly located in Los Angeles near the California Merchandise Mart and the California Apparel Mart.  Doris Dean was considered ¨the best¨ because her clients were the most famous, and often most elegant, Department and Specialty Stores in the United States (and beyond).  I was accepted as one her very discreetly ¨listed¨ up-coming ¨prospects¨ for ¨her stores¨ looking for new buying staff.   Discreet was always the situation in retail (and probably other fields too) as the Buyer was usually still on staff, was needed on staff, even as a replacement was sought or found . The ¨new buyer¨ needed to move to another city quite often and notice/relocation takes time)!  It was all very quietly done and I remember flying off for interviews in the middle of the night before a day off, to return quickly, and back in place after prospective new position interviews in other cities.  Kind of the retail version of a James Bond thriller, I thought.

Goldwaters Scottsdale

Doris Dean arranged my appointment at Goldwater´s Department Store, Associated Dry Goods, Phoenix and Scottsdale.  Very elegant stores that had just then been sold to Associated Dry Good by the Goldwater family I put on my new Hardy Amies suit (with Lanvin necktie that I still have and admire hanging foreverly in my closet) and took the first flight  from San Francisco/SFO to Sky Harbor/Phoenix very early one morning and quickly had my interview with President John Rupel, met Chairman (honorary) Robert Goldwater (Barry's brother), had lunch with George Karatsis, VP Merchandise Manager, at a well known old/clubby restaurant in Scottsdale   The job was offered. Buyer of Stationery, Greeting Cards, Notions and Luggage. I accepted immediately and one year later I would be promoted to Buyer of all Home Furnishings Soft Lines including Domestics/Sheets, Bath, Table Linens, Decorative Fabrics, Fashion Area Rugs and Design was a fabulous job. 

Goldwater's moved me to Scottsdale, Arizona. 

to be continued 

1 comment:

JCF said...

I only remember the Sixties a little (they ended when I was 8!), but I'm still fascinated by your story, Len! I do remember Peter Max...