I was inconsolable in 2010 when I discovered that Takashimaya had closed its Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan. I must have stood for a good 10 minutes checking that I was at the correct spot – 693 Fifth Avenue. This had been a beautifully curated collection of men’s, children’s and women’s fashions, and homewares spread over a number of floors with a great restaurant in its basement. I had spent untold hours (and dollars) here and it was always my first stop on any trip to New York. I immediately contacted my American friend who had introduced me to this wondrous emporium. She too was shocked and saddened. Trips to New York haven’t been the same since and I always go back to the shop’s location in the hope that it will have miraculously re-opened.
I was similarly distressed on my first visit to Japan in 2007 when I visited Takashimaya’s main store in Tokyo. It was nothing like its Manhattan outpost. Stuffed full of European designer goods, redeemed only by its wondrous displays and fascinating basement food hall. I was shocked to find departments with clothes for cleaning the house, particularly as the Japanese live in small houses, and don’t get me started on the nightwear department. There in a nutshell was the reason for Japan’s low birthrate. Forget about importing French patisseries, import French underwear!
News reached me this week, that another concept store I hold dear, Colette’s in Paris, is to close in December. This is another store I’ve enjoyed browsing around and it was often the high point of any window-shopping stroll along the pricey rue Saint-Honore. The owner Colette has decided to retire although her daughter will continue to run the company’s webshop. The place is a mecca for all things fashionable and on trend. The three-storey emporium always has an eclectic collection of goodies, the latest designer clothing and a brilliant bookshop which carries all the major fashion and design magazines, and let’s not forget the basement water bar with over 100 brands of bottled water. Now, I’m a big fan of internet shopping but sometimes you just need to see and feel the goods.
It’s not just major shops in meccas such as New York and Paris that are closing, one of my favourite bread shops has closed. The shop had opened in the mid-forties and black and white pictures of the current owner’s grand-parents decorated the walls. I assume the owner wanted to retire and her kids no longer wish to pursue the family tradition. So the supplier of some of the best croissants and brioches in the area has closed. Unlike many bread shops, it also sold coffee and cakes and, aside from being a breakfast favourite, we also liked to pop in for afternoon coffee and cakes. It’s always sad when shops such as these close. No one has yet taken over the shop which occupies a large corner plot on a major shopping street.
Of course, since we’ve been living here, any number of shops have closed though many more have changed hands, often for the better. A rather run-of-the-mill bread shop in the centre of town, after three changes of ownership, now sells the most fabulous cakes, pastries and bread. My beloved needs no excuse to visit. Meanwhile, over the road the purveyor of the very best donuts we’d ever eaten, full of crème patissiere, changed hands and stopped selling donuts. It was probably a blessing for my waistline and now such wonders fall under the category of strictly forbidden. Luckily, in the same period, the shops closest to us have all prospered and expanded their range of produce. The only disappointment was the fish shop which opened and closed within a month. It had a brilliant selection of fresh fish but we’re already well-served by other fish shops (and the port) and clearly demand was insufficient. It’s hard to argue against market forces though I shall continue to support my local shops.