Despite the fact that I grew up on the west coast, my childhood summers were spent mostly in Philadelphia (if you’ve been reading this here blog for a while, you know this). My mom, sister and I would pile in my grandparents’ apartment and spend three or four weeks eating out, going to the Jersey shore and doing our back-to-school shopping (financed by grandparental generosity).
One of the stores I always looked forward to visiting on these shopping treks was Levinthal’s. Located just a block from the apartment, we simply called it the handbag store. I rarely left Philly without some new item from them (and throughout the rest of the year, my grandmother regularly patronized their designer counter).
In the eight years I’ve lived in Philly, I’ve stopped in at least once a month and nearly every purse, wallet or suitcase I’ve acquired over that time was from Levinthal’s. The shopping experience there was an old-fashioned one. There were always two blue-smocked women who would help you as you shopped. When you made your selection, they’d write out a bill of sale on a carbon-paper pad in pencil and walk you up to the cash register, where one of the male owners would ring up your purchase. I imagine that the experience of shopping there was unchanged from the time the store opened in the mid-forties.
Two weeks ago, I walked by and caught sight of their going-out-of-business signs. I went in to peruse the heavily discounted merchandise and have one final wander around this beloved store. I didn’t buy anything, but before I left, I stopped briefly to offer condolences to one of the owners. I tried to express how much the store had meant to me, without monopolizing his time or sounding like a crazy person.
I’ve been trying to acquire fewer things, so there’s less need in my life for a dedicated bag store. However, I will always be sad that Levinthal’s isn’t in the world any longer.