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How Black Friday lost its magic when my favorite store closed

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday at my house. We love the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the stuffing and, of course, the pies. We usually celebrate with a pretty big crowd of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

As fond as I am of the memories of Thanksgiving Day, I am equally nostalgic about the day after Thanksgiving. I know lots of people talk about Black Friday being evil. Arguments between customers over hot toys — and electronics — have given Black Friday a bad rap. There have been incidents of people behaving poorly, or even dangerously, in pursuit of discounts.

There are also many that believe the ease of internet shopping and bargain hunting makes in-store Black Friday savings seem a bit old fashioned and unnecessary. Why get up early and fight crowds when you could shop in your pajamas and still get great prices? It doesn’t seem logical — unless of course, you were a Loehmann’s shopper.

Loehmann’s was an off-price retailer with freestanding shops. It was known for having a large selection of department store castoff merchandise, usually from prior seasons but occasionally from the current season. Loehmann’s everyday prices were always lower than a department store’s regular prices — but not always competitive with a sale price.

The Black Friday sale was a totally different story. The already-discount prices would be slashed by 40 percent between 6 a.m. and  10 a.m. The prices were insanely good on a wide variety of labels from Vince to Free People. It was enough to make two teenage girls who loved sleeping until noon on a non-school day wake up at 7 a.m. raring to shop!

To my daughters and me, Black Friday always had a bit of magic. It was a tradition — something we did for many years. There was the camaraderie of shopping with other bargain lovers. The place was packed with women of very different sizes, ages and ethnicities. Unlike the stories you hear of customers fighting, the Loehmann’s crowd was there to support one another. Shopping at Loehmann’s is not for the bashful or self-conscious. The communal dressing room had everyone in their underwear — from thongs to Spanx and granny panties — giving their honest opinions on everyone’s finds. We came together on Black Friday morning with two common goals — buying clothes and saving cash.

The three of us did it together; that was the best part.

As little girls, my daughters were best buddies. From imagination games, to dolls, to dress up, they played together all the time. The loved each other’s company.

When they became teenagers, things changed. They grew apart. They had different interests. They didn’t spend a lot of time together and they argued a lot when they did. It made me sad to watch them interact, even though many people told me it was a normal sister relationship at that age. My hope was that they would re-connect as they matured.

One of the activities that we still all loved was our Black Friday trip to Loehmann’s. I can still picture my girls entering the store, anxiously anticipating what they would find. We would do a scan of the store, bringing all of our items into the dressing room and scouting out an ideal corner for trying on our finds. We would laugh, explain why we “needed” items — I was notorious for buying black sweaters — and we would give nods of approval. Then we would do a second tour of the store, exchanging sizes and looking for items we might have missed on the first go round.

Finally, we would get in line before the witching hour when the additional discount ended. My girls would argue playfully about who spent more money, but it was all good fun. We would leave the store, each with our big bag of purchases. Our frenetic excursion left us famished, so we headed to breakfast where we discussed what we’d bought.

The three of us were very upset when Loehmann’s went out of business in February of 2014. The store did re-emerge but as an online retailer only. So for us, the magic is gone. Still, I will always have great memories of our Black-Friday-shopping-frenzied days with my amazing teen daughters… not to mention my favorite black Vince sweater that I got for 60 percent off retail!

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