Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Christmas Suit

I know that there are those who love large cities and huge department stores. I'm not one of them. Shopping is not my favorite thing to do anyway, and large stores just make the experience even more traumatic.

Years ago, there was a small family-owned department store that we used to frequent in a neighboring small town. They had very nice clothes for reasonable prices, and it was a relaxing place to shop. One weekend each summer they would erect a large tent in their parking lot and have a tent sale.

During one such sale, Doug was in the market for a new suit; and we were browsing through the choices under the tent. It's hard to get Doug to buy clothes for himself. He says things like, "I have enough shirts." So I was pleased to see him admiring one of the suits. He took it off the rack and turned it every which way, admiring the color, the fabric, the cut, etc. But he just couldn't bring himself to take the plunge and go to the cash register with it. (Have I mentioned that Doug's self-proclaimed nickname is TW...for Tightwad?)

We continued browsing through the racks until Doug eventually found another suit that he decided to try on. When he took that suit into the store to try it on in one of the dressing rooms, I ran back to the rack where the first suit was that he had been admiring. I grabbed the suit off the rack and ran inside the store to the cash register. I handed it to the cashier, hastily explaining that I wanted to buy it as a surprise for my husband, who was in the dressing room. Fearing that Doug would come out of the dressing room at any moment, I told her I would stop in later in the week to pay for it. I'm not even sure I had time to give her my name, but she tucked the suit out of sight and trusted me to return with payment the following week.

When Doug emerged from the dressing room, he said he liked the suit he had tried on but that he thought he liked the first one better and would like to try on that one. We went back to the rack where the first suit had been and, lo and behold, it was gone. Believing that someone had beaten him to it, he wound up buying the second suit.

This little store also provided alterations, so measurements were taken and an appointment was made to pick up the suit after the alterations had been completed.

That next week, I went back to the store, paid for the surprise suit, and asked them to alter that suit using the same measurements they had taken with the other one.

I decided to make the suit a Christmas surprise for Doug that year. Over the five or six months between the tent sale and Christmas, Doug mentioned several times how much he regretted not buying that suit when he had the chance. Every time he would say something about "the one that got away" I would tingle with the anticipation of surprising him with it on Christmas.

When Christmas came, the surprise was complete. He recognized the suit immediately upon unwrapping it and couldn't believe I had pulled it off, complete with alterations. And, lest you think he was pretending, there's not a deceitful bone in that boy's body.

But the point of this post is that something like this just couldn't have happened in anything other than a small-town, family-owned store. They didn't know me from Adam, but they happily conspired with me to surprise my husband.

It's hard for little stores like that to survive in this day of large chain stores, and this store was no exception. It fell victim to the competition and closed several years ago. But, thanks to the episode with the Christmas suit, they'll always occupy a place of fondness in my heart.


  1. HI Linda, I agree... Those small-town stores have so much charm and cannot be beaten... Unfortunately, the big chains are forcing so many of the small businesses out-of-business. It's sad!!!!

    Love your story though ---and would have loved to see your hubby's face when he opened that present that year at Christmas.

    Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. We certainly did!!!

    Happy New Year.

  2. Betsy - That Christmas is one that we both remember fondly. It's so fun to be able to pull off a surprise like that. Happy New Year to you, as well!

  3. What a cool story! Since I live in a small town and have either lived out in the country or in a small town for most of my life, I can relate to this story. Since I don't care for shopping either, you will not find me venturing to big cities to shop in big stores! :) I hope you and your family had a nice Christmas and that the new year brings many blessings to you.

  4. Thank you, Lori. Blessings to you and the Littles in the new year, too.

  5. Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happppppy Birrrrthday dear Lindan. Happppppppppy Birrrrrrthday to you!!!! And mannnnny mooooooore!

    Well, Birthday Girl, I remember hearing this story when it happened, but it was fun to be reminded of it. You're right -- it is so much fun, and soooo rare, when a plan like this one comes together.

    I miss that store too.

  6. So a great story and trying not to let on it's a birthday?We had a store when I was growing up and my mom would call and tell them what I was coming down for.They wrote the price on a note card and that was a charge.I was happy to get my own card years later.Now a late in the year birthday deserves a good celebration, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LINDA, CELEBRATE LIFE!

  7. Sandra - Ha! Ha! Thanks for the birthday song. It was actually more in tune than some I've received today.

    I think that Christmas surprise was all the more special because of the months of anticipation, plus the number of times that Doug expressed regret about not getting that particular suit when he had the chance. It was so much fun.

    OOTP - Well, this was last night's post. The birthday post is coming right up.

    I'm as guilty as anyone for driving these small stores out of business because I tend to shop at the larger stores for the discounted prices. But there's a price to pay in the loss of these smaller, more personal, stores.

    Thanks for the birthday wishes.

  8. Oh Linda, that's a wonderful story. And entirely true of the small town/small store mentality. It has always bothered me to see less than huge operations disappear one by one as the Walmarts and similar such stores take over the landscape. That Mom and Pop shop experience is long in the past for most of us and along with it, the spirit of warm conspiracy which you shared with the shop owner. Lovely gift.. yours to Doug.. and to us in the telling.

  9. Hilary - You spoil me with your kind comments. But those kind comments help to keep me blogging. :)

    It IS sad to see the little stores fade out in the face of competition they can't possibly match. As I told OOTP, though, I'm as much at fault as anyone else. I'm one of those people who shop the big stores for the discounts. The loss of the Mom and Pop operations may be a steep price to pay, though.

  10. Linda, this is so sweet! I am so glad that you got that suit for Doug, and it is quite obvious that he really appreciated your kind and unexpected gesture. I am with you, I cannot stand big department stores...and there are many in Montreal. I prefer the smaller stores, as I find the service more friendly and the atmosphere warmer. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Linda. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.


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