Main Street Dowager Bows Out Gracefully

For Lipman's Faithful, Closing Marks End Of Era

February 25, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

For years, Lipman's was the grand dame of Annapolis' Main Street, a reserved but elegant clothier, beloved by four generations of women.

Lipman's was stockings and gloves. Lipman's was silk dresses and party frocks.

It was the place where mothers brought their daughters to pick out their first evening gowns. Older women found hard-to-get sizes there, and uncertain shoppers relied on help from the sales staff.

ForLipman's faithful customers, the closing marks the end of an era. Main Street won't be the same for them once the doors close at the end of the week.

"The changing times are not always good," said Mary Ellen Gardner, an Eastport resident who has shopped at the store for 30 years.

Now the city's oldest merchant, the 86-year-old store washoused in a Colonial-era building across from Conduit Street. Midwaybetween St. Anne's Episcopal Church and City Dock, Lipman's quickly became a popular stop for Main Street shoppers.

The first long-distance phone call from Annapolis to Baltimore was placed inside Lipman's, said Ann King, the sales manager for 38 years.

In recent years, ballet dancers performed inside the display windows during the city's First Night celebration on New Year's Eve.

Although Lipman's survived several recessions with a sterling reputation, the store was hurt in recent years by the city's changing demographics and the growing tourist trade, King said.

"Ours is not a tourist store at all,"she said. "And I think the character of the town has changed. It's become a lot younger as far as shoppers."

Tourists and many of the young couples who moved into the city's historic district considered Lipman's a trifle fusty and old-maidenish. They turned instead to thechain boutiques, to Ralph Lauren's Polo and Laura Ashley.

Coupledwith the recession, the shifting demographics prompted the store's current owners, Joan L. Smilow and Marlene S. Lipman, to decide to retire.

The granddaughters of the store's founders, Joseph and BessieLipman, feel that "it's time to move on," King said.

Although theowners may sell the Lipman's building, Snyder's Bootery, a shoe store connected to Lipman's, will remain open.

For customers like Gardner and Joyce Downs, who recalled buying her first evening dress at Lipman's, news of the store's closing came as a blow.

Several womencried when they heard Lipman's was going out of business, King said.

"There's just no place else I can get clothes," Gardner said, as she wrote out a check for a houndstooth jacket. "Here, they know me, they know what I look good in."

She agreed with two other shoppers, who said they rarely could find nice dresses in their sizes in department stores.

"Our customers are not a department store shopper,"King said. "Maybe for other things, some household items, but not for clothing and accessories."

Still, times are changing, she said, attempting to reassure customers last week that something new would replace Lipman's.

But many of the women looking through the half-priced dresses said their shopping trips wouldn't be the same.

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