Rite of spring: the hunt for Easter shoes

Footwear: The shoes to complement an outfit can be harder to find than a well-hidden egg, but each year, parents persevere.

April 03, 1999|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

There's the Easter dinner. The Easter egg. The Easter Bunny.

And then there's the Easter shoes.

For generations of families in Baltimore, that has meant a trip to Sammy's.

"My mom used to drag me here, and my mother's mom used to drag her here," said Robin Ramsey-McKissic of Waverly as she stood in a long line waiting for the East Baltimore shoe store to open at 9: 30 a.m.

"It's a tradition to buy nice things for Easter. It's fun. It's special. It's a big celebration. And you know Baltimore is a big church town," she said.

In anticipation of tomorrow's church services, parents scrambled from consignment shops to malls yesterday to prepare their children for the day of Resurrection. At most clothing and shoe stores, Easter is the third busiest time of the year, behind back-to-school shopping and Christmas.

At Hess Shoes in Towson Town Center, 6-year-old Morgan Gillard sashayed across the floor in a pair of white, patent leather slip-ons.

"This is the time, the one Sunday, that people take their children to church who don't normally go," said her mother, Brenda Gillard, 35, of Baltimore, a member with her husband of Fountain Baptist Church.

"But for us, it means recommitting the feeling of rebirth. Along with that comes spring, which is a fresh start."

One sure sign of spring is parents -- in search of the perfect shoes to match their children's Easter finery -- lining up outside the tiny Formstone rowhouse on East Fayette Street where Sammy Grodnitzky opened his shop 63 years ago.

At Sammy's Department Store, there are 40,000 pairs of discounted, factory damaged, name-brand shoes for children stacked high in the storage room. Marvin Grodnitzky, 62,

Sammy's son, runs the business now, but not much else has changed.

It must be the shoes

People still find the place through word-of-mouth.

The shop offers a good bargain at about half of department store prices. The baby-blue shelves in the front room stock thousands of socks, hair ribbons, suits for toddlers and taffeta dresses.

But the shoes are the draw: Leather loafers for the boys, patent leather dress shoes for the girls.

"Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Cute," 7-year-old Rhia Ramsey-McKissic sang out as she landed on a pair of black patent leather dress shoes and pinched her 2-year-old brother's chubby cheek.

As 7-year-old Leslie Lewis strolled back and forth in a pair of black dress shoes, salesman Gerald Gillis rushed out with eight tiny boxes for another customer.

Dozens of little feet, not reaching the floor and covered in bright green and pink socks, swung back and forth impatiently as children waited on wooden benches.

Harried moms and dads used candy and good-natured warnings to keep their boys and girls still.

Running them ragged

After a frenzied week of shopping, weary parents say they need a boost.

The same goes for Grodnitzky and his staff of 10, who usually keep the store open until everyone in the line outside has been served.

"Marvin had nightmares on Wednesday. He felt so bad because we had to send people home so that we could celebrate [Passover] Seder," said Shirley Kristofaro, Grodnitzky's sister.

One down, one to go

Outside, Azalea Fleming of Towson waited for a chance to browse inside.

Shopping for her 5-year-old daughter, Jada, was a breeze earlier in the week. But she had no luck with her son, Edwin, after dragging the the 7-year-old to malls and specialty shops, looking for dress shoes for his cream-colored, double-breasted suit.

"My mom said get down here early," said Fleming, 29, whose mother, aunt and grandmother are also Sammy's patrons. "We go every Sunday to New Refuge Cathedral on St. Paul, but this is a special Sunday. I don't know what I'm going to do if I can't find his shoes."

It wasn't really a concern for young Edwin who was "kind of tired" of trying on shoes. Leaning against the cold Formstone yesterday, he was busy thinking of the Easter eggs to come.

Pub Date: 4/03/99

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