Quote displays made Zachary's store sparkle

November 30, 2005|By SUSAN REIMER

They saved the diamonds when Zachary's burned in a stunning fire in downtown Annapolis on Friday night. But they couldn't save the windows.

Whether or not you could afford the jewelry inside, the windows at Zachary's always caught your attention because they made for such interesting reading.

The size of a couple of generous walk-in closets, the storefront display windows dwarfed even the largest of Zachary's gems and would have provided enough space to publish an entire book. But instead, Cathy Samaras, the creative force in the family-owned business, just took the best quotes.

"We'd have people come in and say, `I'm glad you changed the windows. I had all the quotes memorized,'" she said yesterday as she, her husband, Dr. George Samaras, and his cousin, Stephen, finished sifting through the charred rubble of the store they owned together for 14 years.

The quotes were only part of the elaborate window displays that Cathy and her grown children put together two or three or five times a year. But, for so many Annapolitans, they were the best part.

There were always a dozen or more quotations: pithy, funny, wise-cracking and wise. Printed in large white letters and plastered to the windows, they highlighted the displays behind them.

"Hats Off!" a display Cathy puts up in celebration of graduation at the neighboring Naval Academy, features 100 midshipman's hats suspended from the ceiling -- recalling the oft-photographed sight of the midshipmen throwing their hats in the air at the end of the ceremonies.

The quotes in the windows, from the great, the near-great and the just plain famous, include the following:

"In real life, there is no such thing as algebra." Fran Lebowitz.

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." John Wooden.

"Don't compromise yourself. You're all you've got." Janis Joplin.

And, most appropriate for Zachary's military neighbors: "Lead, follow or get out of the way." Lee Iacocca.

The window displays often had much to do with nothing, as was the case with "Basket Case."

Cathy filled the space with baskets and the windows with quotes about craziness.

"Reality is something you rise above." Liza Minnelli.

"What, me worry?" Alfred E. Neuman.

And: "The formula for success is the same as that for a nervous breakdown." Abraham Lincoln.

In her other life, Cathy Samaras is CEO of womenslacrosse.com and the empress of high school club lacrosse in the region. When the World Cup of lacrosse came to Annapolis in June of this year, the quotes in the windows of Zachary's included one from her daughter, Crista, a much-decorated lacrosse player at Princeton and a member of the U.S. World Cup team.

"It is more awesome to be strong than skinny, more fun to eat than starve, more exciting to play than sit, more fulfilling to live than sleep, more powerful to be smart than dumb, more empowering to risk than wait. Sports are the microcosm of life -- honest, hard and rewarding."

And this quote from Theodore Roosevelt: "When you play, play hard; when you work, don't play at all."

"I remember when we did the `Bear Necessities' window," Cathy said from the office in her home. It is right next door to Annapolis High School, where her husband was captain of the football team and she was the head cheerleader.

"This woman came in and said she wanted to buy one of the bears. My daughter, who worked there at the time, said, `We don't sell the bears. They are only for display. We sell jewelry.'

"And the woman said, `Oh my. You are a jewelry store?'

"The point of the windows is, they got you to come into the store."

Or they got you to read and think.

When the fire consumed Zachary's, it consumed all of the props that Cathy Samaras had collected over 14 years of brainstorming with her children for ideas for the windows. The quotes will be easy to replace -- she used to have a shelf full of books, but now all the quotes in the world can be found online.

But the 7-foot cactus, the Nativity scene from her own childhood Christmases, the giant nutcrackers, the lava rocks, the dinosaurs and all the bears -- all are gone.

"It is only stuff," said Cathy, with signature resoluteness. She was on her way out the door to round up the holiday decorations Zachary's would need for its opening next week a couple of doors down on Main Street in Annapolis.

There will be no quotes in the windows of the new location until January, but Cathy has already decided on the theme. It will be inspired by Robert Frost's poem "Fire and Ice," which begins with a quote you will probably see in the window:

"Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice."

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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