Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Gift of Thrift: Crying Woolf

Photograph by Stan Williams
Growing up in a family that watched its budget, our big clothes shopping adventures took place at places like the Sears and Montgomery Ward outlets on the historic square in Independence, Mo., and the full-priced JC Penney. The few times we actually shopped in one of the more “fancy” stores was when my dad, a principal at Luff Elementary School, was given a gift certificate by one of the affluent families in his school.

I remember one such time: the certificate was for Woolf Brothers, a fine men’s tailored shop that had several locations in Kansas City area, including the Blue Ridge Mall near our home and the toney Country Club Plaza. I don’t remember the exact amount of the certificate, but I do know that it was just enough to buy a beautiful silk tie and left the store in a prestigious Woolf Brothers bag.

When people ask what it was like growing up in Kansas City, they usually imagine that I’m going talk about cattle and countryside. But no, Kansas City was, and still is, quite a cosmopolitan place to live. I had a diverse group of friends, the arts scene was at its peak, and the shopping was out of this world. Kansas City had a Macy’s, which was part of a Mid-West division carrying high-end goods, a Gucci shop, before it became a huge chain, Harzfeld, which sold fine women’s and children’s apparel and Hall’s, a most magnificent department store owned by Hallmark.

Photograph by Stan Williams
Of these, the only one left is Hall’s, and as for Macy’s, it is a whole different kind of mass retail experience than it was in the 1980s. Sadly, Woolf Brothers closed its stores in the 1990s after 126 years in business. 

Flash forward a couple of decades: As I was vintage shopping in the West Bottoms at the beginning of July, my eye was drawn to this black and white paper in the corner of a shop. I immediately recognized the swingy tails on the "W" and the "B" as being from Woolf Brothers. Of course I purchased a roll and used it to wrap a gift of thrift for a dear friend who has always wanted to visit Kansas City. So in a way, I sent a little bit of Kansas City to her.


Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter


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