NRDC, the godless acronym that owns the Lord & Taylor department store chain, wants to close the shopping icon's flagship Manhattan store on Fifth Avenue and 39th Street. "It's nice having a Manhattan store, but I wouldn't call it key," said clueless President Richard Baker (they also have these preternaturally normal-sounding names, these executives). "We want to be where people live, not where they work."
Last I checked, 8 million people live in New York City. Could be wrong. Maybe more people live in the dull-as-dishwater suburb where Mr. Baker resides. Or maybe he thinks New York City is a dirty, dangerous place with terrible traffic and he's rather not have to drive into Manhattan anymore just to check up on his store.
Mr. Baker points out that the Fifth Avenue store only draws in 9 percent of the chain's revenue, more than enough reason to close. But any fool with an MBA knows that you don't have a Manhattan store simply to make money. It's about location, a prestigious address, a presence. You're not a noteworthy concern if you don't have a Gotham hub. Even dumb-fuck big boxes like K-Mart and Target know that.
Lord & Taylor has long suffered an inferiority complex. Ask anyone to name a Manhattan department store, and Macy's or Bloomingdale's is first out of their mouths. After that comes Sak's and Bergdorf Goodman. Lord & Taylor is everyone's last thought. Who are Lord & Taylor's diehard customers? I've never met one. Still, I have a soft spot for the old place. It serves a stretch of lower Midtown otherwise ignored by Big Retail. The 1914 building has plenty of charm and interesting details; the old plaques just inside the door remembering employees who fell in The Great War are particularly affecting. (Can you imagine any store honoring its employees in such a way today?) And the holiday windows are always good. There used to be a lovely, old-fashioned lunch room on an upper floor, but it's been supplanted by a fancier eating establishment.
I usually make one regular trip to Lord & Taylor every year, in December, to buy pajamas for my family. For some reason, they have a good selection of cozy nightware.
The store was founded by a couple of Englishmen, actually names Lord and Taylor. A peculiar coincidence, since the combination of their names evokes an appropo relationship between the gentry and their clothiers—an association I'm sure they rather fancied.