Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A last stroll (and souvenir seeking) through City Center

We received notice that City Center Mall was starting a fixture clearance sale yesterday. City Center was "The Mall" when E arrived for law school in the early 90s. At the time it boasted Henri Bendel, Coach and Gucci stores among the ranks of other highly regarded national brands. Since around 2000 it's been on a steady decline. As of last night Mark Pi's seemed to be the only place still in business (ironic given the chain's performance elsewhere). But we'd been patrons of the place, have an affinity for it and decided to go on a final nostalgic tour. The neighbors joined us as Clint's always looking for fixtures for his art studio. We hit the main parking garage and scored spots 20' from the entrance - if you are a former CC shopper you know what a jackpot that would have been in the heyday- now it's open season on spaces. We took a memorabilia shot at the entrance (putting on our sad faces- well, except Clint who's beaming in anticipation of finding cool stuff):
Not far from the entrance we discovered a corral of strollers perfect for securing one squirming toddler for the first leg of the journey:
Then the tour began. It was downright amazing. Almost every storefront was completely open (many had been boarded up with the scenic store facades long ago), many had fixtures pulled out into the aisles for inspection, some had lights, some you wandered through in whatever haze was left from the main mall lighting (if you go, I recommend taking a flashlight). Clint was enamored of some lighting and shelving almost immediately. We tracked down the folks at the staged "main office"/checkout (1st floor right outside the elevators) to learn what the deal was if we were interested in anything. It appeared that anything not attached: props, mobile fixtures, mannequins, etc. was fair game to ask for a quote or make an offer. If it was "attached": light fixtures, wall shelving (even on brackets), etc. they were going to try to sell it as a "whole store" and that game was likely out of our budget/aptitude. We wandered the whole first floor and - I hate when people use this word- but it was really surreal. We had a guessing game of "what store did this used to be"? And based on the dregs of what was left: literally the color of the walls in some cases, we'd try to peg the place - we were pretty poor at it in most cases (although every former Limited-brand store is still readily identifiable). Clint was innocently snapping pictures on the first leg of our journey until we were scolded by a security guard and informed that was not permitted (?!).

I think it was on the far half of the first floor (a big empty mall is disorienting) when we rounded the corner and Eric and I laid eyes upon something we've been wanting, weren't looking for last night and would never have expected to discover here...a library ladder laying in the aisle outside the former Lady Footlocker! Alas, it was marked SOLD.....but wait....there's another one lying in the store and it is unmarked...awww, but it's cracked....but we're handy people, we can glue it! And so I jetted off to find one of the "people with the clipboards" who were roaming the mall writing up tickets for the dozen or so gawkers/shoppers. While Eric was pondering the ladder fix I found "Doug" (so said his name sticker) who immediately knew the ladder in question as well as its shortcomings (structurally speaking) which we discussed as we made our way back to the shop. Upon consultation with Doug we decided we could make it work and then headed back to the stockroom to see if, by remote chance, the brackets and roll bar might also be about. There was hardware attached to a tall shelving unit, but better yet...Doug spotted a completely unscathed ladder for us! We were giddy at the prospect and giddier still when we uncovered brand new brackets in a tub of random hardware and a 9' long section of roll bar just leaning in a corner. All right! We've got our goodies, now comes time for negotiation..."What do do think this is worth?" Queries Doug (who in conversation we come to find is an IT guy who's on vacation and just here helping out an uncle). "Um, I have no idea" says Eric. "Well I think $1,000 is too much," Doug says. To which Eric laughs and responds "And if I paid $1.00 for it I'd feel bad, so we'll have to come up with something in between." Then Doug says the magic phrase, "How about $50?" Eric doesn't even have time to respond as I jump in "That sounds fair!" Knowing my complete bargaining nature my husband is a little surprised by my quick acquiescence, but I'd researched library ladders awhile ago and while I didn't remember exact figures that sounded like a great bargain to me! Eric went to the main office to pay, then we hauled the ladder, pole and brackets off to the car (oh wondrous Eurovan) and returned for more exploration - there were 2 more floors to go! I'll interject here with photos of the ladder which we promptly staged for display at home this morning. Here's the ladder in its intended ultimate vicinity which we'll use to access the loft in our bedroom:
It's even got really cool retro-looking wheels:
It's also stamped Putnam Rolling Ladder Co. (to whom I have emailed for a quote as they don't have pricing on their website- I'll update here when I receive it...and the price estimate says: $1,956.80!!!):
The brackets which will mount it to our wall:
I did a little internet research this morning and the similar ladders I found start at $779 for a kit on Ebay! I used the estimator on another company's website, put in our specs and it gave me the whopping sum of $1,809!!! That makes us muy content with the $50 price tag! (The cracked one and some brackets were still there if you're in the market. And if you take a phillips head screwdriver you can always salvage the ones still hanging).
After stashing our ladder we rejoined the neighbors on the hunt. Baby neighbor was having great fun running about the vast empty storefronts while we scavenged for goodies. We came out with a nice little haul from the old Po Furnishings. We picked up these mod cubbies (and a big roll of bubble wrap for my crafting) for $20:
We're not that mod so they may become black one of these days. Neighbors found a cube wall unit (not attached and thus available for picking), a cool mod square table, some drapes and signage display stands. While paying for our second load of stuff I noticed that the woman in front of us had a gorgeous Tiffany-style lamp shade that she hauled off. "Was that from Max & Erma's?" I asked the cashiers. "Yep! They're selling it all!" C'mon Eric it's time for another nostalgic tour as we shared at least a few meals in the CC M&E! We walked into the restaurant and it was contentedly familiar with its massive dark warm wood fixturing and brass railing (albeit covered in a not-so-fine layer of dust). There were at least a dozen of the stained glass lampshades still hanging over tables that used to occupy congenial casual diners. "So what's the deal?" I ask the clipboard-carrying Doug who appears from across the restaurant where he's been helping another couple. "Any lampshade is $75." There are a dozen light bulbs scattered on tables around the room, most blown. Find a light bulb that works (even if you have to take it out of another lamp) and put it into any lampshade you're interested in. Check it thoroughly- some of them are marked SOLD on the glass - those are already paid for and not up for grabs. But if you find one that's unmarked and you like it, it's yours for the sum of $75. Eric and I aren't much for fussy decor. While I love the whole notion of the Tiffany (or in this case Tiffany-style) lighting, it tends to be too Victorian for my taste. So while I admire the fine craftsmanship and the artistry of the details, they're not my cup of tea decorating-wise. Still, it seems like kind of a steal at $75 and it would be piece of City Center history and my nostalgia is beginning to override my rationality. There were lampshades with dragonflies (which my sister loves - maybe in honor of her?) and irises (hey, mom used to grow those in our back yard) and other lovely floral patterns....can you see me talking myself into this? And then in a little nook next to the bar we found the one. It was still Tiffany-esque, but it also had a nice craftsman aesthetic. Mother-of-pearl-y quadrangles framed a border of copper glass squares. That's it, we're buying it...and then we're done! We paid for the last of our bounty and headed out of the once-grand mall. When we got our lamp into the "bright light" provided by the glaring parking garage security bulbs as compared to the semi-dusk glow of the restaurant the rich colors really perked up (not that you can tell in this shot on my dining room table):
It occured to me on the way home that the lamp nicely complements the fixture that is on our front porch....and that was a Valentine's gift to each other just a couple years ago:
And so on our slightly melancholy (for the loss of City Center) but totally geeking (for the really cool treasures we found) trek home we declared our shopping spree's unexpected bounty our early Valentine's Day gifts to each other...and it looks like we just picked up a couple projects to complete on the holiday this weekend!

3 comments:

Bunny said...

Hey Mary !
You know if we were in Columbus, i would have been SOOOOO with you shopping for bargins (aka what some people, ie Joe might call junk!)...
Love the library ladder...love the blog ! Love you !
Bun

Anne said...

Love all of your finds!!

Walker Evans said...

Nice finds! :D