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“You know how I feel about having shoes in my department, Bea. Can’t you help me convince them to find somewhere else to put this Pappagallo shop? Shoes belong with shoes. It just doesn’t work for me. I don’t want to see them. Period.”

There was clear exasperation in the junior buyer’s voice.

“But it works for Ira and Dawn,” Bea responded calmly, “and they firmly believe in the merchandising potential for this young market. “Don’t quote me, but I heard Ira’s daughter will be working in the shop this summer. You gotta get on board, Helen. Think young. Think upbeat.” Her voice rose with sudden enthusiasm. “Think Biba!”

“Bea, if I hear that name Biba one more time!” Helen interrupted.

Bea ignored her. “The kids are all drinking espresso, and I’ll probably go down for a cup in the afternoon.”

“What are you talking about?” Helen asked. “You’re going to—”

“Helen,” Bea slowly responded, “Pappagallo stores have love seats and espresso machines. It’s that Southern hospitality. They were introduced in Atlanta. Anyway, we have no choice. Remember, Pappagallo is leasing the space.”

There was a noticeable silence inside Bea’s office.

“Breathe deeply, Helen,” Bea advised with a laugh. “You’re going to hyperventilate. It’s not the end of the world.”

“Espresso machine?” Helen repeated. “Love seats? Taking up selling space. I’m not putting up with this. Fine. Then they’ll just have to give me a larger department. I’m not giving up without getting something in return.”

Dana smiled. If Ira Neimark, the executive vice president and general merchandise manager of B. Altman, together with his hand-picked vice president and fashion director, Dawn Mello—Helen’s boss—were looking for ways to bring young people into the store, maybe the teen makeup department wasn’t a lost cause after all.

Helen came flying out the office, brushing past Dana by mere inches as she talked to herself under her breath. “B. Altman will be out of business before Biba. It’s all totally absurd.” She took no notice of the young events coordinator.

Those Pappagallo Flats
Even though The Shop for Pappagallo is a mere mention in chapter 1, I would inevitably describe the scene about the famous shoes whenever I told people about the book I was writing. Surprisingly, everyone had their own Pappagallo story to lovingly share! I don’t know of another brand that is remembered as fondly; even baby-boomer husbands jumped into the conversation about those colorful, cute Papps. Ira Neimark, the executive vice president and general merchandise manager of B. Altman in 1974, who later became the president of Bergdorf Goodman, did, indeed, bring the ballet flats to the store, and soon Pappagallo boutiques were popping up in villages and college towns along the East Coast. The shops weren’t franchises, but you did have to get approval from US Shoe Corporation. When my plans to open a Pappagallo shop were delayed, I was devasted, although I soon realized it was divine-intervention. The sudden popularity of white T-shirts and khaki pants at the Gap made turquoise flats hard sells!
 
 
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