Hundreds of nostalgic, white-gloved matrons and sweaty bargain hunters swarmed into Garfinckel’s department store today to offer last rites to the grand old lady of Washington retailers at a tumultuous liquidation sale.
The polished bronze doors of Garfinckel’s flagship downtown store, an elegant Washington institution for 85 years, swung open at noon to the cheers of shoppers who raced inside to snap up Hermes scarves, Godiva chocolates, Waterford crystal and Givenchy panty hose--all marked 20% off.
A well-heeled mob scene quickly ensued. Within 15 minutes, the front doors were closed temporarily to contain the throng, swollen by nearby office workers on their lunch hour. Within 30 minutes, two wood-paneled elevators had stalled under the crush.
“I was raised on Garfinckel’s,” said Carole Melham, who has been shopping at Garfinckel’s since she was a girl. “Shopping was a major event when I was growing up. My mother bought me tons and tons of things here. I remember when there was a doorman to greet you.”
The victim of aggressive competition from Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and other major national department stores, Garfinckel’s filed for protection from its creditors in federal bankruptcy court last week.