Wednesday, April 9, 2008
How To Buy Only One Yard at Metro Textile*
Once upon a time there was a rather impressionable Chicago girl named Mary Beth. She’d come to New York City once a year to meet editors, hang out with writers, camp out in her hotel at night to watch television shows she has missed over the past decade.
She didn’t care a whit about going to Broadway for shows. Radio City? Charming on the outside, but really the only reason to drop inside would be at Christmas time when the Rockettes were dressed in their Santa Claus outfits. And it was April. The legendary all-night diners? Fine on someone else’s dime. Ditto David Letterman. Another time, besides she didn't own a television so what would it matter if her countenance showed up on the idiot box for a nanosecond?
No, any spare time was to be spent at shops in the Fashion District, gazing at expensive yardage at Mood Fabrics, trim at Daytona Braids & Trimmings, phenomenal scallop-edged stretch fabric at Spandex House (what a silly name, she thought).
But there was one store she had to visit without fail and she was dreading, which was highly unusual. Mary Beth usually loved to go to all fabric stores.
Mary Beth had to visit Metro Textile to buy a scant yard of fabric to finish a kimono-style wrap top for a dear friend.
She already knew the state of her checking, money market and savings accounts. Ditto the outstanding balance on her credit cards. Taxes, a monthly assessment, a fresh mortgage payment were all due very soon. Participating in the McDonald’s online survey hadn’t paid off yet. She didn’t even want to think about the costly Manhattan hotel where she was sharing a room. It just hurt to dwell on it. But she had come many miles to the Big Apple. How could she leave without buying one yard of fabric? This she had to do even if it was the last thing she did on her New York trip this year. Metro Textile owner Kashi was famous for selling innocent sewists yards upon yards of fabric that they neither needed or really wanted. Mary Beth herself had been a victim last year.
So Mary Beth put on her best “Devil Wears Prada” mean boss demeanor. Just before walking into Kashi’s lair, she pulled her back her shoulders. Practiced her best cold look in a window, put on her dark sunglasses. Pulled up the collar on her trenchcoat. Combed her bangs, sprayed on a sample of Lancôme perfume. With a cellphone in one hand, her Marshalls white leather mammoth bag in the other, she strolled inside, pausing at the door for effect. She would be strong, she wouldn’t let Kashi make her buy anything she didn’t want.
“Hello, Kashi, how are you?” she said gaily, scoping the bolts upon bolts of taffeta, eyelet, charmeuse, silk and jerseys along the wall. She felt dizzy soaking it all in.
“I’m well, very well,” said Kashi eagerly. “It’s good to see you again. I remember you. You are a very beautiful woman.”
He’s trying to flatter me so I’ll buy more fabric. It’s not going to work.
“Oh, I’m just here to buy this fabric,” Mary Beth responded cooly, pulling out a swatch of orange and pink paisley print out of her handbag. “I’m in a rush so I can’t stay long.”
“I have that right here. How much you want?
“Just a yard.”
“That’s all? Look at all the beautiful fabrics I have. You want silk shantung? This one looks beautiful with your skin. All your friends buy this one.”
What friends is he talking about? I have no friends. At least not here in New York.
“No, really Kashi, I can’t. I’m pressed for time. Just that one yard, please.”
“But you cannot leave New York City with one fabric! You travel all this way from Cheeecago. You must buy more. I ship it to you.”
“No, I can’t. Not today.”
“How about this pretty pale blue gauze? So reasonable. I got it from very famous designer.”
“No, thank you.”
“How can you just buy one yard? Is everything ok? Do you feel well? Have a seat. I show all my fabrics.”
“I just don’t understand. Why not buy more fabric? Are you not happy with my prices? I make a deal.”
“That’s not it, Kashi.”
I cannot explain that I’m stretched for cash, that I must pay taxes, that I still have more of his fabrics unsewn in my closet. It’s none of his business!
“Here, I give you designer silk jersey. Make me an offer.”
“Five dollars a yard? You can, because you’re beautiful, have it for that.”
"That’s very nice of you....but....”
“Ok, four dollars. That’s it. Firm.”
“Ok, you drive a very hard bargain. Three and half dollars. No less.”
“I can’t, really not today.”
Just then Mary Beth’s cell phone rings. Brrrrring! Brrrrrrng! Someone to rescue her from this most delicate situation! She answered the call a little too quickly.
It was her room-mate at the hotel wondering where she was.
“Why hello, Chase Bank! How are you?” Mary Beth said, loudly watching Kashi from the corner of her eye. “What? You say - there’s only $10 in my account? Thanks so much for the call. Your customer service is excellent. I love you guys. So much better than those bill collectors who constantly hound me.”
Kashi slowly backed off, putting down his pair of scissors. He eyed Mary Beth warily. Perhaps none of her credit cards would work. Forget about asking for a check.
Mary Beth talked on her cell phone a little longer, clicking it close with a sigh. So little cash, so much time and fabric.
“I’m very sorry, but you must pay cash only,” Kashi informed her soberly.
“All I have is a $10, is that all right?” Mary Beth said, handing Kashi the bill.
Kashi looked at the bill curiously, fingering it scrutinizing it in the overhead fluorescent light. He quietly conferred with an assistant in a back corner. The money looked legit.
“That will do,” he said. He quickly cut the fabric, wrote her the receipt, and pushed the knit into a plastic bag.
“Thank you so much, Kashi,” Mary Beth said, snatching her bag. “You’re so wonderful.”
The cell phone rang again...Brrrrring! Brrrrring! Mary Beth used it as an excuse to leave.
“Got to run!”
With that Mary Beth dashed out, leaving a trail of Lancôme perfume scent in her wake.
Kashi stared as she left. This was the first woman ever to leave his store with only a yard of fabric in her hands. This was bad for business. His customers would find out through the Internet. He’d be the laughing stock of his friends and colleagues. Yes, everyone in the Fashion District would point fingers at him, laugh at him at every opportunity. Yes, veeeeeery bad for business. He might as well shut doors. His reputation was ruined.
“Come back again,” he yelled as Mary Beth left. “I give you good prices. Just brings lots of cash next time, OK?”
* The completed kimono-style wrap top you see above? That's mine. I'm making another for a friend, but I need more of the exact same fabric to finish it. She already knows about it so I won't be spoiling the surprise if she sees it here.