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    Barneys, Gump’s, and Jardinière – A Loss on Many Levels

    By Brett Andrews–

    Well, it’s official: last month Barney’s announced that it will be closing all of its stores for good in early 2020. This sad news comes fresh off the heels of other notable closures including Gump’s, Jardinière, Il Fornaio, and so many other iconic establishments in San Francisco that have helped to define the City for the better part of a century. These recent closures represent way more than just a final sale, or a last chance to order your favorite dish.

    I so fondly remember my childhood years—shopping with my mother in Pittsburgh at Kaufmann’s, Metzler’s, and Gimbals—where an entire day was set aside to have a full shopping and dining experience, complete with lunch at Barbara Joyce’s. There was something to be said for dedicating quality time to treat yourself and others, while making connection and memories along the way.

    Later in life, I created my own memories, like the time I was living in New York City and would occasionally stroll through Bergdorf Goodman, doing more window shopping than anything. Rarer, but equally as meaningful, were the beautiful experiences of working with Lola, the sales associate who secretly knew that I had saved up to buy something, anything. She, knowing little about me, understood the deep importance of picking the right tie to match my suit; it was for a gala, after all.

    Quietly, I held great hope that my modest wallet would support some small trinket or bauble to purchase just so I could walk down the street with that iconic shopping bag. And, I could not wait to walk into a familiar haunt and be asked by a friend, “You’ve been shopping. What did you buy?!”

    On a deeper level of reflection, it was way more than the actual purchase. It was very much about the human connection that, while brief, was meaningful and lasting—the phenomena of two people, basically strangers, lightly chatting about our lives and bonding over an item that brought us both a little joy. I felt so special and cared for; and she, a sense of pride and accomplishment.

    As we prepare for the holiday season, it brings me to a grander question. With the proliferation of e-commerce, how can we, or even should we, try to hold on the traditions of the past? Just to be clear, I seek not to over romanticize the past, and I certainly recognize the commodification of the holiday season. Yet, there exists a brief respite where we all get to slow down and seize moments that remind us of a time when things were simpler.

    My modest opinion is that there is a special and cherished value in making the extra effort of going out to sightsee; frequenting the shops, stores, and eateries. We should continue to avail ourselves to the abiding elements of wonder, excitement, and surprise. At a time when we frequently walk and talk past each other, we all could benefit from spending some quality time ambling the streets and aisles with no other agenda but to (re)connect with our humanity.

    I hope to see you all around town, doing what we’ve been doing for years: connecting, even if just a smile or a nod.

    Leading PRC since 2003, Brett Andrews has overseen PRC’s evolution from a small HIV/AIDS legal service agency to an integrated social and behavioral health provider bent on fighting poverty, stigma and isolation by uplifting marginalized adults and affecting the social conditions of health. He holds an M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from George Washington University, received the San Francisco Pride Celebration’s Heritage Award for 10+ years of service in 2017, and was appointed to the San Francisco Mayor’s Methamphetamine Task Force. https://prcsf.org/

    Published on November 14, 2019